The Home for Unwanted Girls
Philomena meets 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.

The Home for Unwanted Girls Details

TitleThe Home for Unwanted Girls
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 17th, 2018
PublisherHarper Paperbacks
ISBN-139780062684240
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Cultural, Canada, Audiobook, Adult Fiction, Adult, Family, Book Club, Novels

The Home for Unwanted Girls Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars rounded up.Joanna Goodman does not shy away from focusing on some controversial things that happened in Canada’s history in this moving novel. She presents the divide between English and French in Quebec in the 1950’s both from a family perspective as well as a societal one. “Much like the province in which she lives, where the French and English are perpetually vying for the upper hand, her family also has two very distinct sides.”“The Eastern Townships is most 3.5 stars rounded up.Joanna Goodman does not shy away from focusing on some controversial things that happened in Canada’s history in this moving novel. She presents the divide between English and French in Quebec in the 1950’s both from a family perspective as well as a societal one. “Much like the province in which she lives, where the French and English are perpetually vying for the upper hand, her family also has two very distinct sides.”“The Eastern Townships is mostly farm country, containing pockets of both French and English who live in relative harmony — that is, relative to Quebec, where the French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility but don’t mingle the way other more homogeneous communities do.” But of course, they do mingle. Maggie ‘s father is English and her mother is French. Although her father forbids her to see the French boy from the neighboring farm, she does and finds herself pregnant at fifteen. I had mixed feelings while reading the first part of the novel as it felt too YA with this forbidden teen age romance. But then I was captivated when the narrative alternates with an orphan named Elodie, the child that Maggie was forced to give up at birth. Elodie’s story unfolds and we learn of the awful things that happened to thousands of orphans. The Catholic Church who ran many orphanages, in collaboration with the Catholic premier Maurice Duplessis, designate the orphanages as psychiatric institutions in order to obtain increased government funding. The orphans were declared mentally ill or mentally deficient, were denied any education, and endured horrible treatment in many cases. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duple...) It reminded me in some ways of orphan trains in the US and how some children under the guise of being adopted became free labor or how women could be committed to mental asylums just because a husband or father claimed them to insane. In addition to the divides between the English and the French, there are family rifts. There are rifts between husband and wives, father and daughter, but there are also enduring bonds. I found the story to be heartbreaking as a mother and daughter hope for a reunion over the years. That this is based in part on the author’s mother’s story and that true events are portrayed made this an even more meaningful read for me.I received an advanced copy of this book from Harper Perennial through Edelweiss.
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  • Norma * Traveling Sister * On Hiatus
    January 1, 1970
    THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS by JOANNA GOODMAN was such a moving, heart-wrenching, and riveting historical fiction novel that had quite the emotionally gripping story. This book literally crushed me and made me feeling so many different emotions while reading it. Some of the subject matter and historical facts that was focused on here in this novel was absolutely unconscionable and had me so angry. Being from Canada there were some events that I was aware of but some that I wasn’t and it was defi THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS by JOANNA GOODMAN was such a moving, heart-wrenching, and riveting historical fiction novel that had quite the emotionally gripping story. This book literally crushed me and made me feeling so many different emotions while reading it. Some of the subject matter and historical facts that was focused on here in this novel was absolutely unconscionable and had me so angry. Being from Canada there were some events that I was aware of but some that I wasn’t and it was definitely an eye-opening experience for me reading this novel. I really enjoyed reading and learning a part of our history that I wasn’t aware of. JOANNA GOODMAN delivers an intriguing, beautifully written and suspenseful read here with complex and well-developed characters. The story is told from alternating points of view between that of Maggie who was forced to give up her child at the age of 15 and Elodie her daughter who grew up in an orphanage. I was thoroughly taken by both of these emotional perspectives equally and was so hoping that mother and daughter would once again be reunited. Learning that this book was based on the author’s mother just made this story even more thought-provoking, touching and heartbreaking. This was definitely an emotionally tough book for me to read but regardless an excellent one. Norma’s Stats:Cover: Eye-catching, appealing, and immediately had me intrigued. An extremely fitting representation to storyline. Title: Intriguing, sad, fits the story so well and love how it plays so meaningfully into the story.Writing/Prose: beautiful, engaging, and empathically written.Plot: Provocative, captivating, steady-paced, held my attention and extremely enjoyable.Ending: Hopeful, touching, and satisfying.Overall: A fantastic, emotional, important, memorable, and heartfelt read! Would highly recommend!* Traveling Friends Group Read *Review can also be found on Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee Reading:https://twosisterslostinacoulee.com
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  • Lindsay - Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    5 stars! I truly loved this novel!This story ripped my heart out. It made me angry, hopeful, frustrated. It had me rooting for these characters, holding my breath and crossing my fingers for a positive outcome. It exhausted me emotionally (in the best way possible). Simply stated – I adored this book!This novel revolves around Maggie Hughes who, at fifteen, becomes pregnant and is forced by her parents to give her baby daughter, Elodie, up. We follow Maggie through years 5 stars! I truly loved this novel!This story ripped my heart out. It made me angry, hopeful, frustrated. It had me rooting for these characters, holding my breath and crossing my fingers for a positive outcome. It exhausted me emotionally (in the best way possible). Simply stated – I adored this book!This novel revolves around Maggie Hughes who, at fifteen, becomes pregnant and is forced by her parents to give her baby daughter, Elodie, up. We follow Maggie through years of separation from and longing for Elodie, where each and every day is haunted by thoughts as to where Elodie is and what kind of life she could be living.I loved Maggie! Her character touched my heart in so many ways. The author, Joanna Goodman, does an impeccable job creating such vivid, real and relatable characters. I was drawn into their lives and situations, questioning my own thoughts and feelings several times along the journey. The book unravels through two perspectives, Maggie and Elodie, each adding a beautiful layer of emotion and intrigue. I loved them both and thought the novel flowed seamlessly and at the perfect pace. To find out that this story was based on the author’s mother made it even more powerful for me. I look forward to reading more from this author!This touching novel was a Traveling Friends read. To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister reviews, please visit our blog at:https://twosisterslostinacoulee.com/2...Thank you to Edelweiss, Harper and Joanna Goodman for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!The Home For Unwanted Girls is AVAILABLE NOW!!
