Book Review: The Girl in the Orange Dress

June 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Book and Movie Reviews

Written by Margot Starbuck 
Reviewed by Shelly Beach 

As an occasional and often half-hearted reader of memoir, I was surprised to find myself engaged from page one by Margot Starbuck’s The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail. I was gripped by Starbuck’s thoughtfully-nuanced narrative woven skillfully with poignant humor and refreshing soul-searching. Through Starbuck’s eyes, I saw reflections of the self-doubt I believe lies within all of us.

Margot Starbuck used the words “chosen” and “special” to describe herself as a child adopted into a loving family. When her adoptive parents divorced and each remarried, she told herself that she was loved even more, with “extra” parents who cared about her.

But beneath her words, she saw herself as rejected – first by her birth parents; a second time by her adoptive father, who moved away; then by her stepfather, and again by her birth father when she invited him into her life and he turned away. But ultimately, Margot felt rejected by God the Father, who she suspected couldn’t be trusted either.

The Girl in the Orange Dress is a book for anyone who has ever wrestled with the question, Who am I? Starbucks’ answer:  “All the hoopla about finding your roots is really about finding me [God]. If you want to know who you are, turn this way. Look toward my face.” Midway through the book, the primary question changes from Who am I, to, Whose am I? The answer can be found in Romans 8:14-15: “We are children of God, claimed by the Father, and have received a spirit of adoption.”

Perhaps the greatest value of this book for many readers is sharing in the transparency of Starbucks’ struggles through rejection, depression, chronic pain, and a less-than-perfect marriage. She asks the tough questions most of us will ask at one point or another in our lives: Why does God allow pain? Why does he refuse to take it away if he’s supposed to be loving? If a loving father allows his children to suffer, what is the true nature of love (John 3:16)?

Starbuck portrays the conflicts of her life with openness and honesty while offering hope that a compassionate God sees, hears, and cares. Transformation comes in our lives as we experience conflict that provides us with the opportunity to engage with the Holy Spirit and interpret our world in new ways.

This is a book readers can relate to on many levels, whether or not they are fans of memoir. Those who have experienced adoption or struggled with a sense of identity, abandonment, acceptance, or neglect would find hope and encouragement in The Girl in the Orange Dress. While the writing itself is stellar, the book’s greatest value is helping readers reflect upon their journeys of self-discovery in seeking a God who does not fail. I highly endorse this book.

Shelly Beach is the 2008 Christy Award winner in Contemporary Fiction. That winning novel, Morningsong, is a featured book in The Great Escape 2009. You can find out more about her at

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