cover image Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness

Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness

Robert J. Lifton, Betty Jean Lifton. Basic Books, $22 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-465-00811-7

Lifton has written before on this highly charged subject ( Lost and Found and Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter ), but this is a more profound investigation of the trauma she sees as occurring when a child is separated from his or her birth mother and is brought up by people not of his or her blood. Lifton is for ``open'' adoption--meaning, to her, not only that the adoptee should have a chance to find out about his or her birth mother, but preferably that both sets of parents should get to know each other. She discourses at length, with reference to myth, legend, folklore, science, psychiatry, as well as to many personal experiences, about the crippling effect of the loss of the birth mother on the adoptee's sense of self; she even cites evidence showing that adoptive sons are more likely than natural ones to murder their parents. Despite one chapter (out of 17) devoted to him, the father's role seems little considered, that of the mother expanded to awe-inspiring proportions. And no attention is paid to the many cases in which the birth mother would not have been the ideal parent, despite the almost mystical qualities with which the author endows her. An eloquent book, but only one side of an argument in which two reasonable sides exist. (Apr.)