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 An emotional roller coaster of a journey, a young fifteen year old mother, Maggie forced to give up her newborn daughter. We follow Maggies journey, her life, and eventually her struggle to find and reunite with her daughter. Elodie, in an orphanage, finds harshness, but never outright cruelty, and even kindness from one of the sisters. This will change, when the orphanages are turned into mental institutions, and the unwanted children are now deemed mentally ill. Now her life is one of hard 3.5 An emotional roller coaster of a journey, a young fifteen year old mother, Maggie forced to give up her newborn daughter. We follow Maggies journey, her life, and eventually her struggle to find and reunite with her daughter. Elodie, in an orphanage, finds harshness, but never outright cruelty, and even kindness from one of the sisters. This will change, when the orphanages are turned into mental institutions, and the unwanted children are now deemed mentally ill. Now her life is one of hardship, outright cruelty, so hard to read what happened to these children and at the hands of sisters who were supposed to show Christian mercy and acceptance. Unconsciousable!Although this takes place in Quebec, similar misjustices were also perpetrated in other countries. So incredibly sad and disheartening. All the things women have gone through in the past, the misjudgment of the churches, the harm they caused. Not just the churches though, the harsh judgement and non caring atmosphere of society in general. This book tore at my heart, but also made me angry. I often wonder if people who can treat the innocents so cruely ever find it hard to live with themselves? I hope so but somehow I doubt it. ARC from Harper publisher.
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  • Jonetta
    January 1, 1970
    Maggie Hughes is the 15-year old daughter of an English speaking Canadian father and a French mother living in Quebec. Despite her father’s admonishments to not cavort with French boys, Maggie’s young heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix, the young and impoverished boy living at the adjacent farm. When she ends up pregnant, her parents force her to give up her baby but before she’s taken away, Maggie implores them to name her Elodie. That fortuitous moment provides the only means by which she can Maggie Hughes is the 15-year old daughter of an English speaking Canadian father and a French mother living in Quebec. Despite her father’s admonishments to not cavort with French boys, Maggie’s young heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix, the young and impoverished boy living at the adjacent farm. When she ends up pregnant, her parents force her to give up her baby but before she’s taken away, Maggie implores them to name her Elodie. That fortuitous moment provides the only means by which she can later embark on a journey to perhaps find the daughter she reluctantly gave up for adoption. Unfortunately, Elodie is never adopted from the Home for Unwanted Girls, an orphanage run by nuns, which later changes to a mental hospital to receive more government funding. All the orphans are accordingly declared mentally ill. Maggie and Elodie are the narrators and the story shifts between the two, often in parallel time frames. I found it an interesting contrast as Maggie moves on with her life but never forgetting the child she lost and Elodie never giving up hope that her mother would attempt to find her. Both of their lives were troubled but none more than Elodie who suffered terribly at the hands of the nuns, one in particular. The story also exposed the ethnic divide between the English speaking citizens and the French. It was particularly awful to witness Maggie’s father’s hypocrisy against the French given his own wife’s and children’s heritage. Also, it was a political decision that forced the orphanages to become psychiatric hospitals without any real consideration of the fates of those children who were then declared mentally ill. These are true events in Canadian history that I found educational. This was also a Traveling Friends group read and the discussion was so rich. Thanks to that insightful group of women for making this an even more remarkable reading experience. I really enjoyed this story for the fictional aspects as well as the historical context, beginning in the 1950s. Maggie’s quest to find her daughter was frustrating and heartbreaking and Elodie’s never ending hope that she would find her family was what almost brought me to tears. Both women’s triumph in the midst of adversity was so admirable. Saskia Maarleveld was extraordinary in her narration, handling accents with perfection (as least to my ear) and making the characters come to life. I highly recommend the audio version and this story. It wasn’t always light but it was always honest. 4.5 stars
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  • Brenda -Traveling Sister host of The Traveling Friends
    January 1, 1970
    Traveling Friends Group ReadWhen I saw that beautiful, intriguing and haunting cover I knew I had to read this one.  Just looking at the cover brought on some emotion.  Not really knowing what the story was about it did take me a while to finally read it, but I have to say that it worked out well because when I did read this one the timing was perfect.  We read this one in our Traveling Friends Goodreads Reading group.  This one made for a really great and interesting discussion amon Traveling Friends Group ReadWhen I saw that beautiful, intriguing and haunting cover I knew I had to read this one.  Just looking at the cover brought on some emotion.  Not really knowing what the story was about it did take me a while to finally read it, but I have to say that it worked out well because when I did read this one the timing was perfect.  We read this one in our Traveling Friends Goodreads Reading group.  This one made for a really great and interesting discussion amongst us.  So much to talk about with this story and we really appreciated being able to discuss this one together.The Home for Unwanted Girls is a compelling and heartbreaking family saga that focuses on historical events and a scandal in a Canadian province of Quebec.  It's not something that I think is well known and Joanna Goodman who was inspired by her Mother digs into some history here with some hostilities between French and English speaking Canadians.Along with the hostilities that divided French and English speaking Canadians,  Joanna Goodman brings to light a dark time in Quebec's past and one of the darkest scandals involving money and religion.  Through one of our main characters here with Elodie, we are shown the cruelty, abuse and conditions orphans lived in while under the care of nuns.  Goodman gives a voice to the victims of this scandal through Elodie, allowing us to feel so many emotions for them while reading this story.  It also allowed us to learn something we haven't heard of before.We were immediately drawn into the complex and intriguing side of the family saga with Maggie and her family's story and decisions that were forced on her by her family, leaving us with so much to discuss.  We question their decisions and reasons and tried to understand the different sides we were shown.  At the final discussion, we used the questions provided by the publisher and that really gave us so much to think about and discuss really enhancing our discussion.We highly recommend this story to everyone who loves historical fiction based on real events.  We also highly recommend to reading groups as there is just so much to discuss with this one.   We do want to offer a caution here because of the abuse and there are some upsetting conditions to this story.
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  • Antoinette
    January 1, 1970
    Two things drew me to this book: location and time. I grew up in Montreal and I was born 5 years after Elodie, so was a very young child when this true historical atrocity was occurring. I never knew anything about this, so was definitely interested in learning about it. Briefly, this story is told from 2 viewpoints- Maggie and her daughter Elodie, whom she had to give up for adoption. Interesting fact of the time- This was 1950 and a woman was not allowed to keep an illegitimate child. This of Two things drew me to this book: location and time. I grew up in Montreal and I was born 5 years after Elodie, so was a very young child when this true historical atrocity was occurring. I never knew anything about this, so was definitely interested in learning about it. Briefly, this story is told from 2 viewpoints- Maggie and her daughter Elodie, whom she had to give up for adoption. Interesting fact of the time- This was 1950 and a woman was not allowed to keep an illegitimate child. This of course shows the stronghold the Catholic Church had over Quebec at that time. The Church and the government were very closely tied together! These children were sent to an orphanage “Home for Unwanted Girls” which was run by nuns. It wasn’t too bad till these homes were turned into mental institutions. Every orphan was deemed mentally incompetent and they had to stay and live with the real “crazies”and do their care. (not a spoiler- in book blurb). What happened to these children was unbelievable and heartbreaking. All this was done for one thing and one thing only-money! Appalling. What drew me most in this book was Elodie and her storyThe other aspect of the book that I found so true was the animosity between the French and the English at that time. I can definitely attest to that. As a child (I am Italian, but I went to English schools) I was taunted by French children and I remember my brother being beaten up for coming to my defence. I was trying to remember when that changed but I am not sure, but I know it did for the most part.The author has written a poignant story of a mother in search of the daughter she gave away and a daughter’s search for freedom and a possibility of a family!
