THE BABY BOAT by Patty Dann


A Memoir of Adoption
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An anxious memoir of an older Manhattan couple’s experience of adopting a Lithuanian child. Novelist Dann (Mermaid, 1986) pens a painfully self-conscious but often insightful record of how she became a mother in middle age. There are, however, some curious omissions. While Dann confides in us things we didn’t have to know (like how it feels to be making love when your son is calling you), she doesn—t explain the genesis of the decision to adopt a child from Lithuania, where the stork is the national bird but where the bureaucracy and residency requirements are nightmarish. An infant female promised to Dann and her husband dies before they can get to the Baltics to meet her. Undeterred, the couple keep trying. The process doesn—t get easier: There are many more months of delays, foul-ups, and frustrations. Finally, they tackle the dilapidated justice system in Vilnius itself, and the bureaucratic wheels begin to move. Their second chance at parenthood, however, is nearly lost when the year-old boy they want to adopt gets ill and is confined in a frighteningly backward hospital. In decrepit and chaotic Lithuania, Dann’s husband, the calm, athletic, and resourceful Willem, proves adept at tracking down scarce medicine, baby food, and diapers. When grilled about their feelings for the child, Willem impresses a tough Lithuanian judge by saying, “I fell in love with my wife in one day as well.— Even in the final pages, with her bundle of joy in hand, the author remains a bundle of nerves. But while Dann is probably too anxious to be an entirely appealing character, she is a frank and droll one, noting at one point, that “I’ve lived my life as if I was taking pictures with no film in the camera.” While this is a far from objective look at the perils and problems of adopting infants abroad, it is a moving and often startlingly honest personal record.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7868-6380-3
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998


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