Last week I borrowed a book from the library that wasn't my usual read; I wanted light, and this book, a suspense thriller with Russians and Wall Street corruption, seemed safe. Restitution is a debut novel by Lee Vance, a graduate of Harvard Business School and a retired [retired at 45 judging from the book jacket photo] general partner of Goldman Sachs Group living in New York City with his wife and three kids. I'll insert an apology here to FMF fans who are weary of reading about adoption themes in movies and television series for the past few weeks. I had put the soapbox in storage, but then I started reading a formulaic, banal whodunit that, combined with the full moon and raging hormones, turned into a perfect emotional storm. I lost yet another day of productivity and even a half day of work because once again, I was blindsided by...stupidity? insensitivity? ignorance?
Here's the plot summary offered by Restitution's publisher:
"Peter Tyler appears to have it all -- a loving wife, a powerful
job on Wall Street, a sprawling house in the suburbs. But in a
moment of weakness, Peter indulges in a one-night stand with a
beautiful trader. A few weeks later, his house is broken into
and his wife brutally murdered. When the police discover Peter's
infidelity, he immediately goes from grieving husband to prime
suspect. Suddenly, it's up to Peter to prove his own innocence
and find his wife's killer. Written with ferocity and at a lightning
pace, Restitution marks the debut of an intelligent and exciting
One-third of the way into the book, the reader learns that Peter and his wife of 16 years have tried in vain to conceive, but she's waited too long. IVF treatments aren't working. The couple is in a therapist's office, where Jenna [the wife] felt it was the safest place to tell her husband she wanted to adopt a child. I sent the following e-mail to Lorraine a few days ago:
"I've been on a downward spiral for the past 24 hours and this didn't help...So she wants to adopt. Her husband's against it, something his father told him when he was younger about cuckoo birds: They lay their eggs in other birds' nests. After the baby cuckoo's born, it pushes the natural hatchlings out so it can have all the food. The adult birds don't notice. They go right on feeding the baby cuckoo as if it were their own. Adult birds want baby birds. A baby cuckoo might seem better than an empty nest. But all the care and feeding the world isn't going to make a cuckoo a songbird. Nature always trumps nurture in the end." [This tale was in reference to childhood neighbors taking in a twelve-year-old foster child who was led out of the house in handcuffs by the police. Nature trumps nurture, but not in my case.]
Later this couple is in the wife's therapist's office, where the wife confesses she wants to adopt and he's blindsided by the sneak attack. He says, "It's not my fault we're in this situation. I'm not the one who decided to wait, and I'm not the one with a fertility problem. And yet you blame me because I won't let you compound your mistake. So once and for all, here are my views on adoption: I don't want a three-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome. I don't want a baby who was shaken, or born addicted to crack, or has HIV. I don't want a kid some Chinese farmworkers threw away like a melon, or to go to sensitivity training so I can learn how difficult it is for our black child to grow up in a privileged white family. I don't want a kid whose parents were fundamentalist Christian hypocrites, or a fifteen-year-old checkout girl at the local supermarket and her bald forty-eight-year-old manager. I don't want a kid who's a f*****g loser. Are those enough words? Do you understand me now?"
I ended my screed with "Improper Adoptee would love to be called a kid who's a f****g loser." And, sadly, the statement isn't that far off base. With a few keystrokes, this author managed to attack, heck--emotionally maim--birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees alike. Anyone slammed by adoption knows we're all losers; it's one of very few human dynamics based on loss.
I wondered where the author mined those gems. Is he an adoptee? Did he languish in the foster care system as a youth? Does he have friends who wrestled with infertility? Is he an adoptive parent who went through the wringer trying to fill an empty nest? I'm guessing the latter, and he's not the only one.
My former best friend wouldn't consider adoption because it was dicey, but she had a kinder, gentler way of expressing the character's sentiments. After lots of trial and error, her son was conceived in a petri dish when she was 44 and now they're a happy little family. And when Judasina, my back-stabbing sister who continues to have a relationship with my daughter while I'm exiled to the island of first-mothers-who-aren't-mothers, [this is third party info so I can't vouch for veracity] asked if my daughter would consider adoption (recently diagnosed cervical cancer ends her dream of having a third child) she, the perfect grade A Mercedes Benz of babies relinquished to adoption, replied that her [adoptive] mother was very lucky, but she wouldn't want to chance it because "you never know what you're gonna get." To her credit, she also added she wouldn't want to subject another mother to the heartache I've endured. Maybe life as a crackwhore would have been easier and nobler after all.
The initial SOS e-mail to Lorraine was prompted by yet another e-mail announcement from Adoption News Service for a single adoptive parent conference in Boston. It described the hotel's wonderful amenities and program, but I reacted like a bull seeing red cloth when I saw "Single Adoptive Parent." As I said, combined with the full moon, raging hormones, and overall inability to shake off the temporarily negative wheel of karma, I just felt ripped off. After reading those charming fictitious yet laser-sharp words about adoption, surely at least one reader feels the same.