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VINE VOICEon 28 April 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although I admire Kay for getting up and actually doing something and bringing these horrors to my attention I didnt really like the book and it became a chore to finish. The decision to go to China was very hurriedily dealt with and for such a big move they seemed poorly prepared.

The book starts with promise with a chinese woman abandoning her baby near the orphanage. However the rest of the book is a diary format of Kay's time in China and it became boring and repetitive. I was uneasy hoping to read more of the horrors just to liven it up a bit. I think the book would have been improved if her diary was just used for reference and an actual story emerged.

Alternate chaptors between Kay, Ben, Amanda and Heather would have added a great deal of insight into how this affected everyone. For me Ben's experience was missing from this book who surely must have encountered much red tape and cultural difficulties setting up the new manufacturing facility. I think together as a family they had a great story to tell.

There is a web site given at the end of the book for readers who want to help raise awareness but somehow this doesnt seem enough. Do any of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to the orphanage, I think this needs to be made clearer, I assume as with her website her purpose is to raise awareness and I wish her every success with that.
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book has it's good and bad points but is definitely a worthwhile read.

This book is the true story of an American woman who moves to China because of her husbands job and chronicles the shocking living conditioons of Chinese orphans.

On the negative side it's reasonably apparent that the author isn't a professional writer. The book is written more as a diary and the actual flow, phrasing and wording isn't particularly conducive to good reading at times. Also, despite being called a 'Journey of Hope' there really is very little hope at all. Rather than inspiring readers and showing what we can do to change this dreadful situation it actually does the opposite and left me feeling quite powerless, even though the synopsis says that it leaves the reader "With the resounding message that everyone can make a difference", in fact it seems like the only one who the author possibly feels can and has made any difference is herself.

On the positive side, this book really will touch you and certainly remain with you for weeks to come. It highlights a callous and barbaric system of child care that people really would not think could possibly be the normal state of affairs in a developed nation.

Overall I would reccomend this book to anyone if only because it highlights a lifestyle that should be completely unacceptable in the modern day and will truely make you thankful for the quality of life when you look around you at the children you know.
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In 2003, Kay Bratt and her husband left North Carolina for rural China as Kay's husband relocated their family there for work reasons. The Bratt family anticipated many changes, but not the major changes of helping Chinese babies who had been abandoned and relegated to overcrowded orphanages. Kay initially planned to volunteer part-time at a local orphanage for a few days a week, but the children she met at the orphanage convinced her to stay.

In addition to absorbing, appreciating and having respect for Chinese culture, Kay Bratt has made every good faith effort to demonstrate fairness and tolerance of all she enconutered. Granted, the conditions at the orphanage were appalling and horrific descriptions of outright abuse might even shock Dickens, but she soldiered on, despite her sometimes overwhelming despair.

Orphanage staff received very few supplies and barely enough food to get through the day. They had to inure themselves to their harsh surroundings and those of the children in their care. Many infants died from illnesses that were often untreated as proper medical treatment was not readily available. Food was a scarcity for the children in the orphanage. Malaria-bearing mosquitoes were always a threat and sadly, there were not enough nets to cover the infants. Sadly, some young charges starved. Infant casualties were not considered uncommon.

Fortunately, Kay Bratt was able to secure the trust of the women with whom she worked. In time, she and the staff mobilized forces to feed and protect the children in their care. She rounded up a group of volunteers to bring needed supplies to the orphanage. She was also instrumental in securing medical attention for the children.

Kay Bratt, by then familiar with Chinese culture knew all too well the challenge in getting the Chinese government to stop refusing her entreaties on behalf of the orphanage children. Her biggest fear, aside from abuse and neglect of the children which she witnessed was that the Chinese government might stop allowing American families from adopting the children. In time, she was disabused of her fears as the Chinese government lauded her for bringing the plight of the children to the world's attention via the media.

This is a truly beautiful book that might make you cry. Readers learn about the plight of many Chinese children in orphanages as well as the Bratt family's life in China. Like yin and yang, the balance between portraying both the Bratt family as well as the orphanage gives readers a balanced picture of life in China. I found learning about Chinese culture and the challenges as well as the triumphs the Bratt family faced very interesting and enlightening.

Kay Bratt is truly an Ambassador on a Goodwill Mission. She plainly loves China and China loves her in return. She does not sugar coat things nor does she portray herself as being perfect. She rails against a system and some customs she disagrees with. She is very honest in her presentation and lets readers see the many faces of China and her many people. Also to Kay Bratt's credit, she kowtows to no one and stays true to what she believes is the right thing to do.

I loved the last chapter where e-mails from some of the parents of the children mentioned in the book are included. It really is a very uplifting part of the Bratts' quest to improve the quality of life for many children in China. I especially loved the glossary in Mandarin as a quick tutorial in talking to children just coming from China.

