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, Adult

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 mostly farm country, contain 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 her 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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  • Eden Church
    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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  • 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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  • Shilpa
    January 1, 1970
    Greed is the ugly underbelly which society cannot toss aside, and with the choice placed before them, the impoverished orphanages in Quebec see their opportunity for getting a slice of that pie. This of course comes at a cost. Young orphans who are already in these homes, find themselves placed in the crossfire. As the orphanages begin the transformation to psychiatric institutions, the existing "unwanted" children must go somewhere. There are heartbreaking consequences to most of them, includin Greed is the ugly underbelly which society cannot toss aside, and with the choice placed before them, the impoverished orphanages in Quebec see their opportunity for getting a slice of that pie. This of course comes at a cost. Young orphans who are already in these homes, find themselves placed in the crossfire. As the orphanages begin the transformation to psychiatric institutions, the existing "unwanted" children must go somewhere. There are heartbreaking consequences to most of them, including Elodie. Your heart breaks with the injustices, with the compassionate nature of Elodie's and Maggie's characters, and with the horrific realization that this all feels real. And it is. Joanna Goodman's The Home For Unwanted Girls is actually based on a true story. The story is beautifully told from different perspectives. We know of Maggie's desperation to live her life the way she wants, to love who she wants, and the sacrifice she must make for her family. We follow Elodie and she makes her way through the system of Quebec's forgotten children...those abandoned by their mothers at birth and who face the stigma in the orphanage world as not worthy because of their's birth parent's choice. There is a lot of anger you feel as a reader, taking in the deplorable treatment young children face at the hands of nuns who ran the orphanages. A not so distant history is laden with thousands of examples of inhuman treatment of those they don't deem to be in the same class as themselves. Whether it's the natives, or minorities, or children, the world seems to continue to remind us of the unethical and unjust nature of a class that wants to stay in power and will wield it with no compunction, at the expense of those they don't deem fit to be in their presence. Full review: http://sukasareads.blogspot.ca/2018/0...
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  • Pat
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very well-written novel, made all the more riveting since it is based on true events. It takes place in the Canadian province of Quebec in the mid-20th century where there is a long-standing rift between English and French residents. It is also a time when an unwed mother is shamed, as is her family and, most unforgivably, the child.Maggie Hughes, the oldest daughter of an educated English father and a French mother from an impoverished family, falls in love with Gabriel Phenix, and is This is a very well-written novel, made all the more riveting since it is based on true events. It takes place in the Canadian province of Quebec in the mid-20th century where there is a long-standing rift between English and French residents. It is also a time when an unwed mother is shamed, as is her family and, most unforgivably, the child.Maggie Hughes, the oldest daughter of an educated English father and a French mother from an impoverished family, falls in love with Gabriel Phenix, and is sent to live with an aunt and uncle to discourage the relationship. There she is raped by the pedophilic uncle at the same time she has sex with Gabriel who has visited her. At the age of 16, Maggie gives birth to a daughter whom Maggie names Elodie after her favorite flower. The paternity of the child is uncertain, and Maggie's mother refuses to believe that she was raped. The baby is immediately put up for adoption. Elodie is not adopted, but placed in an orphanage run by Catholic nuns with the miserable name of The Home for Unwanted Girls. When Elodie is 7 years old, the government decrees that all orphanages become psychiatric hospitals because it is advantageous for government funding. Education for the orphans stops, and they become unpaid care takers for the mentally ill and "retarded" patients. Years go by and Elodie, along with other orphans, is transferred to psychiatric institution where the physical abuse and neglect by the nuns accelerate. What follows is heart breaking; when Elodie attempts to assimilate into a "normal" life at the age of 20 even a refrigerator is a foreign object to her.During these years, Maggie is attempting to find her daughter, but she is thwarted at every turn by sealed documents. When Maggie and Gabriel reconnect as adults, they are united in their resolve to find their daughter. Joanna Goodman has used this fictional situation to cast a light on this very real dark period in Canadian history and the Catholic church, which mirrors the same horrible events in Ireland that led to the unforgettable movie, Philomena. This is an extraordinarily well-written documentation of events that should never be forgotten.My thanks to LibraryThing and HarperCollins for the opportunity to review this noteworthy book.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    What a tough, depressing, but oh-so-fantastic book.
  • Lana Shupe
    January 1, 1970
    Received this book from Harper Collins as an Advance Readers Copy. Another part of Canada's history, this time in the province of Quebec, that I did not know about. Shocking to learn about the change in orphanages to mental institutions - all for the sake of money. The orphans that lived through this change led heartbreaking existences. So much has changed in our outward dealing with institutionalization and yet so little has changed in perception.This book deals with one family's history of d Received this book from Harper Collins as an Advance Readers Copy. Another part of Canada's history, this time in the province of Quebec, that I did not know about. Shocking to learn about the change in orphanages to mental institutions - all for the sake of money. The orphans that lived through this change led heartbreaking existences. So much has changed in our outward dealing with institutionalization and yet so little has changed in perception.This book deals with one family's history of deceit, deception and demoralization. Set in a time when taboos and morals were experienced in different ways than they are today. A time when "unwanted" children were "thrown away" at the expense of emotion and in great suffering.I wanted the book to end the way it did, but wanted it to come sooner than it did. So much emotion fills the chapters of this book. It will leave you wrung out and shaken. It will leave you angry and profoundly sad. It will leave you wanting to make up for all the damage imaginable in a young life. This book will also leave you with the sense of the power of hope. The power hope has to strengthen and provide resolve in the face of obstacles and disappointment. This underlying sense of hope threads it's way through this book and provides solace when all seems lost.
