“Adopting Anton: A Single Man Seeks a Son in Ukraine” by Robert Klose; AcuteByDesign Publishing, Marlborough, Connecticut, 2022; 192 pages, paperback, $15.

When Robert Klose sent me an advance copy of his memoir “Adopting Anton,” the world was just a few months into Russia’s bloodthirsty invasion of Ukraine. I was pretty sure his story about adopting a Ukrainian boy would offer a down-to-earth picture of human beings living lives remarkably similar — and quirkily different — from ours. I was right.

“Adopting Anton” is a sort of family sequel to Klose’s earlier memoir “Adopting Alyosha”about his older son whom he brought from Russia. We get a day by day account of the University of Maine at Augusta biological sciences professor’s decision, adventures in Ukrainian orphanages and courts, and then sometimes difficult years as Anton grows up at Klose’s home in Orono.

The account is above all intensely human. Klose’s project is monitored by his Polish friends, who characteristically offer every kind of help, from a place to stay during the sometimes grueling process of travel by train and plane, to the sometimes arcane immigration processes between Eastern European countries. In Ukraine itself, Klose encounters an intricate, sometimes fickle adoption bureaucracy where well-intentioned, protective judges have broad powers to deny the handover of small children to Western strangers. He also meets people in the adoption agencies of such human warmth and generosity that the stereotypes some of us may have about the coldness in Slavic cultures is completely shattered. And of course, everywhere, kids are kids.

I’ve never visited Ukraine, but I did live in Eastern Europe  for a few years shortly after the fall of the Communist governments, and I can attest to the accuracy of the portrayal in “Adopting Anton” of the people and their lifeways. Anyone contemplating adopting a child, especially from an Eastern European country, should read this book. And so should anyone who wants to get a picture of the actual people whose homes, families and lives are being wantonly destroyed by the Russian military.

Robert Klose is also the author of the science fiction novel “Life on Mars” and the essay collections “Small Worlds: Adopted Sons, Pet Piranhas, and Other Mortal Concerns” and “The Three-Legged Woman and Other Excursions in Teaching,” among other books, as well as numerous articles for The Christian Science Monitor and Bangor Daily News.

“Adopting Anton” is available through local and online book sellers.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first and third Fridays of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at [email protected].

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