The Boy from Baby House 10: From the Nightmare of a Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America is a good companion book to this one.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Silent Tears captures the 4 years American woman Kay Bratt spent in China when her husband's work transfered them and their daughter, Amanda, overseas.

This journal style memoir gives insight into the lives of Chinese orphans and the conditions they live in at the orphanage. I gained an awareness of the life of a foreigner in China, Chinese attitudes to childcare and the role of the child in a Chinese family. The most interesting and heart-breaking part of the book is the focus on children with special needs and disabilities. The way Kay helped these most vulnerable children who are subject to the most horrendous treatment is inspirational.

However, the main problem that I found with the book is the authors negative viewpoint. She moaned constantly about her new life in China and about everything connectived with the Chinese foster/adoption system. Whilst she obviously went out of her way to be polite to stay in her position at the orphanage, I felt that she came across as very judgemental of Chinese customs. I understand that she witnessed horrifying scenes of abuse and felt powerless a lot of the time but each chapter seems to alternate between missing the US and wanting to move home and then things slighly improving for the babies at the orphanage and being motivated again. This just got a little repetative and the complaining became irritating. She also seemed to want credit for all that 'the foreigners' had done in China as she was 'the leader' and didn't seem humble or appreciative of others at all.

Overall I found this interesting to learn about Chinese orphanages and I think people who are looking into adopting/ have adopted from China would find this absorbing. Unfortunately, overall I found I couldn't fully connect with the authors viewpoint which meant the book wasn't as good as I anticipated.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I won't cover the ground that other reviewers have already covered, namely the factual content of this book (a woman's journal who moves from the US to China and decides to help out in an orphanage).

What I will cover is why you should or shouldn't buy this, and what you might expect if you do decide to read it.

First of all, it's almost entirely focused on the harrowing conditions in the unnamed orphanage where she volunteers. Unlike another reviewer, I'm glad it didn't flit too much between her weekly visits to the orphanage and her fairly molly-coddled way of life in an expat compound. There were some glimpses of what it's like to try to shop in a market with people staring at you, beggars hounding you, the meat going rancid in front of your eyes, or cage after cage of animals being sold as pets (or as dinner -- you decide!).

The reason she focuses so much on the orphanage is that, I suspect, she really left her heart and soul there throughout the rest of the week that she was existing elsewhere. How to get more volunteers, how to secure a child's surgery, how to raise money for diapers, how to kickstart or solidify the adoption process of those children whose faces haunted her in her dreams.

I wouldn't say she writes in such a way that the children haunt me, too. Part of the problem is probably my western inability to keep Chinese names straight, and part of it is that -- and these are the sad facts -- the babies were pretty much on a treadmill to nowhere.

Second, I'm amazed that this book is so current. Bratt was in China just until a couple of years ago or so. The "dying rooms" expose was more than 15 years ago, and nothing seems to have changed at all.

Did this book make me want to do something about it? Yes. Adopting one of the children came to mind, but the red tape was so overwhelming, I set that noble thought aside within about ten seconds of its popping into my head.

Then I thought about donating to her cause. I looked up her website, but was disappointed that most of the appeal seems to have petered out last year. Still, I think there's something positive to do about children around the world, and this book has made me more determined to do so (like sponsoring a child through Compassion, for example?).

There was only one part of the book that I really didn't like: the prologue contains the story of one mother who abandons her baby, and though I appreciate putting the other side forward (how difficult it is for a woman who gives birth to a disabled child, since Chinese culture wants nothing to do with such children, being obviously unlucky, and blame the mother for the problem until she disassociates from it), what I kept waiting for was this little girl to turn up at Bratt's orphanage and give us some continuity.

It never happened.

Finally, I think it's ironic to subtitle the book "A journey of hope" because there wasn't a lot of hope after all. Until Chinese culture changes its attitude about disability, I don't think there will be any long-term hope for the majority of these children. Without western volunteers breathing down their necks or making vast amount of phone calls or pestering officials or throwing money at them, I'm afraid it looks like they will carry on with their attitude that babies are disposable -- if it's broken somehow, then chuck it away for a better model.

That's not Bratt's fault, and so, I think it's a very touching book on the whole.
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on 7 March 2014
Oh dear, I am just not sure about this memoir, I probably would not have chosen to read this if I had picked up the paper back copy in a bookshop or a library. As it was on my Kindle, my daughter's choice and I was in China at the time, it seemed an appropriate choice to read. There are good and bad points about this memoir and for the good points it is readable. The upside is that as a factual although distressing memoir of an American ex-pat in China chronicling her time helping in a orphanage, it is an eye opener. Worthwhile reading then for subject matter but when it came to the writing style it just not seem to flow properly and it felt very repetitive at times.

