★★★★ Those Three Words by Christine Bauer is an emotional and raw memoir, in which the reader meets Chrisy as she begins her freshman year at college in 1984. She is thriving in her newfound independence and finally coming into her own when she finds out she is pregnant. Frightened and overwhelmed by the sudden responsibility thrust into her lap, Chrisy struggles with the choices in front of her and how she wants her life to look, as well as the life of her baby. Through the haze of depression, Chrisy decides to put her daughter up for adoption and does her best to move on with her life. As the novel continues, the reader follows Chrisy throughout her twenties and onward, as she settles into her career, finds love, builds a family, and comes to terms with the decisions she made all those years ago. As her daughter, Katie, grows into a young women herself, she and Chrisy find room in their lives for each other among the joy, love, sorrow, and heartbreak that comes with being part of a family.
Bauer takes on the topics of teenage pregnancy, suicidal thoughts, abortion, adoption, and divorce with great skill and sensitivity. To be sure, they are heavy issues that could have weighed down the pacing of Bauer’s account, but in this memoir the decisions made around these life moments propel the plot forward instead. At times, however, Bauer’s writing flags, as when certain problems in her life are written so that they are resolved quickly and conventionally in ways that seem unrealistic to the nuances of life and relationships. The dialogue could also be written with more variance in phrases and structure in order to add more life to the memoir. Nevertheless, the emotions come through strong here and pull at the heart in just the right way. The reader will be rooting for Chrisy and Katie as they come to terms with who they are—as individuals, and as a mother and daughter. This is a truly heartwarming story that has something to offer any reader who is interested in all the ways a family can be formed.