Joan Dower Kosmachuk

(Winnipeg, Windflower Communications, 1992, pp85, $6.95)

Pre-teen novel is no fairy tale

As a pro-life parent, it is always difficult to know just when and how to introduce the topic of abortion to one’s own children.  Ever though, as adult activists, we grapple with the issue on a regular basis, the innocence of children also needs to be respected.  At the same time it is important that the right perspective be presented before the pro-abortion message that so swamps the media and the public schools comes crashing in.

Most would agree that certainly by twelve a child in North America needs to face the issue.  A novel for preteens that handles abortion sensitively is Rebecca’s Summer by Joan Dower Kosmachuk.

Rebecca Simpson is thirteen.  “School had only been out two weeks and already she felt it was going to be the worst summer of her whole life.”  Her own family can never seem to afford anything new.  As the second of four children, Rebecca wishes she was an only child like her best friend, Kate.  Then she’s not only have nice things, she’d be free of forever babysitting her kid brother.

When her mother announces a very special gift for the whole family next Christmas, Rebecca gets excited.  The gift, however, is not the new car she had hoped for, but another baby!

Rebecca is repulsed.  “Isn’t it the most disgusting thing you ever heard?  I mean she is so old.  It makes me sick.”

Although she’s not supposed to tell anyone, Kate confides that she knows exactly how Rebecca feels.  Last year her mother was pregnant too.  “My mom just cried all the time.  She said she was too old to have another bay – that it might be retarded or worse – that she didn’t want to give up her career.”  Her doctor said she qualified for a high risk pregnancy because of her age.  He signed a form and she had an abortion.

Rebecca blurts out to her mother that she should have an abortion.  Mrs. Simpson invites Rebecca to accompany her for her next ultrasound.  A tiny square of film, the picture of the ultrasound image that the doctor gives Rebecca shakes up not only Rebecca’s world but also that of Kate and her family.

As the Executive Director of Jewels for Jesus Mission and Jewels for Jesus Adoption Agency in Mississauga, the author, Joan Kosmachuk, deals with crisis pregnancies.  Her clients range in age from young teens as young as Rebecca to women in their forties like Mrs. Simpson.  If she has such a working knowledge of young, pregnant teens, why didn’t she make one the heroine?

Mrs. Kosmachuk chose to have Rebecca deal with abortion indirectly, through her mother’s pregnancy, because she knew young readers might not identify with a pregnant teen.  “The young reader can use denial, ‘I’d never get pregnant.  I’m not like that girl.’  But anyone’s mother could get pregnant.  Denial won’t work with mothers.”

And why a preteen novel addressing abortion?  “Girls need to decide about abortion before they get pregnant.  In fact I want to reach them before they are sexually active.  You need to establish your personal values before a crisis hits.  You need to decide about not stealing before you are ever tempted to shop-life.  When a crisis comes you still struggle; you’re still tempted, but if you have thought through your personal values then you usually won’t go against them.”

“I’d like to try a book for the same age group on adoption.  It will involve the adoption of a sibling, but I have not yet decided if it will be about a younger sibling or the discovery of a previously unknown, older sibling.”  Mrs. Kosmachuk sees Rebecca’s Summer as a crossover book, one suitable not only for a pro-life but also a general audience.

“Eventually,” says Joan, “I’d like to see a package of pro-life/adoption books, financed by pro-life business persons: a picture book, an early reader, a novel for young people as well as books for older teens and adults.  Let’s get these into schools and public libraries.”

For a picture book that deals sensitively with adoption Joan recommends Just in Case You Wonder by Max Lucado.  “Just in case you ever wonder…God wanted you to be in this family.”  “This family” in fact could be a foster family, or an adopted one or a biological one.

Rebecca’s Summer shows how wide a circle of people can be affected by abortion.  Amazingly Joan Kosmachuk covers a number of related issues too, but with ease and grace, not heavy-handedness.  Her preteen dialogue rings true.  Her characters, while not complex, seem believable.  The situations they stumble into are not far fetched.  And young readers will appreciate that there is also a touch of romance.

If one is to have ideals in the issues of life and death one must honestly face the realities, too.  It is not all rosy.  Rebecca faces up to reality and grows as she does so.  So will the reader.  Rebecca’s Summer is worth reading any time of the year.