Title: The Home for Unwanted Girls
Author: Joanna Goodman
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Published: April 2018, Harper Audio
Length: 9 hours 58 minutes
Philomena meets Orphan Train
in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and
deceit – the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated
from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each
In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other
with precarious civility – much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s
English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t
include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But
Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant
at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption
and get her life ‘back on track’.
Elodie is raised in Quebec’s
impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that
takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans
in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that
provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages.
Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’
hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into
an alien, often unnerving world.
Maggie, married to a
businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was
forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a
wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie
intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she
wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally
reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.
My thoughts: It’s no secret I love historical fiction but one area I have not read a lot about is Canadian history. I recently received Joanna Goodman’s newest book, The Forgotten Daughter and realized that while not a series, it is a follow-up to this book, so of course I had to read this one first and I’m so glad I did.
This book is absolutely a beautifully written, heartbreaking story that captivated me from start to finish. While it is a fictional tale, it is loosely based on factual events in history – events I had no idea had taken place. Again, as I have mentioned before in numerous historical fiction reviews, this is why I love reading historical fiction. I always learn so much. I cannot fathom this really happening but it did.
This book pulled at my heartstrings and while I am not a mother, I still felt for all that Maggie had to go through. This book will take you on quite an emotional journey and yet at the same time, the way it is written, it is still filled with moments of suspense that I quite enjoyed being such a big thriller/suspense reader.
This is definitely more of a character-drawn story and I was all for it. The characters are all richly drawn and I felt completely immersed in both Maggie and Elodie’s lives. I loved how the story alternated between the two points of view and was equally drawn to both stories, however hard it was to read parts of Elodie’s at times.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Yes, this covers a dark time in Quebec’s history, but the story is so good that it needs to be read. And the writing is just so beautiful that I know I will be reading more of Joanna Goodman for sure.
Audio thoughts: I listened to this book and the audio was fantastic. I’m a big fan of Saskia Maarleveld and she really knocked this one out of the park. Her pacing and intonation was just right and she infused just the right emotion into her voice as necessary.