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This book exposes the cruel and short-sighted policies of the Duplessis government concerning orphans and the mentally challenged living in orphanages and asylums circa 1957. It is important to know our Canadian history but this story will tear your heart out and pummel it. The church wielded an unhealthy degree of power over those who followed its rules. A young girl who became pregnant was whisked away for seven months or so in order to have her baby only to have it taken from her and institutionalized or sold. This is the story of one of those young women. We follow her story and in a parallel story, we learn the horrific circumstances in which her child grew up. The young mother, Maggie, never gave up trying to find her daughter and in the end, the characters and the reader are drenched in heart-breaking sadness and joy.
Maggie Hughes, a girl of mixed Anglo-French parentage in 1950 Quebec, is forbidden from seeing Gabriel Phénix, the poor farm boy next door. When Maggie becomes pregnant at 15, her parents send her away and the baby is taken from her and sent to a home for foundlings. The baby, Elodie, is raised as an orphan until she, along with thousands of other orphans across the province, is declared mentally ill when new laws provide more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages.
I loved the insight into a part of Canadian history that isn't really known outside the province of Quebec. Much of it is heart rending.
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough character or relationship development for me to buy into certain aspects of the story. Yes, Maggie's marriage was unlikely to succeed even without her meeting Gabriel again. But, Maggie and Gabriel really hadn't known each other well even as teenagers, yet after not seeing each other for nearly a decade, and after minimal contact for a short period, they decide to marry and it all works out happily. Where is the inevitable adjustment to finding out who each other really is? I also felt Elodie's adjustment to "normal" life after having been treated as mentally deficient for most of her childhood was given nearly the depth it needed in order to be believable.
The writing is strong, the setting is authentic. I could almost smell the fresh earth in the seed store. It's full of accurate historical detail about the division between French and English in Quebec. I just wish the characters were stronger.
I don’t know how to write a review about this book because no words would be enough to praise it. I’m so glad I read it, noticing on ##hccmadness by the publisher. Having a daughter myself, and lucky to have a mother who has loved me dearly, when you read a story in which a mother has to give her baby away because she was born out of wedlock—an illegitimate child—and then how the baby is brought to orphanage , that later turns into a mental asylum, how the kids are mistreated—it just tears your heart. It’s a story of a relationship between a mother and a daughter. Maggie is a young, ambitious girl, living in a small town of Quebec, loved dearly by her father who runs a seed store. Maggie wants nothing but to run her father’s business one day. Her father is English and mother is French so Maggie is both English and French but both not completely. She’s always told by her father never to fall for a French boy because they are not educated. Still, Maggie falls in love with Gabriel, her next door neighbor, who is a farmer. Maggie is pregnant at the age of sixteen and gives birth to Elodie but she is told by her father that if she keeps Elodie and contacts Gabriel, her father would break all ties. Out of fear, Maggie gives up Elodie the day she is born and Elodie is taken to orphanage where for many years, she is told by nuns that this is a “home for unwanted girls” because they were born out of sins of their parents. The laws in Quebec change in 1957, and Elodie, at the age of seven, is brought to another place, the time when all orphanages turned to mental asylums because the government was paying nuns more to take care of mentally retards than orphans. From age seven to seventeen, Maggie keeps telling nuns she is not mental, but the hardships she encountered, the punishments given my nuns was unbearable to read as a mother. By the time Elodie walks out of asylum, she has no clue what fries or Pepsi taste like. In all those years, Maggie never stopped looking for her daughter though she was told by the cruel nun that Elodie is dead. In all those years, Elodie never stopped hoping to find her mother one day despite the same nun told her, her mother is dead. It’s the story that tells you that no matter how far mother-daughter live from each other, how apart they are in years, there is an unbreakable connection between them. After reading it, my heart is full as I’m not able to voice my emotions but it also feels empty as I’d miss reading it more. **more than five stars**
OH! This was such a fantastic story! I was sad to come to the end and limited myself to the number of pages i read to drag it out - what torture! Dying to read on, and not wanting it to end. A story written with intrigue, and heartbreak. Makes you want to jump into the pages and help some of the characters.
Great book, excellent read. Very compelling story that touches the heart. The characters are very well developped and feel so real that you find yourself propelled back in time into the midst of 1950s Quebec society. The story adresses several social and political problems of the times and the very cruel often lifelong repercussions they had on a very vulnerable part of society. A must read in my opinion!
This has been one of the most well-written novels I have read in a long time. I saw this novel on a must read list for 2018, and for some unexplainable reason, I wanted to read this book. The story is compelling, and very emotional at times. But, at the heart of the matter, the feeling I have since finishing this novel (and I just finished it a few mins ago), is that there is nothing stronger in this world than the love of a parent for their child
My opinion is this book is so far fetch and unreal. Everybody has wishes and some of them come true, that is part of life. But in the book all her wishings come true which is not very logical, again in my opinion. I finished the book but was not impressed by it. As Always that is my personnel opinion.
5.0 out of 5 starsGripping and leaving no stone unturned
Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2018
Beautifully written story about a 15 year old pregnant girl forced to give up her baby after it is born, due to the fact that she, Maggie, is not married. Maggie mourns the loss of her baby girl and spends years trying to find her, not knowing that her child, Elodie, is being raised by nuns, first in an orphanage setting and then in a mental hospital. Oh, the inhumanity of it all. I detested the Catholic nuns to no end and felt the agony of these small and helpless children in their unhappy lives. How I wished to be able to gather them all up in my arms and take them to a place of love and safety. Yes, the story does have a happy ending, but it takes twenty-some years to get there, and I am sure that it will stay in your thoughts for a long time.