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  • MissBecka
    January 1, 1970
    Re-read for book club 2019:I went with the audio version this time. I didn't get as emotionally invested with the narrated version as I did with the hardback. Great book all the same!Original review 2018:Drama drama drama drama drama drama drama drama DRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMA!This book was filled with it.I can't even begin to describe all the craziness that is in these pages.It was all unraveled at such a great pace with such lovely writing.My only real regret for this book was h/>Original Re-read for book club 2019:I went with the audio version this time. I didn't get as emotionally invested with the narrated version as I did with the hardback. Great book all the same!Original review 2018:Drama drama drama drama drama drama drama drama DRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMA!This book was filled with it.I can't even begin to describe all the craziness that is in these pages.It was all unraveled at such a great pace with such lovely writing.My only real regret for this book was how rushed the ending felt.I think this could have used another 75 pages and an EPIC epilogue.For that........ a star has fallen.
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  • Wendy
    January 1, 1970
    Set in rural Quebec in the 1950's The Home For Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman, is an incredibly well-written novel that is not a true story but is based on real life events. The author depicts a shameful part of Canadian history when the children of unmarried women were thought to bear sin, were sent to orphanages and then to asylum's because the nuns running these institutions were paid more to care for the mentally ill.Maggie Hughes is a teenage girl with an English father and a Frenc Set in rural Quebec in the 1950's The Home For Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman, is an incredibly well-written novel that is not a true story but is based on real life events. The author depicts a shameful part of Canadian history when the children of unmarried women were thought to bear sin, were sent to orphanages and then to asylum's because the nuns running these institutions were paid more to care for the mentally ill.Maggie Hughes is a teenage girl with an English father and a French mother. She falls in love with a French boy and faces an unwanted pregnancy at 15. She is forced to give up her newborn daughter Elodie who is sent to an orphanage.As Elodie's story unfolds her horrific experience and perspective is brought to light. Elodie's only wish is to be reunited with her mother, the mother that has been searching for her since the day she was born and taken away.An incredible story, beautifully written. The realities of our Canadian history are explained in detail heartbreakingly so! This story had me on such an emotional roller coaster that I couldn't put it down.
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    This is an emotional book about the orphanages in Canada during the 1950s and 60’s, when they were turned into asylums and all the orphans were suddenly considered crazy or mentally defective. This was a purely economic decision, since the Catholic orphanages were not profitable, but the asylums were. A government leader, Duplessis enacted this law and pocketed some of the profits. The children were horribly mistreated and abused while in the care of the nuns, many of whom believed that the chil This is an emotional book about the orphanages in Canada during the 1950s and 60’s, when they were turned into asylums and all the orphans were suddenly considered crazy or mentally defective. This was a purely economic decision, since the Catholic orphanages were not profitable, but the asylums were. A government leader, Duplessis enacted this law and pocketed some of the profits. The children were horribly mistreated and abused while in the care of the nuns, many of whom believed that the children deserved this mistreatment because they were the product of the sins of their parents. Maggie Hughes is 15 years old and pregnant by a boy her parents don’t like. They force her to give up her daughter, Elodie, who is then placed in an orphanage. The story alternates between telling Maggie’s story and Elodie’s story. Maggie never stops yearning for her daughter, as well as never stops living the boy she had to leave. Elodie is terribly mistreated and abused while in the care of the nuns. Both characters are powerfully portrayed and you are always sympathetic to both of them. Other characters, although well portrayed also, are not as sympathetic, especially Sister Ignatia, who is just evil. I don’t want to get into too much detail so as not to give away any spoilers. If you enjoy historical fiction, and can handle some of the more painful aspects of this story, then I definitely recommend this book.
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  • Adrea Pierce
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t get it. This book had such a high rating so I expected so much more from it. I found it to be a monumental letdown. It starts with a young teenager (Maggie) who falls in love with someone (Gabriel) that her parents do not approve of. They send her away to stay with her aunt and uncle to get her away from him. She finds out she’s pregnant and eventually gives birth to Elodie who is stolen from Maggie and sent to an orphanage. I listened to it in audiobook form so I’m not 100% sure if it w I don’t get it. This book had such a high rating so I expected so much more from it. I found it to be a monumental letdown. It starts with a young teenager (Maggie) who falls in love with someone (Gabriel) that her parents do not approve of. They send her away to stay with her aunt and uncle to get her away from him. She finds out she’s pregnant and eventually gives birth to Elodie who is stolen from Maggie and sent to an orphanage. I listened to it in audiobook form so I’m not 100% sure if it was the writing or the narration that sounded juvenile, but I suspect it was a bit of both. The narrator’s inflections and tone just sounded very childish in some places and I found that to be very grating. That said, there were also parts of the book that felt as though they had been written by a teenager. The love story between Maggie and Gabriel is the prime example of this. Every detail of how it was written just seemed far too convenient for something that was meant to be historically accurate. I found the entire book to be very cliche and seemed to be written by someone who really didn’t have a lot of knowledge about anything - not love, or child birth, or reality. The rape by her uncle was wasted words and nothing more than filler. And her entire marriage was almost laughable. She can carry babies only by Gabriel? Just wraps it all up nicely so there’s no need to tackle anything more difficult than a fluffy little romance. It wasn’t even edited well. At one point, Maggie’s father called her husband Roger. His name was Roland. I think this is where I gave up all hope for this one. Overall, the story of Elodie was intriguing and I did enjoy that part but not enough to give this anything more than 2 stars. I recently read Before We Were Yours and I can’t even describe how incredible that book was. I went into this one hoping for the same. But this was the B version of that. If you read Harry Potter and then tried to read Twilight, you will understand this analogy. This book was the Twilight version.
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  • K.A. Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is unique and the fact that it is based on true events of 1940s and 1950s Quebec makes it especially disturbing. While it’s not an easy read, it’s definitely worth picking up.
