“In its generous scope, Galbraith’s book honors the depth and mystery of all human lives, whether we grew up with birth parents or not.” —Mary Gaitskill
Shortly before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, adoptee Megan Culhane Galbraith was born in a Catholic charity hospital in New York City to a teenaged resident of the Guild of the Infant Saviour, a home for unwed mothers. Decades later, on the eve of becoming a mother herself, she would travel to the former guild site; to her birth mother’s home in Scotland; and to Cornell University, where she discovered the startling history of its Domestic Economics program. There, from 1919 to 1969, coeds applied scientific principles to domesticity as they collectively mothered a rotating cast of babies awaiting adoption. The babies shared the last name Domecon and provided the inspiration for Galbraith’s art project, The Dollhouse.
The Guild of the Infant Saviour is a dizzyingly inventive hybrid memoir of one adoptee’s quest for her past. Galbraith pairs narrative with images from The Dollhouse as she weaves a personal and cultural history of adoption as it relates to guilt, shame, grief, identity, and memory itself. Ultimately, she connects her experiences to those of generations of adoptees, to the larger stories America tells about sex and motherhood, and to the shadows those stories cast on us all.
About the Author
Megan Culhane Galbraith is a writer and visual artist. Her work was a Notable Mention in Best American Essays 2017, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and has been published in Tupelo Quarterly, Redivider, Catapult, Hobart, Longreads, and Hotel Amerika, among others. She is Associate Director of the Bennington Writing Seminars and the founding director of the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont Young Writers Institute.
"In emotional, sometimes blistering essays, Galbraith portrays her loving adoptive parents, sexuality, and role as a wife and mother….Galbraith’s passionate narrative effectively shows the struggle of an adoptive child to comprehend an often long-hidden history….A potent reminder that adoption is founded on loss.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The early life of an adopted child is mysterious, perhaps most of all to the child herself. In The Guild of the Infant Saviour, Megan Galbraith explores this mystery with delicacy and humorous intelligence, using science, art, and weird little dolls to guide her. What she finds is beautiful, sad, heartening, and mysterious. In its generous scope, Galbraith’s book honors the depth and mystery of all human lives, whether we grew up with birth parents or not.” —Mary Gaitskill, author of This Is Pleasure
“The Guild of the Infant Saviour depicts adoption and motherhood with hard-won and clear-eyed pathos. Galbraith is a model observer; here life is set before readers like her photographs, arranged into beautiful and terrifying patterns that stand fixed in time but move in the mind.” —Matthew Salesses, author of Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear
“An inventive, genre-defying look at what it means to belong. Galbraith artfully collects moments of her life and photographs from the past to create a touching portrait of motherhood, beauty, and home.” —Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I’m Someone Else
“This remarkable collection is a cross between Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance and a Joseph Cornell box: a mesmerizing cabinet filled with curious relics of caretaking, dollhouse reenactments, and the haunting questions of a daughter in search of identity and belonging. Megan Culhane Galbraith is a true artist.” —Leigh Stein, author of Self Care
“It’s heartbreaking and fascinating to follow Megan Culhane Galbraith through the mysteries that make up this glorious, weird, tender, and revelatory book. Who are we? How did we become who we are? She knows these mysteries are unsolvable, but it is beautiful to watch her try.” —Ander Monson, author of I Will Take the Answer
“An extraordinary collage of motherhood and a moving journey of one woman’s search for wholeness. Megan Culhane Galbraith’s personal story, braided with insightful research about adoption and foster care practices, and illustrated exquisitely with the author’s photos, is a beautiful and memorable exploration of life.” ––Jill McCorkle, best-selling author of Hieroglyphics
“This is the most ethereal yet earthly, dreamy yet disquieting book I have cradled, embraced, and, most importantly, held—an act made holy by Megan Culhane Galbraith. The Guild of the Infant Saviour is a book to be held and Megan Culhane Galbraith a voice to behold.” —Jenny Boully, author of Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life