#Review: Umbilicus

29875357Umbilicus: An autobiographical novel by Paula Gruben

Published: May 31st 2016
Paperback: 181 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Author: — FacebookTwitterWebsite
Source: Received from the author for an honest review
Buy: — SA PaperbackSA EbookKindle EditionRaru






Charlotte van Katwijk guards herself like a secret. Kids are cruel, and she knows if they find out she’s adopted, she’ll be a bully’s easy target.
When they are fourteen, Charlotte’s best friend’s mom commits suicide. It triggers in Charlotte a sense of urgency to find her birth mother before it’s too late, and the answers to her burning questions are taken to the grave.
Seven years later, a tormented Charlotte comes face to face with her past. Will discovering more about her biological parents, and the circumstances surrounding her relinquishment, be enough to lay her demons to rest?
‘Umbilicus’ is a coming-of-age story set in South Africa’s biggest port city during the dying days of apartheid. The tumultuous zeitgeist of the era mirrors the inner turmoil of an angst-ridden adolescent as she grapples to form an identity and find her place in the world.
” – Goodreads

My Thoughts:

Charlotte was put up for adoption as a baby and then subsequently adopted. Her family has always been open about this fact, but Charlotte still feels alone – still feels out of place in her own family – like a big part of her is missing. Who are her birth parents? Why did they give her up? Who is she supposed to be and how would her life have been different if she wasn’t adopted? These are a lot of questions and feelings for any teenager to deal with. No wonder Charlotte acts out. This novel follows her progress from a rebellious teenager to a young adult who finally finds some answers. What answers and how, is something you will have to read and find out!

Even though I don’t have any experience with adoption, I have always found it a very interesting topic – and now that I’m pregnant I find this topic even more relevant. I have a few friends who I know are adopted and I have always wondered what they must be going through or if it even affects them at all. What I have come to realize is that it must be different for each person. That is why I think a book like this is necessary – so that adoptees know they are not alone, that others feel like them or even different.

I found this story interesting on a lot of levels. Firstly, it is autobiographical and there is something about knowing that this is someone’s life story that makes you connect to it. Secondly, the novel deals with a whole host of themes: adoption, rejection/acceptance, teen angst, suicide and unwanted pregnancy. Thirdly, this novel makes you feel! Fourthly, I love that it is set in South Africa, specifically Durban as my husband is from there and I can relate to a lot of the places mentioned in this novel. Lastly, I was left wanting more, wondering what is next?!

I hope Paula does write a second book. I need to know what happens in the next 20 years of her life! I also need to mention that I really love the cover. It is very unique and really tells the story!

If you are in the mood for something a little different, or are adopted, or know someone who is – this book will help shed some light on the topic.

Book Launch:

I was fortunate to attend the Book Launch of Umbilicus at Skoobs.

The author, Paula Gruben and me!



This got a 8/10 from me.