  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    Maggie Harper lives in a rural community in Quebec during the 1950s. Her father is English and her mother is French. Their marriage is complicated and not particularly happy. Her father runs a Seed Store, and Maggie dreams of one day running it herself. But when she falls in love with the poor French farm boy next door, her parents do not approve. When Maggie becomes pregnant at fifteen, she is forced to give the baby up for adoption. Her daughter, Elodie, is sent to an orphanage and was well ta Maggie Harper lives in a rural community in Quebec during the 1950s. Her father is English and her mother is French. Their marriage is complicated and not particularly happy. Her father runs a Seed Store, and Maggie dreams of one day running it herself. But when she falls in love with the poor French farm boy next door, her parents do not approve. When Maggie becomes pregnant at fifteen, she is forced to give the baby up for adoption. Her daughter, Elodie, is sent to an orphanage and was well taken care of and educated for the first seven years of her life. Things change dramatically when the Quebec government and the Catholic Church determine there is more funding available for psychiatric hospitals, and Elodie along with thousands of other orphans are declared to be mentally ill. Elodie is then transferred to a hospital in Montreal, where she is abused and terrified by the nun in charge of her Ward. Told through alternating voices of Maggie and Elodie, their yearning to find one another is heart wrenching. What Elodie experienced was horrifying and tragic, and brought to life a piece of history I was unfamiliar with.My favorite quote: "The feelings inside her are too good, unfamiliar. There's sadness, too, of course. This she accepts as the most natural, inevitable aspect of her life. Sadness lives in her cells, alongside her sense of injustice and outrage toward Sister Ignatia and God. These things cannot be transcended. They are as much a part of her being as her limbs and her organs and Nancy. But tonight there's something else: hope."
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  • Lesley
    January 1, 1970
    I am sorry but this wasn't a great book. Way to melodramatic. The love story (lust story) of Maggie and Gabriel was terrible and never fully developed. It read like a cheesy romance novel. I would have liked more story about their child and less about them. I gave up half way through. Too many other books on my list that I would rather be reading to waste my time on this one.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Background: The Home for Unwanted Girls sheds light on the Duplessis orphans( named so after Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis( 1936-1939 & 1944-1959), 20,000 children who were victimized by the Quebec government and the Catholic Church when they were falsley certified as mentally ill and confined to mental insitutions. By the 1990's, records revealed many had been subjected to electroshock, a variety of drug testing and used in other medical experiements as well as suffering sexual and physical Background: The Home for Unwanted Girls sheds light on the Duplessis orphans( named so after Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis( 1936-1939 & 1944-1959), 20,000 children who were victimized by the Quebec government and the Catholic Church when they were falsley certified as mentally ill and confined to mental insitutions. By the 1990's, records revealed many had been subjected to electroshock, a variety of drug testing and used in other medical experiements as well as suffering sexual and physical abuse. You live in a home for unwanted girls because you were born in sin and your mother could not keep you. Chapter 12 In this historical fiction, Joanna Goodman unravels this dark period of Quebec history through the eyes of heartbroken mother, Maggie Hughes and Elodie, the baby girl that Maggie is forced to give up in the 1950's. The novel takes readers from the Eastern Townships to Montreal during the 1950s- 1970s and over this twenty year period both Maggie and Elodie will struggle to find one another again. We are now a mental hospital. There's no more orphanage and no more orphans. From this day forward, you are all mentally retarded. Chapter 15 Dear future readers, no doubt if you read it, there will be times that you will fluctuate between anger, sadness, and much frustration. I sure know that I did. One of the best reads of 2019 for me and perhaps one of the best Canadian historical fiction novels that I have read in recent years.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    I’m emotionally torn with this story:Young love between Gabriel and Maggie with the harsh disapproval by Maggie’s father of Gabriel. Maggie and her father have a very special family bond, which will soon be horribly broken. There is an underlying current of dissension between the English and the French Canadians (Quebec, Canada) and that those two tolerate each other but should not mingle. Ironically, Maggie’s English father married her French mother and it is, what we find out later I’m emotionally torn with this story:Young love between Gabriel and Maggie with the harsh disapproval by Maggie’s father of Gabriel. Maggie and her father have a very special family bond, which will soon be horribly broken. There is an underlying current of dissension between the English and the French Canadians (Quebec, Canada) and that those two tolerate each other but should not mingle. Ironically, Maggie’s English father married her French mother and it is, what we find out later, a marriage of lust, not of love and they both are bitter hearted. Gabriel (French) and Maggie’s (French/English) relationship intensifies, much to her parents dismay and she is sent off to live with her uncle and aunt, who have their own set of problems and create more for Maggie.Maggie becomes pregnant at the age of 15 with Gabriel’s child, and her parents, to save face for her future and their own reputation, force her to give up the child and not see him again. The emotion level from here on gets kicked up a notch through all the next chapters. The baby is named Elodie and the sadness and betrayals and secrets are so painful - there are so many, and not just by one person. I will not divulge any more of the story other than this: what Elodie goes through is horrendous. She is not adopted as a baby, but instead raised by nuns at an orphanage. She was getting an education and good self care. However, Due to a law granting more funding to psychiatric hospitals than the impoverished orphanages, the orphans were falsely deemed mentally ill and were transferred over and mixed in with the mentally retarded and mentally ill in a highly secure facility with psychotic drugging, punishment, strait-jacket torture, beatings, suspicious deaths, Physical and mental abuse and more. Elodie no longer was being educated and had no idea of what goes on in the outside world. She was merely existing and trying to survive; keeping her mouth shut and following the restrictive rules, trusting no one. It was so absolutely very sad what she had to endure for 17 years of her life. She has physical and mental scars from this. When she finally achieved her freedom, she was not prepared to cope with the world outside the facility walls and its stimulation but with the help of a kind nun and a friend/roommate, she starts making up for lost time, getting a job, learning about everything that was stifled in the facility. She also has a sexual encounter of which she is totally innocent and naive about which adds another element to the story. In the meantime, Maggie begins a search for Elodie. More secrets, lies, betrayals, falsifying information, hiding information. Her father was behind a lot of this which he tells her was done for her own good. In her heart of hearts, she would often think of the child she signed away with the hope of one day finding her. At the end, all the pieces and people connect. I think maybe the pieces fell into place a little too neatly/tidily or perhaps I was emotionally corrupted reading about the very wrong behaviors for 17 years in the mental facility that made it difficult for me to accept the positive ending. Because even now as I write this, Elodie’s personal story and the quest by Maggie to find her daughter, so many years later, are still stuck deep in my head. Elodie is messed up; will she be “normal” after what she’s gone though? She’s missed social and physical interactions with people. Can she forgive her mother, her father, her grandparents, the horrible nuns, nurses and doctors who were of no help to her and instead of listening to her, punished and drugged her to shut her up and make her complacent? This is a very hard and emotional story and I am having a really difficult time with the acceptance and forgiveness parts. If it comes, it certainly is not going to happen overnight and the bad stuff just does not disappear and everyone lives happily ever after.
