By Graham Fuller
Published: Oct. 27, 2012
As a Squamish resident and writer, Middle East specialist and former CIA officer, I’ve written a fair number of books over the past many years—mostly on Middle East affairs.
But in this latest book, I offer something quite different: a memoir—not about my own life so much as about the life of our Korean son Luke, adopted at age one, and who lost his way and ultimately died of crack cocaine at age twenty-one.
This is a new departure, an intensely personal account of a painful and emotional family experience.
Ironically, despite having developed a lot of professional skills–foreign languages, cultural expertise, and foreign policy analysis– I found myself confronted with the hardest task of my life: trying to rescue my son from a descent into drugs.
In this memoir I offer what I think is a pretty unsparing and vivid account of these efforts—wise, misguided, passionate, naïve, creative, ultimately unsuccessful—to save him.
The story is unusual in that it unfolds against a variety of foreign settings—Korea, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, California and Washington DC, as well as scenes set in Turkey, Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada.
Even though he arrived in the US at the tender age or one, Luke faced the near universal crisis of most adoptees—the quest for identity.
The book explores the mysteries of the adoption process, the unknowability of our son’s background, and Luke’s own efforts to discover who he really is.
I hope many adoptive parents and children will find material for reflection in this tale.
As a father as well as a writer, I faced the tough task of tackling a story that ultimately ends sadly. Yet I tried to draw out the universal themes that confront so many other families that have dealt with serious drug issues as well—the family tensions, counter-accusations and blame–that often accompany the saga of children lost in drugs.
How do we understand such events, how do we cope with them?
In working with Luke we seized on any possible ideas and novel approaches that might possibly have arrested his trajectory—including sending him on numerous outdoor challenge courses, language study in Mexico, and work in a highland village in Costa Rica.
The book presents a rollercoaster of swirling events, hope alternating with disappointments as we sought to get Luke’s life back on track.
He was warm, likeable, funny, and quick to win friends, while also a skilled deceiver, able to impress others with a seeming maturity and urbanity.
But the image he worked to create for himself was increasingly belied by the darker realities of his life and the black hole he creates around our family.
The memoir explores the mysteries of adoption, identity, addiction, and grace—a universal tale, but spun with unique features and character.
And in the end, although Luke ultimately slips through our family’s fingers, the tale reminds us of the power of the journey and the need for the human spirit to find solace, meaning and even elements of inspiration out of adversity.
Autographed copies of the book are on sale ($15) at Newport Market (Gelato) on Cleveland Avenue in downtown Squamish; also available on Amazon.com.