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The Home for Unwanted Girls

Written by: Joanna Goodman
Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (572 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Philomena meets The 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 15, 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 17, 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.

©2018 Joanna Goodman (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

heart breaking and beautiful

This historical fiction about Montreal in the 1950s is a complete page turner . The writing is amazing and the story, with its twists and turns had me hooked from the beginning.

3 people found this helpful

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loved the book esp because its based on true facts. loved the narrators voice also thank you

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Being Picky

I have listened to other books read by Maarleveld and enjoyed them. This one bothered me. The French accent was a French (France) accent - not at all a Québecois accent. Some place names were mispronounced - this got in the way of my enjoyment of the book. And a few details in the story (e.g. there were no streetcars or trams in Montreal after about 1959 - but one appears in the book at a later date) irked. This is an important story to tell so on the whole I liked the book, though I found the ending too pat.

2 people found this helpful

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Was a Little Disappointed

I was really hoping to like this book, but struggled to finish. I found it extremely hard to connect to any character and found the book was very all over the place and skipped to one event to the next.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Love story unimaginative

While Elodie's story moved me, her parents storyline was unimaginative and stereotypical. It would have been great if the love story was more developed.

3 people found this helpful

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An Interesting Book, But so Saf

This was a compelling book but so disturbing, my heart broke for the children and forMaggie. What horrible things we do to each other! It put me in mind of the books I have read about residential schools. Canada doesn’t have such a lily white history after all.
I’m very glad I listened to this book, it really opened my eyes!

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Loved this

I loved this book. it starts slow. then takes you into the lives of a mom and her daughter.

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It really hits home being part French Canadian.

The characters in this story could be anyone of my Aunts or Uncles. There were so many hardships for the poor french canadians... And so many influences because of church and government.
My family is still trying to find each other and put back all the pieces.

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Amazing!

Loved it! I couldn't stop listening. I highly it recommend to anyone looking for a great book

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Love this memoir!

This book is about heartbreak, strength of a woman, child, and the lifetime bond between a mother and her child. I loved the voices, I couldn’t wait for the next time I could listen.
A story of history that is unimaginable for most of us,
The government, the Catholic Church and the ruler Duplessis at the time turned orphans into brutalized victims.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • CindyL
  • 2018-10-08

I couldn't finish this book

This book was so incredibly bleak. I only made it about 3/4 through and had to quit. There was just one tragedy after another with very little happiness. The Narrator was excellent though.

87 people found this helpful

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  • Nevada
  • 2018-04-23

Is this a true story?

I absolutely love this book it is intriguing, dynamic and fascinating. I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. This is not my go to genre. I normally read urban fiction, love stories and memoirs. My favorite part is the two girls eating at the restaurant. It is so dramatic and I can feel the excitement. What I like about the book (this won’t make sense unless you read the book but…) is the following of the mother and daughter separately but during the same time. I also like that it doesn’t appear to be a work of fiction. I was enthralled and anticipating every new turn. I also can relate to a mother’s love of a child not in her care. I will say no more as not to spoil the book for others. I will end with this, I have never wanted to get to the end of a book so bad and wanting it to never end at the same time.

44 people found this helpful

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  • Andy
  • 2019-02-18

A book about unwanted PEOPLE finding a way to put meaning into life: Unexpectedly realistic with deep emotions of trauma

Honestly, I think the description of this book may be a bit misleading. It’s truly about a girl that we’re following that grows up into a woman, all along the way with many hardships. This happens over the course of many, many chapters. This girl gets pregnant at 15, gives birth at 16, and her baby is forcefully taken from her by her parents’ doing. Later she questions herself for letting this happen, but it is not her fault. However, we get to see her child’s point of view, and we see the parallels, yet also the drastic differences, between their lives. The mother grows up with a tough family, and the child grows up with no family. The historical part of this book comes in with some of the aspects of the English & French Canadians. However, the biggest historical aspect is that the orphanages in Canada were converted into mental hospitals (this actually happened). You can probably imagine how that may effect things, but you will have to listen to find out.

Overall, very, very good book. It was unexpectedly realistic with deep emotions of trauma in multiple different ways, but also subtly points out how you cannot express these traumatic moments to someone else and explain reasonings behind certain decisions that were made. It’ll probably make you think about people in your life that you have no true idea about what may have happened to them, because it would be wrong to speak of. I’m saying it this way to not ruin any aspects of the story, but all in all, it’s a good book that concludes incredibly well. Well as in: realistically, but not fictitiously satisfying. No stretches are made to make you happy by the ending, it is realistically satisfying. It is a very good listen, but is sure to break your heart multiple times, all the while making you smile along the way. So good. Listen to this book.

PSA: This book is definitely not for children, it’s pretty vulgar and includes multiple sexual “scenes.”

42 people found this helpful

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  • Charna
  • 2019-05-27

Sad tale of a horrific Quebec era!

Grew up in the 1950s close to an orphanage in Outremont run by nuns. The memory of a haunted-like structure is reawakened every time I revisit the area. Congratulation to the author who so vividly told the tale of the horrors that occurred as a result of the corrupt Duplessis era. Highly recommended listening!

32 people found this helpful

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  • Adrienne
  • 2018-06-25

Predictable Cliche

I wish I knew which reviews I read that made me think I would like this book so I would never rely on them again. From the first chapter you knew exactly where the story was headed, no surprises just completely predictable cliche ridden. The best I can say about it is that I did finish it, but the journey was not pleasant.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Claudia D. Nichol
  • 2018-05-01

Sad story

Difficult to hear but unable to stop listening to the story. I have read many stories about orphans and adoptions and some of my first cousins were adopted. They are our family and we wouldn't be a complete family without them.

20 people found this helpful

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  • RueRue
  • 2018-09-10

Tragic piece of history

The historical background to this story is heartbreaking, and that was the most interesting aspect of this book. Unfortunately the plot is rather melodramatic, the characters were stereotypes ( especially the cruel nuns) and that depleted the impact of this sad bit of history. The narration was excellent.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Jason E Burgher
  • 2018-04-26

Best book I have read this year!!!!!!!!

I am in tears, this book was so great, and sad....... dont want to give anything away. READ IT PLEASE!!!!!!

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Laureen
  • 2019-10-27

Good history lesson that ends with hope

I liked how this story brought to life a sad period in history that needs to be recognized. The love story between Gabrielle and Maddie is a bit unrealistic and tedious, but the overall story is one of hope. A good listen.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Bobby
  • 2019-03-20

Wonderful!!

My wife and I absoutely love the story. The narration was spot on! Ten Star

7 people found this helpful