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  • DeB MaRtEnS
    January 1, 1970
    Trends... I don’t know if it is me, but I’m feeling as though publishers are offering a lot of COMPELLING, HIDDEN IN THE PAST, SHOCKING, TRUE STORY of.... these days... Are we so hooked on reality TV or the old Apprentice host that we need all of those headlines? Or are these kinds of stories grabbing publishers’ attentions simply because they know we will be shocked to know how power has been so meanly abused barely a century ago, almost where we could be living ourselves - over us, a friend or Trends... I don’t know if it is me, but I’m feeling as though publishers are offering a lot of COMPELLING, HIDDEN IN THE PAST, SHOCKING, TRUE STORY of.... these days... Are we so hooked on reality TV or the old Apprentice host that we need all of those headlines? Or are these kinds of stories grabbing publishers’ attentions simply because they know we will be shocked to know how power has been so meanly abused barely a century ago, almost where we could be living ourselves - over us, a friend or a neighbour? Not at some border.... No. But in the course of trying to get through a hard stage of life. BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate is the most recognizable of these kinds of novels. It takes place in Mississippi in the 1930s, when an unwed mothers State Home operator and her cohort, the Adoption Agency, set up shop looking for as many pretty blonde blue eyed babies they could find in addition to the ones actually arriving in need of Home services. (I reviewed it on my page). I admit to being more greatly captivated by THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS, by Joanna Goodman. The authors’s writing styles are actually quite similar, each developing character thoroughly as possible in what would have been their real life situations and carefully threading history into the personal story which is the essential fabric of the life of the story. Still, I found the Quebec, Canada circumstances especially fascinating. As I followed the plight of the families, I was equally enthralled in Goodman’s very thorough treatment of the pertinent history. From the stories of Maggie, the young mom who lost her babe Elodie,moving on to the diabolical mess of the Quebec orphanage system, to Gabriel the young father and the intervening years when Elodie’s story takes precedence, the novel begins to tragically meld and then a builds to a frantic urgency. I wondered when, if, how, this will end... A great tale, very well supported by the facts - and well written enough to inspire further research. The facts led me to further dig into the history of what are known as the “Duplessis Orphans”. Further background leads belief that some very powerful psychiatric drugs, only in their testing stages, were used on those children as well. This jibes with the author’s narratives. Goodman, I think, has done a good job on opening the door on a really horrific period I knew nothing about. I was a wee child in Quebec, Canada with my family, part of which would have been during Duplessis’ terms as provincial leader. I recall how the Catholic Church and Duplessis were always spoken of with a kind of a sneer - I was only very little! What came to pass in Quebec did and could, because Duplessis exerted a totally different sort of power in government than in the rest of Canada. He had pulled power from the Catholic Church which had held sway since the 1600s, put them to work in the social services areas of health and education at low wages, and then saved his government massive expenditures. . “A modernizer except in political methodology, Duplessis perfected the techniques of the past in exalting the Québec state to an unprecedented position of strength in relation to the church, the federal government and the Anglo-Saxon Montréal business establishment. His system depended upon employing the clergy at bargain wages to do what was really secular work in schools and hospitals, while reducing the episcopate to financial dependence; reducing taxes, balancing budgets and persuading the conservatives and nationalists to vote together (for "autonomy" as he called it). (Source : The Canadian Encyclopaedia https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.c...)”I like historical fiction well treated by its factual structure, especially when its significant theme is central. Joanna Goodman has done a standout job out here. Goodman is masterful at characterisation as well. Each individual is sketched in powerful contrast to the other, and the force of their personalities surprisingly moved years in handfuls of pages, as I eagerly read on. Suddenly, Élodie was praying to be let out after Duplessis’s death while a smirking nun is lying about her dead mother; nearby, her mother Maggie finds evidence in her dead dad’s store of the adoption and a place to start to look... ******************************************************************Numbers vary but it is around 20,000 children who were essentially incarcerated. The government admitted that a third didn’t need to be there, and gave them a very small settlement. *******************************************************************Duplessis died in 1959. A Quiet Revolution occurred in the 1960s which completely secularised government. *********************************************************************Writing 4 strong starsUnique 5 strong starsResearch, background 5 strong stars So... 4.9
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  • Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    This book is going to get people talking. Is it a riveting story about a horrible time in Canadian history? Yes. Does it deal with sensitive and emotional subject matter? Yes. Will it give readers a lot to talk about in their book clubs. Undoubtedly. The story is told in alternating points of view of Maggie and Elodie, as they each struggle within the confines that society has placed on them in the hope that they'll be reunited with each other one day. But Goodman also incorporates other issues This book is going to get people talking. Is it a riveting story about a horrible time in Canadian history? Yes. Does it deal with sensitive and emotional subject matter? Yes. Will it give readers a lot to talk about in their book clubs. Undoubtedly. The story is told in alternating points of view of Maggie and Elodie, as they each struggle within the confines that society has placed on them in the hope that they'll be reunited with each other one day. But Goodman also incorporates other issues that permeated Quebec in the 1950's, like the blatant animosity between Anglophones and Francophones. But it was another event in Canada's history that hit me the hardest.That event -- Quebec orphanages being turned into mental asylums merely for financial gain -- is one that I, embarrassingly, knew nothing about. Also showcased is the flagrant abuse of power of the Catholic church, the apathetic actions of the Quebec and federal governments as well as the swift and unwavering judgement by society which, together, lead to devastating consequences for thousands of young Quebec girls over the course of many years.While this is a story about family bonds, loss and perseverance, it is also an eye-opening story about the abuse of power and a society whose judgement is more important than the welfare of its children. With issues like those, it's not surprising that this book has emotional scenes but, if I'm being honest, my feelings for the book faltered a bit towards the end. Around two-thirds of the way through I felt the book loses momentum and after all of the emotion and anguish throughout the book, the ending felt weaker than I was expecting. Overall, this is a wonderful read that confronts a horrible time in our history within an emotional story that will bring lively and heated discussion to any book group.
