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Sacred Heart, Minnesota, 1934: Born in the Great Depression to a sadly mismatched couple, a child is moved from one small town to another in her family's quixotic search for affluence. She is neglected, abused, kept penniless in a middle-class family. She dreams of helping children find the stable family she is denied. Forced out of her home at sixteen, she's a runaway, a child bride, a battered teenage mother. While she observes major events of the twentieth century, she wins her private struggle for independence. Through romance with a former World War II German soldier during the social revolution of the 1960s, to moving to Texas in the 1980s, Jean Erichsen becomes an innovator in international adoptions and a widely acclaimed and emulated agency director, social worker, and author. On an international journey spanning three decades, she and her husband raise children while traveling abroad and shaping ethical adoption practices for the benefit of thousands of orphans.

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