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  • Shannon Dyer
    January 1, 1970
    Sad but lovely. Review to come at AAR.
  • 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 blight on histo 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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  • Cat
    January 1, 1970
    Too sad a story. Doesn't say much for the older generations and their intolerance, religion, society , etc... does it? They messed up so many innocent lives. Just gummed up their whole family- and over what?- a simple, sweet baby! So stupid and hurtful.
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  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    Review of Advance Uncorrected ProofFifteen-year-old Maggie Hughes, the daughter of an English father and a French mother living in Quebec, falls in love with Gabriel Phenix. Her parents disapprove; her father believes the poor French boy is not good enough for his daughter. To keep Maggie away from Gabriel, her parents send her to Frelighsburg to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle. Before the summer is over, Maggie is pregnant and she must remain in Frelighsburg until the baby is born. Mag Review of Advance Uncorrected ProofFifteen-year-old Maggie Hughes, the daughter of an English father and a French mother living in Quebec, falls in love with Gabriel Phenix. Her parents disapprove; her father believes the poor French boy is not good enough for his daughter. To keep Maggie away from Gabriel, her parents send her to Frelighsburg to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle. Before the summer is over, Maggie is pregnant and she must remain in Frelighsburg until the baby is born. Maggie gives birth to a premature daughter and her family forces her to relinquish the child to a foundling home. Elodie, relatively happy and reasonably well cared for, spends the first seven years of her life at the orphanage. But a decision by Maurice Duplessis, the premier of Quebec, turns all orphanages into mental institutions and thousands of children, including Elodie, find themselves confined in institutions where mental and physical abuse is a common occurrence. As the years pass, Maggie and Elodie remain separated. Is there a way to fix the mistakes and regrets of the past? Do Maggie and Elodie have any chance for a future together?This well-crafted story, based on the true plight of the Duplessis Orphans in Quebec, Canada, is a condemnation of the government and the religious orders put in charge of schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. Since federal funds for hospitals were significantly greater than the funds for orphanages, Duplessis ordered that all orphanages would become mental hospitals, a decision that led to the false classification of multitudes of orphans as mentally defective children. These facts, carefully woven into the fictional story of Maggie, Gabriel, and Elodie, lace the narrative with the grim reality of the time. Readers will find it difficult to set the book aside but, like many other well-told, based-in-truth narratives, the horror of these events sometimes makes the book extremely difficult to read. Readers should have a box of tissues handy before delving into this heartbreaking story. Highly recommended.
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  • Kim Overstreet
    January 1, 1970
    Set in Canada and spanning decades, this story of a teen mother who gives a baby up for adoption and her daughter caught in an orphanage converted to a mental institution is hard to put down. I consider most stories I have read about orphans (and dogs too) to have been poorly done - too many coincidences and obvious ploys to tug at heartstrings. I am happy to report that The Home for Unwanted Girls does not fit into that category! Joanna Goodman’s story is partially based on her mother’s life, a Set in Canada and spanning decades, this story of a teen mother who gives a baby up for adoption and her daughter caught in an orphanage converted to a mental institution is hard to put down. I consider most stories I have read about orphans (and dogs too) to have been poorly done - too many coincidences and obvious ploys to tug at heartstrings. I am happy to report that The Home for Unwanted Girls does not fit into that category! Joanna Goodman’s story is partially based on her mother’s life, and it shows in her attention to detail and the overall plausibility of the novel. I read an ARC copy, so Goodwin hasn’t given many author interviews yet. I am eager for her to so I can learn if her mother was the mother Maggie or the child Elodie from the novel. I will be heartily recommending The Home for Unwanted Girls to my reading friends!If you liked this book, you will probably also like The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne.
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  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Goodreads for an advanced copy of this book. I couldn’t put it down! Intriguing , highly readable story about a baby put up for adoption in Quebec In1950.Much of the story had me in knots and waiting to see how it would turn out. this was a horrible period in Canadian politics that I knew nothing about. Reminiscent of Orphan Train or Before We Were Us—— I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good read!
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    I love this book. So heart-wrenching, I cried a lot especially towards the end and most especially with what Elodie had gone through. This is the first book I read by this author and I would definitely want to read her other books. Thanks again to Library Things and Harper Collins for an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Maggie Holmes
    January 1, 1970
    This was becoming a slog so I skipped to the last section. I can see where it might be interesting to people who liked The Language of Flowers and Before We Were Yours. The characters did not grab me, I don't know why.Thanks to Edelweiss and Harper Paperbacks for my advance copy.
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