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  • Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fantastic book! One of those stories that grabs a hold of you from the start and doesn't let go. The writing, the plot, the character development, everything is superb!The story focuses on Quebec orphanages that were converted into mental hospitals in the 1950's as a way for the government and church to make more money. At that time, orphanages, which were run by the church, were paid a small amount of money. Out of greed, the provincial government opted to change the orph This was a fantastic book! One of those stories that grabs a hold of you from the start and doesn't let go. The writing, the plot, the character development, everything is superb!The story focuses on Quebec orphanages that were converted into mental hospitals in the 1950's as a way for the government and church to make more money. At that time, orphanages, which were run by the church, were paid a small amount of money. Out of greed, the provincial government opted to change the orphanages into mental hospitals to qualify for Federal government funding, which significantly increased the amount of money for the church. As a result, orphans were deemed "mental patients" over night and subjected to horrendous abuse and torture, child labour, no education and even murdered. At the heart of this story are two families intertwined by love, loss and tragedy and affected by the social norms of the 1950's. The story is heartwrenching and tragic yet there's elements of hope and perseverance. It was honestly a book that I couldn't put down and one of my favorite reads this year.If you're looking for an absorbing and emotional historical fiction, this is it! Such an unforgetable tale that will have you yearning, raging, hoping and maybe even shedding a few tears.
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  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    3.5* Was not a bad story at all but I honestly did not warm up to any of the characters except Elodie. Most of the other characters were not very likable. The writing was great but the characters I could not warm up to. I had pretty good expectations for this book because my grandmother said she loved it. But unfortunately the characters let me down for the most part. My quick and simple overall: good story and worth a read.
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  • Eden Church | The Required Reading List
    January 1, 1970
    Joanna Goodman has written a beautiful novel containing the entire range of emotions experienced by the human heart. The Home for Unwanted Girls tells the story of Quebec in the 1950s-1970s, but more specifically of Maggie, a young girl living in the Townships with an English-speaking father and French-speaking mother. At fifteen Maggie falls in love with the poor French boy from the next fair over. Under questionable circumstances, Maggie is forced to give up the child she becomes pregnant with Joanna Goodman has written a beautiful novel containing the entire range of emotions experienced by the human heart. The Home for Unwanted Girls tells the story of Quebec in the 1950s-1970s, but more specifically of Maggie, a young girl living in the Townships with an English-speaking father and French-speaking mother. At fifteen Maggie falls in love with the poor French boy from the next fair over. Under questionable circumstances, Maggie is forced to give up the child she becomes pregnant with. The story also follows Elodie, Maggie's daughter, who is raised in Quebec's highly fraught orphanage system. Under Duplessis, Quebec orphanages are turned into mental hospitals in order to receive more government funding and Elodie finds herself in a mental hospital, told she is insane, and abused by the nuns. Years later, Maggie is haunted by the baby she gave up, haunted by the man she left behind, and hungry to reconnect with both. This book is the story of Maggie and Elodie, but also the chilling story of so many Quebec children who were abused at the hands of nuns and priests when they had no one to advocate for them. Goodman handles this heartbreaking topic with grace and skill. The heartbreaking exists alongside the heartwarming here, and rather than seek to "solve" this dark moment in Canadian history or gloss over it, Goodman unpacks it and sits with it, looking for hope amidst the ruins. The result is beautiful and at times breathtaking.This is the story of a girl, of love, and of family. If you are a Canadian reader trying to read more Canadian books; this one is for you. If you want to learn more about one of the darker periods about Canadian history, but still leave the novel feeling hopeful; this one is for you. If you are a fan of historical fiction, sweeping family epics, or a beautifully written page turner that will rip your heart in two and then melt it back together; this one is for you. The heart wrenching beauty of this novel is not one that is easily done justice in a review: I suggest you go see for yourself. My father's mother was raised in a convent by the Grey Nuns in 1940s and 1950s Montreal, first because her mother came to Montreal as a single mother with two young children in the '30s, and then because her mother remarried and my grandma was to get an education. She used to tell us stories about summers spent at the farm (the children were not allowed to go home over summer break) and that the nuns were "not nice sometimes." Now, when I have the knowledge to read between the lines of some of those statements, and even guess at what she went through, my grandmother suffers from Alzheimers and I am not able to get the real story from her. It is highly possible that my grandmother was one of the lucky ones and that the nuns were simply unkind sometimes and not abusive, but I will never really know the whole story. For many others, the story did not have nearly as happy an ending as my grandmother's did. My thanks to Joanna Goodman for returning a piece of my family puzzle to me, even if the edges are a bit frayed and murky.*Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*
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  • William Koon
    January 1, 1970
    I have now officially read a girly -romance novel. Silly me! I thought this was a serious work about orphans in Quebec in the 1950’s. Because the Church ran the orphanages, they changed the orphanages into asylums because they were paid a per diem of 100% more. The orphans were declared insane and treated as such for many years. Maggie at sixteen has an illegitimate child. Her parents force her to give up the child at its birth. The book see-saws back and forth between mother and child. The book I have now officially read a girly -romance novel. Silly me! I thought this was a serious work about orphans in Quebec in the 1950’s. Because the Church ran the orphanages, they changed the orphanages into asylums because they were paid a per diem of 100% more. The orphans were declared insane and treated as such for many years. Maggie at sixteen has an illegitimate child. Her parents force her to give up the child at its birth. The book see-saws back and forth between mother and child. The book is an OK read. There is a thread which references big shoulders and trembling hands amidst the waving fields of fecund corn. And there’s loving daddy and the dreadful mama. He’s English. She’s French. If you’re marooned somewhere and there are only two books, and the other is in Mandarin, read this. You might also use the subject matter as a source for a good novel should you be an aspiring novelist.
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  • Maureen Timerman
    January 1, 1970
    This story takes place in rural Canada, near Montreal, and during a different period, the 1950’s. We are shown a family where there isn’t really a lot of love shown, the parents don’t seem to like one another, he is English and she is French, and like the Province they are like oil and water.A young couple get caught up and the result is an unwanted pregnancy, and at that time it was an embarrassment, and the child was put up for adoption, or so they thought.The author shows us a bli This story takes place in rural Canada, near Montreal, and during a different period, the 1950’s. We are shown a family where there isn’t really a lot of love shown, the parents don’t seem to like one another, he is English and she is French, and like the Province they are like oil and water.A young couple get caught up and the result is an unwanted pregnancy, and at that time it was an embarrassment, and the child was put up for adoption, or so they thought.The author shows us a blight on history, the story is historical in nature as this horrible event really did happen. Oh, so very sad, and when you realize it is true it makes it even worse, and we put faces to this tragedy, and the reason this happened? Greed! Heartbreaking page turner, and then the lies, yes, you will wish harm to the people who claim to be people of the church, they are wolves in sheep clothing for sure. Be careful this one will rip you heart, and have the tissues handy.I received this book through Library Thing and the Publisher Harper Paperbacks, and was not required to give a positive review.
