As if born to you
Book Reviews

As If Born To You, by Susan Newham-Blake {Local Fiction}

Happy Women’s day!! It seems appropriate that today I’m reviewing a book all about women, as well as written by a woman. In addition to that, it’s a local is lekker, proudly South African book! When I first read the synopsis for As if Born To You, I knew I wanted to read it. The topic of adoption has always intrigued me. I’ve always thought I would adopt one day, I have adopted friends, etc…so I was curious on this subject matter. Added to this, it’s an interracial adoption…..even in 2019, that’s some pretty interesting subject matter. I wondered how realistic a fictional book could be, about subject matter that can be so sensitive.

Before I dive in to this review, I once again did a buddy read with my award winning blogger friend (also a woman!), Nadia from the Non-Adventures of a SAHM. So definitely head over to her review after mine to see how she felt about this book.

What is As If Born To You about?

When thirteen-year-old Zuri begins cutting herself, psychologist Ana is called in to help. Is the troubled girl trying to relieve the tension of being black in a predominantly white private school? And how healthy is Zuri’s relationship with Helen, the white single mom who adopted her?

Struggling to soften Zuri’s defences during the course of the therapy, Ana must piece together the puzzles of both Helen and her daughter, including the truth of what happened to Zuri’s biological mother.

But reckless, alcoholic Ana carries within her an old trauma of her own. 

Photo Credit: Nardus Engelbrecht

In Susan Newham-Blake’s moving novel, two women, equally damaged by the past and its secrets, discover that healing sometimes lies in unexpected places.

Q&A with Susan Newham-Blake

This book really intrigued me, and when I realised I had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions, I did! I actually completed my review before I received the responses, so I didn’t realise she’d actually touch on some of the very points that stood out to me.

Me: What inspired the topic of ‘adoption’ for this book? I say ‘adoption’ even though the subject matter isn’t actually adoption in the end, but I guess, where did the idea for this whole book come from?

Susan: I am interested in how parents can abandon their own children emotionally. For me the real person who is abandoned in the book is Ana. But then there is the more physical or obvious ‘abandonment’ of Zuri. I have an adopted daughter (I sensed this, because the book was so sensitive to these feelings and questions) so when I wrote the book I was also processing what adoption means for the individuals involved. The title of the book As if Born to You comes from the final adoption order where it reads something along the lines of: From this day forth this child is now yours as if born to you. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. (You’ll see below those words on the adoption order (and the title) really impacted me.)

Me: Are there thoughts or plans for a ‘sequel’ to this book?

Susan: Not at the moment. (I have so many questions…so I am bummed about this!)

Me: What are the plans for future books, anything currently in the works?

Susan: Yes, I am currently working on a novel that is about a young woman who falls in love with a piano. She lives on the streets of Cape Town and one day passing Garden’s Centre hears the beautiful sound of a piano being played. A chain of events is set off by her wandering into the Centre that day. (I can’t wait to read it!)

The title

I haven’t done this before, but I felt like this title deserved a paragraph of it’s own. It’s such a powerful title and could be read in so many different ways:

As if born to you – After adoption, legally, it will be as if this child was born to you.

As if born to YOU – I love you so much, that is feels as if you were born to me and I created you.

AS IF, born to you – As if, I was actually born to you. It doesn’t feel that way.

I’m not sure if I’m making sense….but initially when I read the synopsis and the title, I read it to be the 2nd ‘definition’ that I’ve created. By the end I was reading the title very differently.

The cover

The cover is beautiful and in my head, this was Zuri. Such a striking and beautiful young lady on the cover. I always love a cover that helps me to picture the characters as I am reading about them. Her eyes really got into my soul as well.



The characters

So much to say here….. phew…. Ana….oh Ana…. Ana is a train wreck! When you read the synopsis, you think to yourself…Ana will be Zuri’s saviour, but as we delve into this book, we realise that Ana needs saving of her own. Ana’s own backstory was really interesting to me, very sad, very damaged….so I understand why she is who she is. It’s always difficult…I am a believer in rising above, in spite of what you’ve been through, but for some it’s a journey. We go on the journey with Ana into her own very troubled past and we see where that takes us.

Zuri and Helen (Zuri’s mom), have such a complex relationship. I think I had some trouble here, believing in their connection. I’m not sure why, but I think Helen held back so much, due to her own story…that I didn’t feel like she was 100% invested in Zuri as her daughter. I didn’t feel the love seeping out of the pages and in to my heart as I read. BUT when you get to the ending, it makes sense.

Lola is a friend of Ana’s…..I’m not sure I was invested in this friendship. Lola, for a high executive, seemed too forgiving of Ana’s bad habits, and has a lot of time on her hands.

Maru….somebody from Ana’s past…..this was probably one of the saddest ‘relationships’ in this book for me. Ana has been chasing the memory of Maru for so many years….and, I just wish in present day, this was different. There’s Ana’s mom (GRRR), a homeless guy, Ana’s childhood domestic…. so many complex relationships!

Closing thoughts

I feel like I’ve already said way too much! I really don’t want to spoil the book, but the crux of it is that Zuri needs to talk to somebody. Will that somebody be Ana? What secret is Zuri keeping? What does Ana need from Zuri to help her on her own path towards healing? There’s just so much to unpack in this book…and in the end, the reason you started reading it, will have nothing to do with the how it ends.

This was a well written, well paced book. There’s tragedy, there’s secrets, there’s history, there’s hope….there’s a lot! Also, this was a really quick and easy read. I loved the author’s writing style, as well as the character development….I thought it was done well.

I’m rating this book a solid 4.5 stars out of 5. The only reason I’m docking 0.5 stars, is I wanted more at the end. I wanted the book to continue for another 100 pages! As if born to you retails for around R270 and is available at all leading book retailers.

Don’t forget to check out Nadia’s review over HERE.

Thank you Penguin Books for sending this ARC over! As always, all opinions are my own.

As if born to you

I’m Simone, a mom of 3, a wife...obsessed with my family, makeup and books!


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