This is the story of the suffering and determination of one woman fighting for her children - and of the inadequacy of current international laws against child abduction to protect either parents or children against the occurrence of this tragedy. In the process of pleading internationally for the right to be with her children, Meyer met and married Christopher Meyer, now British Ambassador to the United States, providing a happy turn-of-events - if not quite a happy ending - to this story.
"A failed marriage to an erratic, controlling man plunges Meyer into the world of international child abduction and custody laws. After what was to be a routine vacation to Germany in 1994, their father refused to return the children to their London home and set in motion a long-planned, surreptitious change of custody of the two young boys. Meyer's dreams of a multicultural upbringing for her sons suddenly became a nightmare of legal arguments about the Hague Convention and the intractable local laws of Verden, Germany, where her husband's family of lawyers and judges hold great influence. As the case dragged on, Meyer faced the prospect of permanent estrangement from her sons, who were being told their mother was inattentive and negligent because she continued her career in international banking and finance. This is a heart-breaking story of child abduction by a parent. Meyer is actively involved in lobbying for international laws against child abduction. Shapiro intersperses two painful stories of custody battles with the history of Western concepts of family and parental responsibility. He examines the apparent abandonment of a baby girl by a teenaged mother, Gina Pellagrino. She resurfaces when the child is four months old and adopted by a stable childless couple that had been on Connecticut's adoption list for years. Shapiro also explores the troubling case of the Melton family, separated after 19 of their children were found living in appalling filth and neglect in an impoverished Chicago neighborhood. Shapiro weighs the rights of birth parents against those of abused and abandoned children. He examines the works of a broad range of experts from social workers, including Jane Addams, to psychologists, including Anna Freud. Shapiro also scrutinizes the inadequacies of overburdened social welfare bureaucracies and courts in rendering Solomonic decisions about what's best for children. --Vanessa Bush"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Now the wife of Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to the U.S., the author has attracted media attention to her four-year struggle to regain access to her two sons. The author contends that in 1994, her former husband, Hans-Peter Volkmann, a German doctor, violated a legal separation agreement by refusing to return nine-year-old Alexander and seven-year-old Constantin to their London home after they spent a six-week holiday with him in Germany. Meyer's account details the roadblocks she met in German courts often staffed by judges she felt were more sympathetic to the children's German father than to her, a British citizen of French and Russian extraction. Meyer was initially able to obtain court orders for the return of her children, but she claims that Volkmann hid the boys until a higher German court upheld his appeal on the grounds that it was in the children's best interests to remain in Germany. She also details the agreements Volkmann apparently made and broke for her court-ordered visits to her sons. According to Meyer, her ex-husband brainwashed their sons into thinking that their mother had abandoned them. Although the trauma Meyer has suffered as a parent is indisputably intense, her defensive descriptions of the early marital disagreements she had with Volkmann are unnecessary and do little to illuminate her tragic situation. In the end, though, the author makes a strong case for enforcement of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which prohibits kidnapping across frontiers. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved