Losing Jessica

Robby Deboer, Author, Jane Marks, With
Robby Deboer, Author, Jane Marks, With Doubleday Books $20 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-47458-0
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-553-47306-3
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Although DeBoer lobbies mightily for children's rights here, her self-interest, expressed with extreme emotionalism, underpins this vexed book and ultimately obscures that larger issue. The author re-creates her custody battle over her adopted daughter, Jessica, who was born out of wedlock to Clara Clausen on February 7, 1991, and returned to her birth parents on August 2, 1993. During the course of the custody hearings, Clara married her daughter's biological father, Dan Schmidt, who had not legally renounced claim to his child; the case was argued in both Iowa, where the Schmidts live, and Michigan, home state of the author and her husband, Jan. DeBoer presents her household as utterly child-centered: in her account, she devoted all of her time to Jessica, and Jan frequently took days off from his job as a printer to be with his child. The Schmidts are shown only to their discredit: Clara initially named her fiance as the father of her child, although she was simultaneously sexually intimate with Dan, a truck driver, who years earlier had abandoned two children he had fathered by two different women. The psychic and financial turmoil caused to the DeBoers and to their families by the custody battle is made so palpable that readers will weep; yet the Schmidts' anguish, which one assumes to have been no less real, is not considered in these pages. DeBoer wants us to see Jessica as victimized by the legal system, which favors biological parents, but thoughtful readers will need a disinterested account of the case before deciding. Photos not seen by PW . 100,000 first printing; first serial to Redbook; author tour. (Aug.)
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