Every once in awhile, I’m reminded of the years I spent teaching ROMEO & JULIET to fresh-faced ninth graders who loved it for two reasons:
- They are throbbing hormones preoccupied with all things sexual and Shakespeare delivers with lots of deliciously dirty innuendos and even a sex scene in the third act/climax whereby the two teenagers do some sneaking around behind everyone’s back save the nurse and the friar.
- They are inevitably proud of themselves for being able to actually read and comprehend the bard, thanks to sound instruction. (Yes, I’m patting myself on the back.)
So when Amazon suggested I might be interested in the new book, THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS, I was in. It’s sort of a Canadian Romeo & Juliet (without the suicides or the Canadian tuxedos–jeans jacket and jeans) but with a twist that will nevertheless tear readers’ hearts out and still deliver enough satisfaction to nearly require a post-reading cigarette.
Title is linked to Amazon and there are no spoilers ahead:
THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS: A Novel, by Joanna Goodman, Harper Collins, New York, April 17, 2018. 384 pages.
The sins of the father repeat in the daughter. In 1950’s Canada, there is a division between the French and the English, with the latter looking down their sharp white noses at the former.
Mr. Hughes, a proud English-Canadian, runs a seed and farming store in a small Canadian town. He’s married to a French-Canadian woman, but he still rails against the French as second-class citizens.
Mr. Hughes teenaged daughter, Maggie, loves working in her father’s shop, and hopes to someday take over the family business. Also, double-bonus–working in the shop keeps her out of the path of her cold French mother.
But when Maggie Hughes meets the French farm boy next door, Gabriel Phénix, all the trouble between her English father and French mother–all his warnings to stay away from the French–it all flies out the window when first love comes to the door.
Maggie is enthralled by Gabriel and the two spend hours together in the poor French farm boy’s corn field.
Mr. Hughes thinks he can separate his daughter and the French boy by sending her off to live with relatives for the summer–giving her no time to tell Gabriel what was happening.
So when Maggie finds herself pregnant by Gabriel later that summer, Maggie’s parents decide to take the baby and put it up for adoption.
The baby grows into a toddler and pre-schooler at the Catholic orphanage, and while she longs for a real family, she is relatively happy there with one of the kind nuns.
And then the government steps in and things go from bad to worse.
When it is decided that the federal government will provide more money to local governments for running mental institutions rather than orphanages, change is upon Maggie’s lost daughter and all the other orphans when they are moved about to other institutions and labeled mentally retarded. Suddenly, there is no more education–only beatings and hard labor.
The story alternates between Maggie and her daughter’s points-of-view as both try to find their way back to the home that is where the heart is.
This is a page-turner that will entrall readers and evoke a menagerie of emotions. Keep your tissue box nearby. This is a satisfying, roller-coaster of a book.
Foxy Rating Scale: Five out of Five Foxes
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick