This is a tale of the injustices wrought by the Irish Industrial Schools and orphanages in the 1950's and 1960's.
Marian, a teacher at a Jewish school, is Irish Catholic and her boyfriend Ben is Jewish. Shortly before meeting Ben's parents, Mariam finds out that she is pregnant. After a totally disastrous meeting, Marian decides to go to a Mother Baby Home to have her child, who, she is told, is subsequently given up and adopted by an American family.
Years later, after Ben and Marian have married and become parents to a daughter named Johanna, a nurse from the home visits Marian to tell her that the son she had given up, Adrian, is NOT in America, but is at an orphanage where he is being mistreated.
This novel follows Mariam as she tries to regain custody of Adrian. It speaks of horrific abuse at the hands of the system, a mother's heartache in having failed her son, and the bias and prejudice that contributes to what is already an unbearable situation.
My feelings: The novel feels a bit rushed and jumpy at the start, and reads more intellectually than emotionally - the writing is rather detached, and, as a reader, I was not able to connect with any of the characters. I felt as though I were a dispassionate observer almost through the very end of the novel. If this were a non-fiction title, that would be acceptable; however, as fiction, most readers expect some feeling to come from the pages, especially around the issues that this novel centers around.
Marian imagines prejudice where none exists, and seems very close-minded and selfish. Her husband Ben rightly believes that there is something a bit "off" about Adrian (and that is understandable, given how he has been raised up to this point). Adrian is a bit more of a puzzle; I felt more for him, imagining how much worse his life must have felt once he got a true taste of family.
I feel that this novel is a good start towards shining a light on a system which few were aware of, but it could and should have been so much more.
QUOTES (from an eGalley; may be different in final copy):
The girl closed the door behind them and invited Marian to sit down while she herself remained standing, hovering by the door. It was then that Marian realized that the nurse wasn't there for comfort, but to keep her from running.
Sister Agnes told them that it costs to raise the spawn of whores and that orphans had nothing to add to what the state provided for their upkeep.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Characters: 2 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 2 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 2.9 out of 5 stars