SOMEWHERE CHILD by Bonnie Lee Black


Email this review


A fevered, anguished account of a child's abduction--with some blind spots that make it more unpleasant, all told, than heart-rending. Black last saw her daughter Whitney in 1971 when the child, then five, was spirited away for the second time by her father, lawyer James Jason. Bonnie, we hear, had drifted into marriage with Jim at 19; he was 36, a child of the Depression, grimly upward-bound, obsessively possessive, given to sudden angers and callous cruelties--behaviors echoed by the adoring elderly parents with whom he lived. After Whitney's birth, Jim's increasing irrationality focused on a threat to take the baby away. He harassed Bonnie at her grandmother's, where she'd sought refuge; sued for custody; and when he lost, disappeared with Whitney--then 16 months old. Two years later, learning that father, grandparents, and child were in Rhodesia, where there was no possibility of extradition, Bonnie set off to reclaim Whitney. The first of two court cases gave Bonnie custody but stipulated that she remain in Rhodesia as long as Jim--and his parents--were there. The second narrowed Jim's visiting rights to one ""reasonable"" period a year. But during one of those periods, he took her to Zambia--where the authorities said ""nothing could be done."" What, Bonnie asked herself, had Whitney gained from all the struggle? Jim had programmed her to hate and fear her mother; ""Don't leave me, Daddy!"" she would scream after each of his visits. So Bonnie, distraught, returned to New York--to new jobs, a university degree, no cessation of bitterness and grief. . . until, after thoughts of suicide, she determined to re-examine her life and tell her story. Her memories of her own divorced parents, of her innocent rejection of a wandering father, of running away from home (but not very far) are the most effective bits in the book. But she doesn't bring them to bear on her wretched life with Jim or her loss of Whitney; and she can see nothing behind his (and his parents') monstrous behavior, but monsters. The subject packs a wallop, always--but it comes across far more keenly in Beth Gutcheon's new novel, Still Missing (p. 587).

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1981
Publisher: Viking