Lynette Langman’s telephone rang on a Sunday night in 2001, heralding the call that would unravel her life.
For forty long years, she had waited to hear news about the son she gave up for adoption when she was virtually a child herself. His birth had remained a closely guarded secret, hidden even from those who knew her best. And now her disclosure would unleash years of bottled questions and confessions.
As a young girl growing up in 1960’s South Africa, Lynette knew that her illegitimate pregnancy would be a scandal from which her conservative Jewish family would never recover. She hid her condition until she was seven months pregnant, and already a long way from childhood innocence.
When her parents finally discovered the truth, the baby’s adoption was a foregone conclusion; they would not consider any alternative, including that of marriage between Lynette and her then-boyfriend Max. For the young lovers, it was an early trial that forged a bond which remains unbroken. They eventually did marry – a mere 18 months after the birth and surrender of their first child.
Lynnette and her long-lost son – born David, renamed Antony on adoption – lived parallel lives for 40 years until Antony himself, now married and living in the United States, decided to adopt a baby. His preparation for the adoption brought him face-to-face with the unresolved questions and raw shame that biological mothers feel on giving up a child, and he became determined to find his own birth mother.
This non-fiction book maps Lynette’s journey against Antony’s. It is narrated by the various players in a story which resonates as deeply with human emotion as it does with social commentary. Set primarily against the backdrop of Cape Town, from the 1960’s to the present day, it hooks into the enduring traditions of the Jewish community and examines the intricacies of the adoption/reunion saga through the eyes of those most deeply affected, highlighting the peculiarities which make this story unique.
On the Other Side of Shame recounts a story which sits with its heels in the stirrups of social custom and its head in the clouds of familial love.