Written in journal style format Kay Bratt chronicles her time in China giving us an insight into how life is for an ex-pat in China. We read how different the role of a Chinese child is within the family and what happens to the many orphans that are victims of this system. The author's viewpoint can at times be difficult to connect with as her unhappiness comes out in her writing, making her sound like she was moaning about her lot much of the time, which I am sure she was not doing really. She just felt drained by the horrendous scenes she witnessed whilst working at the orphanage, trying to help improve the conditions, but feeling she was getting nowhere. In fact she achieved an amazing amount. Maybe it is also worth mentioning that this was back in 2003 that the Bratt family were relocated to China and surely Chinese orphanages have improved since then. One certainly hopes so and I believe that Kay Bratt is continuing to support the plight of children in China.
This book will certainly give you something to think about and the descriptions will linger in your mind. How can this sort of thing be happening in modern society? A harrowing subject that we should all be made aware of, if it does nothing else it will make you appreciate how lucky we are in this part of the world.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kay Bratt is a truly remarkable woman. Blasted by culture shock on her arrival in China, she could have easily become insular, choosing only to mix with other ex-pats, and to have lived her life in a little American bubble.

Instead of this, she chose to work voluntarily in a Chinese orphanage amongst almost unimaginable deprivation. She quickly realised that major change could not be quickly effected and that she had to work within the confines of a desperately inhumane regime.
That she actively chose to do so is remarkable, knowing that the precious child to whom she could only give scraps of love and affection could easily die because of neglect by others must have been a massive psychological burden - and she had many such burdens.
Gradually others were drawn on board and though frustrated by red tape at almost every turn, things did begin to change.
Because Kay Bratt did her best to interact so deeply with the local community, this is far more insightful than many 'Westerner in China' books. Throughout the book Kay offers constant self-reflection. She is remarkable, but never presents herself as remarkable and is her own worst critic.
Many children now being lovingly raised in the West owe their lives to Kay Bratt, it's as simple as that - and the book closes with letters from the parents of some of these children.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in China or child development, or simply those who enjoy reading of remarkable, unsung heroes - and a book that lingers long in the memory.
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VINE VOICEon 19 April 2011
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The book starts out with a sad story which I am assuming is fictional but could be about any of the children in the orphanage in the book. It puts into perspective some of the circumstances in which the children might have ended up where they did.

The book is about the journey of an American woman who relocated to China with her husband due to his job and her involvement as a volunteer worker at a Chinese orphanage. It begins with much hope, told through journal style entries of the author herself. Kay is full of enthusiasm as well as a little fear in starting a new life in a strange country with her husband and family. She soon becomes involved with a local orphanage via another lady already working there.

On her first visit she sees much horror of the treatment of the children and the conditions they live in. the book is very emotional in places and imagining the lives of these children brings tears to your eyes especially if you have children of your own. Over the years that Kay is in China she and her hardy group of volunteers manage to bring a little sunshine to these affection starved children who live in a world where only the fittest survive. Among all the sadness there is little rays of hope when some of the children are found new and loving homes.

An inspirational book.
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VINE VOICEon 27 May 2011
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It is difficult to review this book, harder perhaps to rate it. The subject matter (babies in a Chinese orphanage) is heartbreaking and at times the story is difficult. But it is not the sort of book that you can just put down without finishing. I needed to get to the end; to find out what happens. The problem is that the story does not end, not the children's' story anyway.

Written as a journal, the book covers a period of 4 years and tracks the life of the author as she adjusts to life in China. I found the journal style a little irritating, too much about the author and not enough about the children themselves. Every long weekend away that she took away from her voluntary work made it harder to follow the children's progress. It is clear that Kay Bratt achieved much in her time at the orphanage. Raising money and awareness of the children's plight in a country that didn't welcome her endeavours easily. At the end of the book are letters from people who had adopted children from the orphanage. They are a good note to end on; messages of hope and new lives found.
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VINE VOICEon 7 April 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the courageous and compassionate story of an American woman's experiences working as a volunteer in a Chinese orphanage. Reluctant to tread on toes for no good reason she uses fake names so that the city and institution cannot be identified. I think it is this astute and realistic approach by the author which makes this book a better account than most. The author accept that offending the staff she must work with or the authorities will most probably only hurt the children and prevent her from helping them. Yes she rails about the slowness of officialdom, the casual cruelty of overworked staff and the different cultural approach to the orphans and disabled children but ultimately she works within the system to improve conditions. She sets up sponsor programmes, organises surgery for kids with heart defects and cleft palates. She is not always successful and there are some heartbreaking stories but she does make a difference and the book ends on a happier note. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and also felt I learned a good deal about the Chinese culture.
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