The Lightening (

What happens when you find out the mother you never met has thrown siblings you didn’t know you had off a bridge — and there’s a book coming out about it? New from me at

The lede:

I was making a connection in the DC airport when an email came through on my phone. Reception was poor, and I could see only the subject line:

I have some important things to discuss with you about your new book coming out, “To the Bridge.”

This is not necessarily what the author of a work of nonfiction wants to see six weeks out from publication. Had this person gotten an advance copy and was now going to tell me the book contained a major flaw that threw the whole thing off true? I reloaded the message until it came through:

Hi, my name is Christine ______. I’d like to first tell you that I am a child of Amanda Jo Stott-Smith. I was kept as a closed adoption so I wouldn’t be surprised if my name has never come up to you even with your research and studies. I was born November 2nd 1999. I’ve known about my adoption my entire life but just found out about the actions of my birth mom back in 2016 and have been following up on the articles written since I’ve heard about it. I want to talk to you because I’d love to buy your book and maybe get some insight with you. I would love to hear back from you!

I stared at the email. Contrary to what Christine wrote, I did know who she was. I knew the circumstances of her birth and adoption. I knew her father had killed himself before she was born. And I knew that several months before dropping her two youngest children from a bridge in Portland, Oregon, Amanda Stott-Smith wrote, of giving up Christine as a newborn, “I’ve never had so much joy and peace.”

I had four minutes before my flight boarded and could not properly respond to Christine’s email. I did have time to forward it to my editor, who replied, “Holy smokes.”

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