Cover image for Home for unwanted girls : a novel
Title:
Home for unwanted girls : a novel
Title:
Home for unwanted girls : a novel
Edition:
First edition.
Publisher Info:
New York, NY : HarperCollins Publishers, [2018]
Physical Description:
364 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Pagination may vary.
Abstract:
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 the next farm over. But Maggie's heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents send the baby Elodie to an orphanage where she receives horrible treatment. Seventeen years later, 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.

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FIC GOOD Book Adult Fiction
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Summary

Summary

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 other.

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.


Author Notes

Joanna Goodman is a Canadian author, born in 1969 in Montreal. Her stories have been published in The Fiddlehead, The Ottawa Citizen, B&A Fiction, Event, The New Quarterly, and White Wall Review. Excerpts of her writing have been published in, A Room at the Heart of Things, a fiction anthology by Elisabeth Harvor. She is the author of five novels, The Finishing School, The Home for Unwanted Girls, Harmony, You Made Me Love You, and Belle of the Bayou.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Goodman (The Finishing School) immerses readers in post-WWII Quebec, where hostilities divide French- and English-speakers, in this moving if at times predictable coming-of-age novel. The daughter of a once-impoverished French woman and a middle-class English-speaking father, 15-year-old Maggie Hughes chooses to be English. Despite her father's warnings that French boys are poor, "don't finish school," and have rotten teeth by 40, Maggie falls in love with Gabriel Phénix, the humble French boy living in a crammed shack on the cornfield bordering her family's property. Their brief summer romance comes to an end when Maggie discovers she's pregnant and her parents give her two options-give her baby to an orphanage or live in poverty with Gabriel. Fear of being disowned by her family leads Maggie to give up her daughter, Elodie. As the years pass, Maggie's decision never ceases to haunt her, especially when she discovers that orphanages are being converted into mental institutions. While the third-person perspective works well for Maggie's character, it comes off as unrealistic and forced in chapters about the younger Elodie ("She's old enough and clever enough to understand that life as she knew it is over"). Still, Goodman writes with passion about a dark episode in Quebec's recent past. Agent: Beverly Slopen, Beverly Slopen Literary (Canada). (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Told against the tumultuous political backdrop of 1950s Quebec is the story of Maggie, the daughter of a proper English family, who becomes pregnant with the child of her first love, French neighbor Gabriel. Forced to leave Gabriel and the lower-class lifestyle he can offer her, Maggie is sent away to have the baby, who is given up for adoption so that Maggie can return to the respectable life that her parents envision. While Maggie makes an ill-fated attempt to live up to her parents' wishes, her daughter, bright and inquisitive Elodie, grows up in a nearby orphanage until the law changes and all orphans are declared mental patients. Elodie endures life under the nuns' cruel regime until her release into a foreign world at 17 years old. Only after Maggie and Elodie escape from the confines of their respective institutions can the family be reunited. While emotional at times, Goodman's latest (after The Finishing School, 2017) is a study of how love persists through the most trying of circumstances. Deep and meaningful, this novel captures readers' attention until they're rewarded with a happy ending.--Foti, Nicole Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Goodman (The Finishing School) was inspired in part by her mother's story for this novel set in 1950s Quebec. At 15, Maggie becomes pregnant, though she's unsure if the child is her boyfriend Gabriel's or from being raped by her uncle. Her English-speaking family separates her from the French -Gabriel, refusing to believe her story of abuse. After giving birth, Maggie is forced to give up daughter Elodie for adoption, and the baby is immediately taken to one of many church-run orphanages in Quebec. Shortly after, owing to a new law providing more funds for psychiatric hospitals, the province's orphanages are remade as mental wards, its residents declared unfit for society, eliminating the need for education or adoption. Growing up, Elodie endures this cruel policy until she is released at age 17. Maggie marries an English businessman in Montreal, trying to live quietly while not forgetting her daughter. And then Gabriel comes back into her life. VERDICT Goodman's solid historical novel highlights social conditions in Quebec from the 1950s to 1970s, with complex characters and the conflict between the French and English handled realistically. While the main story line focuses on Maggie and Elodie's search for each other, subplots add extra interest. For those who appreciated Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith's My Secret Sister or the film Philomena.-Melanie -Kindrachuk, Stratford P.L., Ont. © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.