The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman #Review @joannagoodman @HarperCollins

thfug
During the 1950s in Quebec, teenagers Maggie Hughes and Gabriel Phénix fell in love. Their romance comes to an abrupt end when Maggie’s parents find out their fifteen-year-old daughter is pregnant. When her daughter, Elodie, is born, Maggie is forced to give her up for adoption. A few years later, a new law results in orphanages being converted into mental hospitals because funding provided for patients is greater than what is provided for orphans—and Elodie is one orphan among many who is declared mentally ill. It also serves to complicate things when Maggie begins searching for her daughter.

What I Liked

I’m a sucker for fiction based in fact, to some degree, and that’s what got my attention about this novel. The tragedy of the Duplessis Orphans is reflected in Elodie’s story, and the abuse suffered by the orphans at the hands of the nuns in the book mirrors what happened in real life to orphaned children who were falsely diagnosed as mentally ill. It was disturbing to read, but I appreciate the fact that it stayed true to the spirit of the actual history.

I liked the character of Maggie a great deal, and easily connected with her on an emotional level.  I knew how her pregnancy with Elodie would end, of course, but it was still heartbreaking to read about that time of her life, and understood completely the depth of her grief in the years that followed, as well as her desire to reunite with her.

Elodie easily won a place in my heart, as well, but most of what I read about her left me feeling indescribably sad. It was one of those things where—every time she went through something difficult (and it happened a lot)—I just wanted to jump inside the book and give her a hug. (Come on now… y’all know what I’m talking about here, right readers?) I always have a hard time reading about kids who aren’t loved and cherished as they should be, and her portions of the story always made me want to cry.

What I Didn’t Like

Nothing to say here about the book itself.  As far as characters go? There was a particular nun in the story that I truly despised—as I was meant to, I’m sure—which means she was written exceedingly well!

Final Thoughts

Filled with vivid characterizations and devastatingly emotional situations, Goodman has created a story that will be hard to forget. If you love reading books that are based partially on actual historical events, then this is the book for you. Just be sure to keep a box of tissues handy. You’ll need them!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Harper Paperbacks via Edelweiss.

 

gr

Author: Joanna Goodman
Title: The Home for Unwanted Girls
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: April 3, 2018 by Harper Paperbacks
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

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 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.

About the Author

JOANNA GOODMAN is the author of four previous novels, including Canadian bestseller, The Finishing School. Her stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Ottawa Citizen, B & A Fiction, Event, The New Quarterly, and White Wall Review, as well as excerpted in Elisabeth Harvor’s fiction anthology A Room at the Heart of Things.
Originally from Montreal, Joanna now lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids, and is the owner of the Canadian linen company Au Lit Fine Linens.
Advertisements

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas #Review

redclocks

In a dystopian United Stated, Congress passed the Personhood Amendment, which gives a fertilized egg the Constitutional right to life, liberty, and property from the moment of conception. Abortion is illegal. IVF (in vitro fertilization) is banned, and adoptions are soon to be restricted to married couples only. Women who travel to Canada and are suspected of being there in order to get an abortion are sent back to the U.S. for prosecution. The right to choose is a thing of the past.

What I Liked

First, let me mention that the book focuses on the points-of-view of five women:

The Biographer: Ro, a single woman who works as a teacher, and wants to be a mother—IVF attempts failed, and time is running out for her to be able to adopt a child before the new law is enacted.
The Explorer: Eivør Minervudottir, the 19th century woman Ro is writing a book about.
The Mender: Gin, a healer who provides herbal remedies to women in need; people consider her to be a witch.
The Daughter: Mattie, a teenage student of Ro’s, is pregnant and wants to get an abortion.
The Wife: Susan, an unhappy wife and mother of two.

The premise for this story got my attention right away, and I was eager to read it. Dystopia is one of my go-to genres, but I’m particularly intrigued with the books that deal with the oppression of women in some way. This is the first I’ve come across that deals with banning abortions, IVF, and adoption restrictions, and I felt certain this book was going to be absolutely spectacular.

It was interesting, to be sure—some portions more than others—but it fell far short of spectacular in this reader’s opinion.

What I Didn’t Like

I disliked everything having to do with Eivør Minervudottir. I felt impatient and bored every time I read the portions dedicated to this character.

I didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters. I felt sympathy for them sometimes, but I never managed to really care about any of them. That’s something that rarely happens when I’m reading, especially when I’m so excited about the premise of the book.