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  • Libby
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars ‘The Home for Unwanted Girls’ by Joanna Goodman is based upon a tragic occurrence in Canada’s history. Duplessis orphans were sent to mental institutions as their reclassification would provide higher subsidies. They were called Duplessis orphans because this occurred when Maurice Duplessis was premier of Quebec. A Catholic, “he put the schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the hands of religious orders, noting he "trusted them completely" (1). Doctors interviewed orphans and falsely d 3.5 stars ‘The Home for Unwanted Girls’ by Joanna Goodman is based upon a tragic occurrence in Canada’s history. Duplessis orphans were sent to mental institutions as their reclassification would provide higher subsidies. They were called Duplessis orphans because this occurred when Maurice Duplessis was premier of Quebec. A Catholic, “he put the schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the hands of religious orders, noting he "trusted them completely" (1). Doctors interviewed orphans and falsely documented mental illness. During the course of their stay in these institutions, drugs, especially Thorazine, which is widely used in the treatment of mental patients, was trialed on these children. Seven religious orders participated. Around 20,000 children were affected. In our story, Maggie Hughes, who lives "55 miles southeast of Montreal" becomes pregnant. The father is next door neighbor, Gabriel Plenix, a French boy. Even though Maggie is half French herself (her mother is French, her father English), her father, Wellington Hughes deplores the French, thinking them of low ambition. At Maggie’s home, they speak French, but Wellington has made sure they attend English school. Wellington runs the seed store in town and is known as ‘The Seed Man.’ Maggie loves working in the store with her father. One of her driving ambitions in life is to one day run the store. When Maggie becomes too involved with Gabriel, she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Her father tells her “you can do better than a French Canadian.” Maggie reminds him that he married a French Canadian. He tells her she must learn from his mistake. Even while at her Uncle’s house, she manages to sneak off and meet Gabriel. When it becomes known that she’s pregnant, her parents arrange for the baby’s adoption. At 16 years of age, Maggie does not resist them. Maggie insists upon naming her Elodie; her father acquiesces to her name choice. It is the name of a lily. Because Elodie is premature and has jaundice, the adoption falls through and she ends up in an orphanage.The novel continues in alternating voices, Maggie’s and Elodie’s. This is a good story and well worth reading. It puts a face on the historical events and brings to life the value of the human lives that went through this ordeal. Even people in these religious orders become cogs in wheels, fulfilling the directives that have been passed on to them. At one point in the book, Goodman writes that one nun might have to take care of as many as fifty children. That’s an impossibility, as anyone who has ever taken care of children will easily recognize. Their actions however cannot be condoned. Elodie’s conditions were harsh. If rape and abuse are triggers for you, don’t read this book. For me, it was the plot that carried this story. Maggie and Elodie’s characters are pretty well fleshed out and I can appreciate different facets of their personalities. Maggie’s father was the best described secondary character. Other secondary characters come across without depth. Gabriel has some depth at the beginning, much less during the second half of the book. Goodman’s writing is good, but lacks depth. There are some emotional moments in the story; moments I’m brought almost to tears, but Goodman doesn’t crack them open. It’s the events that occur that bring the emotion, not the exquisite rendering of language that will sometimes fill me as an author brings forth nuggets of perception or nuances of feeling. I would definitely read Goodman again, as I really did like her story and believe her powers as an author will only grow. (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dupless...
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  • DeAnn
    January 1, 1970
    This heartbreaking tale earns 5 stars from me. And I love that cover!This is a relationship- and character-driven novel that I really enjoyed. Set in Quebec, It was interesting to learn more about the animosity between the French and English speaking communities here. The book centers on Maggie, a teenager who enjoys working in her father's seed/gardening store and aspires to run the store someday. Maggie's father has made the choice for his children to speak English and tells his ch This heartbreaking tale earns 5 stars from me. And I love that cover!This is a relationship- and character-driven novel that I really enjoyed. Set in Quebec, It was interesting to learn more about the animosity between the French and English speaking communities here. The book centers on Maggie, a teenager who enjoys working in her father's seed/gardening store and aspires to run the store someday. Maggie's father has made the choice for his children to speak English and tells his children to stay away from the French-Canadians. Of course, Maggie falls in love with a poor French-speaking boy. What follows next is in some ways a classic tale, parents trying to do what they think is best for their child with unintended consequences.I don't want to give more of the plot away, but I was shocked by several (historically accurate) twists that this story takes. Joanna Goodman had me rooting for a happy ending with her excellent writing and complex characters although some of the people in the book are downright despicable. At the end, we read that this was based on a true story. and I think that made it even more heart-breaking. I definitely learned about a new part of Canadian history and I'm wondering if there will be apologies someday.Joanna Goodman has written four other books, but this is my first read. Based on how much I enjoyed this one, I'm planning to read those someday.
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  • Jennifer Blankfein
    January 1, 1970
    The Home for Unwanted Girls is the compelling story of Maggie (based on the author’s mother) and her family set in 1950s Canada. At that time orphanages were being converted to hospitals for financial benefit. The Quebec government saved money changing the educational facilities to mental institutions, and the Roman Catholic Church received subsidies. Thousands of parentless children were falsely deemed mentally ill and many of the teaching nuns changed from black uniforms to white and called th The Home for Unwanted Girls is the compelling story of Maggie (based on the author’s mother) and her family set in 1950s Canada. At that time orphanages were being converted to hospitals for financial benefit. The Quebec government saved money changing the educational facilities to mental institutions, and the Roman Catholic Church received subsidies. Thousands of parentless children were falsely deemed mentally ill and many of the teaching nuns changed from black uniforms to white and called themselves nurses… they were complicit under the new law set in place by Canadian politician, Maurice Le Noblet Duplessis. This true to history cruel reality is the backdrop for this emotional, fast paced historical fiction novel that had me hooked.Young Maggie loves working at her family’s seed store and hopes to take it over some day when she grows up. She and her English father, French mother and siblings live in Canada where Premier Duplessis has just been re-elected in Quebec. The distinction between the English and French has caused quiet discourse within her parents’ culturally “mixed” marriage and influenced their self worth and parental guidance. Teenage Maggie is falling in love with her French next door neighbor, Gabriel, and after several illicit rendezvous, her parents forbid her to see him. Even though her father married her mother, the French are looked down upon by the English and Maggie’s father is anticipating a brighter future for her. They send her away to her aunt and uncle’s house to keep the young love from growing, and soon after, Maggie finds herself pregnant. Her parents are ashamed and disappointed in her and she remains hidden there until the baby girl is born. She tells her father she wants to name the baby Elodie, but at the hospital the baby is taken from Maggie, as her parents had arranged to send the baby away, keeping the secret of the illegitimate girl. Maggie is young and confused but obeys her parents.We follow Maggie as she moves on with her life, starts working, marries and Englishman, and tries to start a family. She is privately burdened with the loss of her baby girl and Gabriel, her true love.At the same time we get to know Elodie. She has been taken to an orphanage, The Home for Unwanted Girls. Life is fine for her. It is all that she knows and what she is used to, not much love or nurturing, but she has food and shelter…until the government rule changes orphanages into mental institutions. Elodie and her orphan friends are strictly and unfairly disciplined, medicated, abused and deprived of education by the nuns. Elodie is transferred to a different facility and there are bars on the windows and she is not allowed to go outside. After hearing about the death of her friend, spending time in a straight jacket, and being drugged to sleep every night, Elodie musters up the courage to tell the doctor in the mental institution the truth – that the girls are not disabled but they are orphans. Will he believe her and who’s side is he on? Can he help her, or will she be punished for speaking out?In the meantime, Maggie comes to the realization that her marriage will not work out and she desperately wants to find Elodie and Gabriel.No spoilers here, you have to read it to see if mother and daughter are reunited, if a teenage love is rekindled, if there is forgiveness…but suffice it to say, this one was a tear jerker.With historical reference regarding Canada’s leader that was google worthy for me, a forbidden Romeo and Juliet style love story that kept me engaged, mixed marriage and family values that created discourse, and a government policy that profited those who enforced it but was detrimental to a population that was already in jeopardy (which made me reflect on today), The Home for Unwanted Girls was a winner!For all reviews follow me on https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com.
