Happy Monday, Savvy Readers!
Do you find yourself suddenly craving some historical fiction after reading HCC’s March Madness winner The Alice Network? If so, this week’s featured read is made for you! Joanna Goodman‘s The Home for Unwanted Girls is an amazing read based on the true history of Quebec orphanages in the 1950s.
The story follows Maggie who, after getting pregnant outside of wedlock, and at the age of 15, is forced by her family to give up the child without even getting the chance to hold her. Absolutely heartbreaking. She is also forced to stay away from her childhood love, Gabriel, because her father doesn’t approve of her relationship with a French boy.
The rest of the novel jumps between Maggie’s point of view, and Elodie, her now orphaned daughter. We see the two grow up, with Maggie moving to Montreal and starting a relationship with the wealthy, father-approved Roland. On Elodie’s side, we see her life in the orphanages and the abuse she faces after her home is turned into a mental hospital. And despite living completely different lives, the two can’t seem to stop thinking about the other: Maggie pinning for the daughter she gave up, and Elodie daydreaming about her young mother.
If the heart-wrenching plot isn’t enough for you, this read will give you an amazing history lesson, without feeling like a textbook. The novel touches not only on the social tensions between the French and English population in Quebec at that time, but goes into detail about the very real Duplessis orphan scandal of the 1950s, when orphanages were transformed into mental institutions, and all their inhabitants declared mentally ill, all to receive extra funding from the government.
Will Maggie and Elodie ever reunite? What about Maggie and Gabriel? You’ll have to read to find out, Savvy Readers! If you’ve already picked up this book, let us know what you thought in the comments below or on Twitter @savvyreader.
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