The way it was written—the choppy prose, inconsequential conversations, and tedious details—prevented the story from having an easy flow. I found myself constantly noticing how brief many of the sentences were, which broke my concentration and forced me to re-read passages I hadn’t focused on properly the first time around. If it had any one of those issues mentioned above, lightly sprinkled into the story, I don’t think it would have bothered me. With so much of it throughout the entire book, however, it proved to be a serious distraction. This sort of writing style may be pleasing to other readers, but it didn’t work for me.

Final Thoughts

I felt this book had great potential, and I wanted to love it. Unfortunately, it never lived up to it. Certain parts were interesting, but my lasting impression of this book is that I was too often distracted by the writing style to be able to connect with any of the characters in a meaningful way. I still think the premise is fantastic, but I’m disappointed that the book didn’t live up to my expectations.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Little, Brown and Company via Netgalley.

 

gr

Author: Leni Zumas
Title: Red Clocks
Genre: Dystopia
Published: January 16, 2018 by Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 2.5 stars

About the Book

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?
In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.
RED CLOCKS is at once a riveting drama, whose mysteries unfold with magnetic energy, and a shattering novel of ideas. In the vein of Margaret Atwood and Eileen Myles, Leni Zumas fearlessly explores the contours of female experience, evoking THE HANDMAID’S TALE for a new millennium. This is a story of resilience, transformation, and hope in tumultuous-even frightening-times.

About the Author

Leni Zumas is the author of RED CLOCKS (Little, Brown, 2018); THE LISTENERS (Tin House, 2012); and FAREWELL NAVIGATOR: STORIES (Open City, 2008). She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she teaches in the MFA program at Portland State University.

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline #Review @StMartinsPress

afteranna

Maggie Ippolitti lost custody of her only child, Anna, when she was only a few months old. 17 years later, Maggie is overjoyed when she receives a call from Anna. After learning that her father has recently died and how miserable Anna is at her nearby boarding school, Maggie allows Anna to move into her home. Her husband, Noah, is thrilled Maggie reunited with her daughter, and welcomes Anna into the family. Their happy home quickly turns into a battleground, ending with Anna making terrible accusations against Noah. He denies everything, but is forced to move out—then Anna is killed, and Noah is accused of her murder. He swears he didn’t do it, but if Noah didn’t kill Anna, who did… and why?

What I Liked

The story is told in alternating chapters and told from the perspectives of Maggie and Noah. A nice twist on this dual perspective is that Maggie’s portion (Before) starts at the beginning (when she is first contacted by Anna), and moves forward in a linear fashion. Noah’s part (After) is the opposite—it begins near the end (on the tenth day of his murder trial), and moves backwards in time. The timelines sync around 3/4 of the way in, with time moving forward linearly for both characters. The way it’s structured may be off-putting to some readers, but I loved it. It worked exceedingly well for this story, and made it an even better reading experience.

Anyone who reads thrillers knows that when a situations seems clear-cut, it’s definitely not going to play out that way. I was expecting some sort of plot twist to happen, and when it came, you could have knocked me over with a feather—that’s how stunned I felt.

The ending was everything I hoped for, and I was thoroughly satisfied when I finished. I love it when a book leaves no loose ends dangling!

What I Didn’t Like

Umm… let’s see. Oh! I know! I didn’t like that it took me so long to read a book written by Lisa Scottoline. What was I thinking?! Other than that… yeah, I got nothing.

Final Thoughts

The way the story is structured is a bit unorthodox, but it adds an extra layer of suspense to an already suspenseful story. With its intricate plot, well-developed characters, and explosive twists, After Anna is a novel you won’t soon forget.

Scottoline’s writing is superb throughout, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her novels in the future.

Recommended for fans of suspense driven thrillers.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley.

gr 

Author: Lisa Scottoline
Title: After Anna
Genre: Thriller
Published: April 10, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

Nobody cuts deeper than family…
Dr. Noah Alderman, a widower and single father, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie Ippolitti, and for the first time in a long time, he and his young son are happy. Despite her longing for the daughter she hasn’t seen since she was a baby, Maggie is happy too, and she’s even more overjoyed when she unexpectedly gets another chance to be a mother to the child she thought she’d lost forever, her only daughter Anna.
Maggie and Noah know that having Anna around will change their lives, but they would never have guessed that everything would go wrong, and so quickly. Anna turns out to be a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules, though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble brewing in a once-perfect marriage and home.
Events take a heartbreaking turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused and tried for the heinous crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her daughter, but the realization that Anna’s murder may have been at the hands of a husband she loves. In the wake of this tragedy, new information drives Maggie to search for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined.
Riveting and disquieting, After Annais a groundbreaking domestic thriller, as well as a novel of emotional justice and legal intrigue. And New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline will keep readers on their toes until the final shocking page.