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I really liked this book. The Home for Unwanted Girls takes place in 1950s – 1970s in Quebec, Montreal. It follows the story of a young mother who was compelled by her parents to give up her daughter for adoption after she was born. The story simultaneously goes between the daughter as she tries to survive life as an orphan during a corrupt time when orphans were abused, and mother who never forgets the daughter she gave away.
What happens to the daughter in this book, is based on true historical events. Google Duplessis Orphans if you want to learn more. To summarize what happened, unwed mothers who had ‘bastard’ children were encouraged to give their children to orphanages where they could be raised by the church. Then in order to get more federal funding, the corrupt government diagnosed all the children mentally incompetent, and turned the orphanages into asylums.
“Just as I said”, Marie Blanche responds sharply. ” We are now a mental hospital, there’s no more orphanage and no more orphans. From this day forward you are all mentally retarded”The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
This wasn’t a true story, in the sense that the characters were fictional, but reading about what happened to the orphans, and knowing that this did happen to real girls was tragic. As with many other times in history people lives were ruined by the greed of the rich and corrupt governments.
This most important theme is this story was motherhood. There are two very different mothers in this book, Maggie’s mother Amman was unhappy, and although she cared for her children and insured all their basic needs were met and their house was clean, she was distant, and didn’t provide the outward love that her daughters wanted. Maggie’s father clearly loved his daughter. He did what thought was best for his children, but sometimes it was misguided and not what they actually needed.
Even though Amman managed to get herself out of the slums and into a much better situation, maybe a tragic childhood is a thing that cant ever be overcome, like polio. It leaves a person crippled.The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
When Maggie grew up, she was a different type of mother. She never stopped thinking about her daughter, and never gave up hope of finding her.
This book did an excellent job of keeping my interest. It made me think about many moral questions. The following things came to mind while I was reading this book.
- The different types of parent/child relationships
- Shaming unwed mothers, and putting all the blame of an unplanned pregnancy on them.
- How adoption, and a lifetime of feeling that you were rejected by your mother effects children.
- The churches hand in corrupt governments. And the separation of church and state.
- The treatment of children, based on the sins of their parents.
It also made me think of uplifting things too. The ability of families to forgive one another. The search for love and acceptance. And most important, hope.
I really hope you get the chance to read The home for Unwanted Girls. It brings to life a part of history that you may have been unaware of. I for one, never heard about what happened to these orphans.