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  • Stephanie Anze
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars rounded upMaggie is girl living in a rural area in Quebec. Maggie's father is English and her mother is French but still her father forbids her from seeing the French boy on the next farm, deeming him less than suitable for her. Maggie, however, does not head her father's warning and soon winds up pregnant. To protect her reputation, and that of her family, Maggie is forced to give her daughter up for adoption. Unfortunately, the laws change and classify orphans as psychiat 3.5 stars rounded upMaggie is girl living in a rural area in Quebec. Maggie's father is English and her mother is French but still her father forbids her from seeing the French boy on the next farm, deeming him less than suitable for her. Maggie, however, does not head her father's warning and soon winds up pregnant. To protect her reputation, and that of her family, Maggie is forced to give her daughter up for adoption. Unfortunately, the laws change and classify orphans as psychiatric patients and Maggie's possiblities of finding her daughter compicate further more.Upon reading the description of this book, I knew it was something I just had to read. As someone that absolutely loves historical fiction, this book appealed to me on many levels. Which is why it saddens me to say that while I like this book, I do not love it. The narrative follows Maggie as she falls in love with Gabriel, the French boy on the farm next to her house. Though Maggie's father is married to a French woman, he deems the French in low steem. Instead, he encourages Maggie to be more English. But Gabriel's pull far exceeds that of her father and Maggie ends up pregnant. She names her daughter Elodie but does not get to keep her, as she is only sixteen. Maggie moves on with her life but can not forget Gabriel and Elodie. When she does get a chance to look for her daughter, she is horrified to learn that she is now classifed as a mental patient. The narrative is captivating, gripping and heartbreaking. Narrated by Maggie and Elodie, they share their lives as both search for each other. As far as the characterization is concerned, it was good but it could have been better. The majority of characters felt at an arm's length, detached. There was a lot of telling rather than showing emotions. My biggest issue was the writting itself, it felt somewhat flat. Having said all this, I could not put this book down for I wanted to know how the narrative unfolded. Despite he above mentioned issues, I still very much am happy that I read this book.The background of this narrative is unbelivable. Under the rule of Maurie Duplessis, the Premier of Quebec at the time, children were exploited for monetary gain. As the state offered higher federal subsidies for psychiatric patients than orphans ($1.25 per orphan vs $2.75 per phychiatric patient), as many as 20,000 orphaned children were declared "mentally deficient" and either transfered to an asylum or having their orphanage turned into one. Duplessis left the asylums to be run by clergy and nuns as he was a fervent Catholic. The Quebec College of Physians falsified the children's medical records to cover their tracks. The government, church and psychiatrists benefitted financially with this arrangement while the children suffered terribly. Lobotomies, electroshock therapy, straight jackets, corporal punishments and being improperly and unnecessarily medicated were the nightmares these orpahns had to face. Emotional and physical abuse was not uncommon. A study estimated that the church made about $70 million off the subsidies while the government earned at least $37 million. Its deplorable to say the least. While some former orphans were able to gain monetary compensation in early 2000, no one was ever prosecuted and the church never apologized.
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    The first part of this book is pretty tough to read- because of the content. An important story to be told, for sure. It’s just a tough one to finish and say “I loved it!”, again because of the content. Would be great for bookclubs though, as there is plenty to discuss.
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  • Connie G
    January 1, 1970
    Quebec is divided into the French and the English by language, religion, and wealth. Fifteen-year-old Maggie Hughes chooses to be English like her father, although she has a French mother, and hopes to take over her father's seed business someday. But she falls for a poor French Canadian, Gabriel, and soon finds she is pregnant. It is 1950 so her family sends her away, and forces her to give up her baby girl, Elodie, who is raised by nuns in an orphanage.During the administration of Quebec is divided into the French and the English by language, religion, and wealth. Fifteen-year-old Maggie Hughes chooses to be English like her father, although she has a French mother, and hopes to take over her father's seed business someday. But she falls for a poor French Canadian, Gabriel, and soon finds she is pregnant. It is 1950 so her family sends her away, and forces her to give up her baby girl, Elodie, who is raised by nuns in an orphanage.During the administration of Premier Maurice Duplessis, a law was passed that gave much larger subsidies to mental institutions than to orphanages. Orphanages were changed into mental institutions by the Church, and orphans were labeled by doctors as "mentally retarded". The mentally ill were mixed with the orphans who were used as cheap labor putting in long hours housecleaning, sewing, and caring for the mentally ill residents. The Church used the homes as money-making institutions run by overworked, judgemental nuns. The orphans were physically and emotionally abused by many of the staff members. Elodie's education stopped when she was seven-years-old except for a kind nun who taught her to read from her Bible.The narrative alternates between Elodie, and Maggie who has gone on to marry a wealthy banker, but is still haunted by memories of her baby. The book follows Elodie as she is put out on her own in Montreal at age seventeen with few life skills. Maggie continues to try to find her daughter, but is stopped by the lies of administrators.The book has a theme of new life and nurturing starting in Maggie's father's seed store, and going on to several pregnancies in the family, parenting styles, and the nurturing (or lack of nurturing) of the young. It is a heartbreaking look into the treatment of children born out of wedlock, and the living conditions of the mentally ill. The story also has thought provoking elements about the role of women in the 1950s. "The Home for Unwanted Girls" was an interesting look at a sad part of Quebec's history.
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  • joyce g
    January 1, 1970
    Choices made, good or bad. This story flew by.
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