The Brotherhood of Joseph A Father's Memoir of Infertility and Adoption in the 21st Century

Brooks Hansen, author of The Monsters of St. Helena

Modern Times




288 Pages



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While miracles in reproductive technology have brought joy to millions, those very advances have plunged many couples into an unrelenting cycle of hope and heartbreak. One failed attempt may lead to another and another—but how do you give up when there is always another doctor or another procedure holding out the possibility of conception? Brooks Hansen vividly captures the emotional turmoil he and his wife, Elizabeth, endured as they tried to conceive, the years their lives were put on hold, and the excruciating sense of loss. He writes, too, of the couple's journey through the bewildering world of adoption—a path to parenthood fraught with financial, legal, and emotional risks of its own.

Offering men a chance to be heard and women a rare opportunity to view the struggle with infertility from a male perspective, The Brotherhood of Joseph brings to life the emotions that come to dominate the husband's role. As his remarkable account reaches its finale in Siberia, however, Hansen's once again becomes the story of a husband and a wife who, even after years of medical frustration and fruitless paperwork, still must take one last risk together and trust in their most basic instincts before their new family can be born.


Praise for The Brotherhood of Joseph

"Calling to mind the well known adoptive father, Joseph the Carpenter, novelist Hansen tackles the practical and emotional turmoil facing would-be parents with fertility problems: assisted reproduction technology may be ‘yielding more happy children and parents who look like each other, but . . . it is also meting out despair at a rate, and for lengths of time, that I'm not sure the human heart was designed for.' Chronicling the four years Hansen and his wife spent trying to get pregnant, and the two years they spend trying to adopt, Hansen gently guides readers through the labyrinth of interventions now available to infertile couples, while at the same time eloquently attesting to the trials and pitfalls of following them. Divided into three sections covering infertility, adoption and an international trip to meet a baby, the book is well paced and benefits from Hansen's careful insights; this is one sports fan who has thought much about what it means to be a father. Though the subject matter is emotionally difficult, Hansen's humor and positive outlook make this memoir an encouraging read for any parent-to-be."—Publishers Weekly

"Novelist Hansen chronicles the journey he took with his wife through years of fertility treatments and adoption proceedings. New advances in reproductive technology have given unprecedented hope to couples with difficulties conceiving a child. These advances can also, as they did in the Hansens' case, lead to a six-year cycle of daily hormone shots, intrauterine treatments and dwindling financial resources. The author reveals the isolation he and his wife Elizabeth felt, despite relatives' and friends' well-meaning efforts to be supportive. Eventually, the couple decided to adopt, which proved to be equally harrowing and expensive. They found themselves selling their qualifications as parents in short classified ads, sizing up the genetic pros and cons of potential adoptees and finally traveling to the ends of the earth—Siberia—on their quest to be parents. There was no shortage of bumps along the road, and Hansen makes palpable the couple's yearning for the life with children they had envisioned since they got married. Their desire for some approximation of the family they planned on led them to rule out an open adoption in the United States: ‘Just because we'd been through the IVF wars and lost,' writes Hansen with characteristic wit and self-awareness, ‘that didn't mean that Elizabeth should have to resign herself to the role of co-mother.' They went overseas, searching for a child with whom they felt a deep connection. Supplementing their story with lucid explanations of fertility options and procedures, the author has crafted a book that is both a helpful guide for infertile couples and a personal memoir appealing to any empathetic reader. The title tips its hat to Joseph, adoptive father of Jesus, and the much-covered subject of infertility does indeed benefit from the addition of a male perspective. A tender, humorous account of a couple's struggle to start a family."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Brooks Hansen, author of The Monsters of St. Helena

  • Brooks Hansen has written five novels and his work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Best Life, Open City, Grand Street, and Bookforum. He and Elizabeth live with their children, Theo and Ada, in California.

  • Brooks Hansen Copyright Nancy Crampton