'Tap Into That Courage': Jeanne Baker Guy On Her New Memoir 'You'll Never Find Us'
Author Jeanne Baker Guy has spent a quarter of a century leading journal-writing workshops, but she’s also spent much of that time learning more about the craft herself. “I went to a writers’ workshop on Whidbey Island with Chistina Baldwin, who’s now a dear friend of mine,” Guy says. “And it was at that workshop that she had me set aside the funny essays that I wanted to work on when I told her about the kidnapping. And she said, ‘Whoa. That’s what we’re gonna work on while you’re here.’”
The kidnapping Guy mentioned was the 1977 abduction of her children; one July day, she was given a sealed envelope by a family friend that contained a note from Guy’s ex-husband reading, she says, “I’ve gone. I’ve taken the kids. You made this happen. It’s your fault. And you’ll never see us again.”
Guy says she didn’t have much help from the authorities at the time. “You have to remember, this is a book about a story in 1977,” she says. “The law was not with me back then. The officers who came to the door the night I was informed that the kids were gone were like, ‘Gee, we feel sorry for you… but there’s not much we can do because they’re with their father. So I didn’t get much help from legal authorities, and finally decided if I was going to move ahead, I would have to do it on my own.”
It’s a story that Guy has lived with for more than 40 years, but also one that she was relunctant to write about for a long time. “I had given thought to writing the book after… my ex-husband, who abducted the children, died in 2001,” she says. “But I was still way too… I’d been through so many emotions and thought I was through with the anger, but I wasn’t. So I wasn’t looking forward to delving into that and having to relive [it].”
It was Baldwin’s help and guidance that helped Guy to take the leap and tell her story. “Christina really gave me a safe place to do a 14-page synopsis while I was with her for the week. And from there, there was no going back,” Guy says. “Once I got into it, I knew that it would be good for me and ultimately it would be good for readers to know what I went through.”
The story is out in the world now and available to anyone who cares to read it, a fact that Guy says is both a relief and a bit scary. “You know, it’s like, let’s unzip and tell you all my flaws and faults,” she says. “Because I wanted to write the book originally as the perfect woman – of course – and the evil husband who kidnaps the kids. And my critique group, when they got their hands on it in 2010 said ‘Are you kidding? Those books are a dime a dozen. You’re the one who fell in love with him. You’re the one who married him. We want to know what that’s all about.’ So that’s why the book has gone through so many iterations. And I would rather, now at this point, risk telling my truths as I know them, as opposed to not.”
Guy essentially tells two stories in the book; the tale of her struggle to steal her kids back from the man who stole them and the story of her falling in love with that man in the first place. “It’s about me expressing my vulnerability, my mistakes, and the life I went through that matters,” she says. “And everybody has a situation, something they will be thrown into, that [will make them] need to find and tap into that courage that’s inside of them to move forward. And so I just sort of lay it all out in the book.”