The Unintended

In 1960s Limburg — a deeply Catholic part of the Netherlands — a young, unmarried woman gives birth to twins in a ‘home for unwed mothers’ but has to give the girls up for adoption. At four months old, Aaf and Annemarieke are adopted by separate families. While Aaf grows up in a loving family, Annemarieke’s childhood is cold and lonely. It’s not until they are twenty-one years old that they find out about each other’s existence.

Original title
De onbedoelden
Cobi van Baars

When Aaf learns that she has a sister, she decides to look her up. The two sisters soon grow close, although they find themselves butting heads at times. Once reunited, can they still consider themselves unique as individuals? They both grow keenly aware that their fortunes could so easily have been reversed.

As they embark on the search for their biological parents, the young women find themselves confronted with the bureaucratic maze of Youth Services and a mother who has serious mental health issues. They manage to track down their biological father, now living a carefree life in Greece, unaware of their existence. Despite his family’s attempts to prevent them from meeting, the book ends with a loving reunion.

The perspective alternates between the various characters and an omniscient narrator whose appeals to the reader draw you even deeper into the story.

Cobi van Baars weaves the lives and inner worlds of her protagonists into an impressive narrative, providing seemingly offhanded insight into her characters’ minds. Her prose is deft and evocative, with generous doses of humour. With this gripping and moving book, Cobi van Baars demonstrates her keen psychological insight and establishes herself as a powerful voice.

‘She must have a tremendous sense of empathy. She deftly exposes how the course of events affects each character differently – everyone suffers in their own way.’


‘The Unintended by Cobi van Baars is an adoption drama full of infuriating injustice – and a remarkable literary achievement.’

Het Parool
Cobi van Baars
Cobi van Baars (b. 1967) is an author and a painter. She earned a first-class honours degree in Dutch Literature with a thesis on the relationship between literature and the visual arts. She published her debut in 2017. 'The Unintended' is her fourth novel.
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