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(I won’t get into specifics but if child abuse is triggering for you, I’d avoid this one.)
I enjoy historical fiction because it is the only form of time travel available to me. I would never want to actually live in the past, but seeing how other people existed and endured during a different time is fascinating to me.
In Joanna Goodman’s new novel, The Home for Unwanted Girls, readers are transported to 1950 in rural Quebec. Relations between the French and English are at a fever pitch and the next few decades will see sweeping changes to the province’s political climate. The story centers on Maggie, a lovestruck teenager who becomes pregnant by the love of her life. Her relationship with the baby’s father is classic Romeo & Juliet stuff, a trope that will never get old when it comes to romance in literature.
Her baby daughter ends up at an orphanage and, due to changes to the orphanage system, her life goes from not great or truly horrendous. I’m a Canadian and I had to do some frantic Googling to see if the author was pulling my leg or not. I’m not much of a cryer when it comes to books but when I learned that she was basing these horrible things on accounts by real Quebec orphans, I was horrified.
If this book taught me anything, it’s that I really need to brush up on my Canadian history. Yeesh.
As the daughter grows older, the book switches to her story and back and forth between the two as the decades pass. I’m a sucker for a historical fiction novel with multiple POV’s. However, the two lives are so different that switching between these two are almost jarring because you are switching between family drama and something of a twisted horror tale.
The relationship between Maggie and her long-time love interest is refreshingly real. Neither of them are perfect, but they fit perfectly together. The author isn’t shy about making either look imperfect, and I like that.
I really enjoyed this book. The audiobook features a fantastic performance from narrator Saskia Maarleveld as well. Mad props for the French accents and pronunciations.