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The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny By Stephen Rowley, PhD

The Lost Coin by Stephen Rowley. A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny
The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny

In The Lost Coin, Stephen Rowley takes you along on his lifelong journey for meaning and identity. He deeply engages us with the stories of his adoption, his search and touching reunion with his birth mother, coming of age as a college radical in the 1970s, attempting to craft a powerful vision for schools as a school principal and district superintendent, marrying and adopting a son of their own, golfing with a Tibetan Lama, and hilarious encounters with movie stars. All these trials and stages of his evolution helped set the stage for reinventing himself as a depth psychotherapist and writer.

The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny (2023)was released in September, 2023 by Chiron Publications. I encourage you to order my memoir at your local independent bookstore. It is also available on Amazon


Born “out of wedlock” in Iowa in 1949, I was adopted by an upper middle-class family and educated at the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University. In The Lost Coin, I recount my 30-year search for my birth mother, and the even longer time it took to find my biological father, all with the hope of answering the question Who am I? My reunion with my mother in Boston is portrayed poignantly—her charm, brilliance, and instability juxtaposed with my finding a piece of myself with someone who was feeling lost herself. Years later, through a DNA discovery on 23andMe, I finally learned the identity of my birth father, already deceased, and realized that solving the mystery of adoption was just one strand in the larger story of destiny and wholeness.

Through story and reflection, The Lost Coin invites us into the adoptee’s birth trauma and its lifelong effects, the unspoken restlessness and yearning for connection. “Adopted” by mentors and other loving souls, Stephen Rowley forges a life path that reveals hidden truths that help him discover his own soul’s calling. “It is my hope,” he writes, “that through my memoir, you may discover the unique capacity within you to heal and even thrive, not in spite of the wounds you carry, but because of them.”


“An old Zen parable notes that we are all looking for the face we had before the world was made.   Given up for adoption as an infant, Stephen Rowley’s The Lost Coin depicts his multi-decade search for his roots and illustrates this profound drive for self-knowledge. His personal story touches on the questions that arise for all of us as we explore the threads of history that brought us to this troubled present.”

— James Hollis, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst and author of numerous books, most recently The Broken Mirror: Refracted Visions of Ourselves.

“In his memoir traversing loss and confusion, Dr. Stephen Rowley shares his experiences as an adopted child and his search for meaning, identity, and belonging. What sets this book apart is the way he skillfully weaves together personal experience with depth psychological insights.”

— Stacey Shelby, PhD, Depth Psychotherapist and author of Love and Soul-Making: Searching the Depths of Romantic Love

“The Lost Coin: A Memoir of Adoption and Destiny details the long and at times painful passage of the adoptee to understand their feelings, their past, and to go on living, gaining the feeling of being real in a family that does not share genetic inheritance. Stephen Rowley’s quest to differentiate his feelings and to validate and believe what he felt, hence grounding himself in his emotional life while accepting and loving himself for the child he had been, is the journey of the adoptee.”

— Audrey Punnett, PhD, RPT-S, CST-T, Jungian Child, Adolescent & Adult Analyst (IAAP), author of The Orphan: A Journey to Wholeness, and coauthor of Jungian Child Analysis. She is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, and an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco Fresno.

“In The Lost Coin, Dr. Stephen Rowley eloquently shares his journey of searching for his birth parents. While he underscores the lifelong impact of the trauma of separation of child from parent, he also helps us all to understand the human spirit that both craves and relentlessly reaches for self, hope, and grace. This compellingly honest book will be a comfort for those who are part of an adoption journey and may still be searching for healing, and an incredibly useful witness for those standing ready to help.”

— Rita Soronen, President & CEO, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

“Every adoptee or anyone affiliated with adoption should read The Lost Coin. What a fascinating and insightful look into the journey of Stephen Rowley and the impact adoption has had on his life. This memoir delves into the root issue of ‘Who am I?’ that every adoptee struggles with, and the effects of separation from one’s biological mother at birth.”

— KelLee Parr, Author of My Little Valentine: The Story of a Mother and Daughter’s Lost Love and Mansion on a Hill: The Story of The Willows Maternity Sanitarium and the Adoption Hub of America.

“I am pleased to recommend Stephen Rowley’s book, The Lost Coin, as a heartfelt account of the story of adoption.  It is especially relevant for those who have been impacted by adoption – those who have been adopted, those who have adopted or are considering it and others who want to know more.  With his background as a psychotherapist and educator, his interest in Jungian psychology and the Eastern philosophy of the lamas, he brings insight into the inner life of those who have been adopted and how others can better understand this journey.”

—Janet Tatum, MSW, Jungian Analyst, PNSJA/IAAP, Certified Sandplay Therapist – Teaching Member STA/ISST, Philemon Foundation Board Member, Redmond, WA.

“Dr. Stephen Rowley’s memoir, The Lost Coin, is not only a poignant description of his inner experience of being an adoptee who literally embarks on a decades-long search for the answer to the question Who Am I?, but it also opens our eyes to consider a universal message for any of us struggling in navigating the unknown. That is, the invisible and powerful force that destiny plays in our life-long search for wholeness and healing. His experience illustrates that when we are ready and willing to open ourselves up to see the hidden meaning and truths behind our own losses and struggles, we will come to know their purpose for our unique path to growth and healing.”

—Nancy McCaughey, Principal and Professional Certified Coach, Nancy McCaughey Coaching, LLC.