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2018
The backstory of the horrific treatments of orphans in Quebec was actually more interesting than the plot of this historical novel. The characters were stereotypes (cruel nun, strict parents, innocent teenager in love for the first time). The plot also depended too much on misunderstandings and coincidence. I wish the characters had been more realistic.
I loved the way the author wrote this. So much time to cover but the focus was on the key events so I never had to skip pages and pages like I have done with other books. The story is tragic. I felt every persons pain - Maggie, Eloise, Gabriel, Maggie’s dad. What was extremely touching to me, as a believer that love conquers all, was that this book made this belief come to life. I would have given it 5 stars except many would say this is a ‘fairy tale’ - SPOILER ALERT - happy endings and all. But I do believe they can happen and, like movies for me, this did not disappoint. I am curious to know if the situation in Canada with unwed mothers and orphanages turned into mental institutions is based on fact? If so, my heart aches; if not, touché to the author! Very enjoyable read!
Absolutely gut wrenching story based on real history of how orphans were treated in Quebec region during the 1950's and 1960's. I was so sad and angry on behalf of the poor children and absolutely hated almost every single adult character in this fictionalized version. Even the main character of Maggie who was forced to give up her baby at 16, did not get any sympathy from me. All I can acknowledge is that she was a product of her time.
Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2018
Elodie's story, and that the thousands of orphans who shared her fate, was compelling and heartbreaking . What the Church, the nuns, the doctors and the government did to those children is appalling . The book is worth reading for her story . But Maggie's story never seemed believable to me . Or maybe I just didn't like her all that much . And I really didn't believe the relationship between Maggie and Gabriel . A very mixed review.
Loved this book!!! It made me feel that I was back in Montreal in the 1950’s....... all of the prejudices of my childhood came back into my mind. It was almost eerie! Loved the main character Maggie..... I want to read many other books by Joanna Goodman.
This book captures a time in history that, hopefully, is not to be repeated, when many fathers said to their daughters, “If you ever get pregnant out of wedlock, you are no longer my daughter!” Such a sad, often tragic, time!! Read this beautifully written book at your own emotional peril.
Maggie is a fifteen year old who finds herself pregnant. Her parents send her to an aunt and uncle farm until the baby is born and then the Maggie's father has arranged to have the baby is put in a home run by the nuns. The baby is premature, small and jaundice. She was not adopted and spent the next seventeen years in poor to horrible conditions. Her birth mother tries to find her but is told her daughter has died. Finally the mother and daughter find each other some twenty four years later. Well written ook that uncovers the true nature of selling babies in the fifties. L
Wow! I don't even have words to describe the emotions this book evokes. It pulled me in from the very beginning and I could not put it down. It's been a long time since a book has had this kind of an impact on me. Such atrocities wrought upon innocent children...unthinkable! Yet, the power of love wins out in this story. A very well written book!
Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2019
My Mom recommended this to me and i finally read it last weekend. Oh, my gosh - there were moments when my heart dropped and broke. To know what happened to Elodie happened to so many children in reality both breaks my heart and infuriates me. Maggie was such a strong character who never gave up her dreams, not even for love. Very well-drawn characters and a very rich story. My only issue was the ending - it just stopped when there was so much more to tell. I would love to know if Elodie and Maggie wrote the book outing those horrible nuns. Was Elodie able to work through her trauma and heal? Did Dennis make it back from Viet Nam? Perhaps a second book is in the offing?
This story of the young unwed teenager Maggie and her search for the daughter she was forced to give up at birth is only part of the story. The story is about the division in Quebec between the French and the English Canadians. It is about feelings,dreams and family situations. It is also about the treatment of orphans and how a government decision opened them up to horrors. I love the story of the romance between Maggie and the French boy Gabriel, but I also was quite interested in the story of the orphans, and the history between the relations between the French and the English. I would definitely recommend this book.
This is a pretty good book. As an American, I was completely unaware of 1950s Quebec, Duplessis, and the fateful decision to turn orphanages into mental institutions all for the sake of money. This story is fictitious, but relates some of the horrors the orphans experienced during this period. The author chose to make this a feel-good story with a happy ending, which I'm sure was not the case for most. I did enjoy the book though, and feel I've learned something new as well.
5.0 out of 5 starsA story of young and fierce love
Reviewed in the United States on December 22, 2018
I am a sucker for love stories that span years and second chances. Maggie and Gabriel meet while they're young and share a fierce love. Separated by tragedy, Maggie gives birth to their daughter, whom she is forced to give up for adoption. Years later, Maggie struggles in an unhappy marriage never forgetting Gabriel or the daughter she gave up. Maggie wonders if finding her long-lost daughter will hold the key to her future and happiness.
5.0 out of 5 starsEmotional, heart wrenching story. As an adoptee born in 1953 there were so many facets of this story that I could relate to. Unlike Elodie, I was adopted as an infant & didn’t suffer the injustices that Elodie, Maggie, Gabriel & the rest of the family experiences. As difficult a subject I was glad to know that injustices of the system were exposed in this fantastic read. So many emotions for each of the central characters in this book. It is fiction but the heart of reality shines through. I thought the author did a great job of exploring the thoughts & emotions of each character.
Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2019
Emotional, heart wrenching story. As an adoptee born in 1953 there were so many facets of this story that I could relate to. Unlike Elodie, I was adopted as an infant & didn’t suffer the injustices that Elodie, Maggie, Gabriel & the rest of the family experiences. As difficult a subject I was glad to know that injustices of the system were exposed in this fantastic read. So many emotions for each of the central characters in this book. It is fiction but the heart of reality shines through. I thought the author did a great job of exploring the thoughts & emotions of each character.