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Demeter--the name is pseudonymous--tells a harrowing story: two small children, six and two, torn from her by the estranged husband she was about to divorce. Alex and Christopher were ""kidnapped"" even though the law pronounced it a ""family dispute"" (because the divorce papers had not yet been served, no custody hearing had been held) and left her without legal recourse. An unusual situation? Demeter believes it is becoming more common as men like her husband ""Michael"" seek to assert their ""institutionalized ownership"" by taking the children to ""punish"" the mother--taking them as ""property"" to possess. Her own story is exceptionally ugly and troubling (""I am struck by the collusion of women. . . in giving a man legal right to our children""). She had been married to ""Michael"" for nineteen years before deciding that his abusive rage was not to be endured. Why did she wait so long to file for divorce? Feeling bound to a ""contract"" made in the Fifties is her justification. Muddled though the motives seem, her anguish when the two children were kidnapped is unquestionable. The strategy of finding them and fetching them occupies most of the book, involving Pinkertons, psychics, and even hypothetical ""underworld types""--to say nothing of threatening phone calls from Michael who, through it all, demanded a reconciliation--or else. Demeter herself gets into some pretty deep waters talking about the differences between ""father-right"" (absolute, because based on inheritance and property) and ""mother-right"" which is based on caring for and is always in jeopardy. Her own jeopardy and that of her children comes across despite a streak of masochism that adds to the discomfort of reading this emotionally convoluted book.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Beacon