Here we are with yet another book I purchased because it reminded be of “Before We Were Yours” while I waited for that book to come out in paperback. I guess I just can’t get enough of these orphan historical fiction novels. [See: Orphan Train, Orphan #8, and Sold on a Monday]
While it might seem like these stories would be repetitive, they take place in different areas of the country and, therefore, result in very disparate experiences being depicted. The rural Midwest is very different from Industrial New York City, for instance. In The Home for Unwanted Girls we have yet another slice of history, that of Montreal and the French Canadian countryside.
While the children of many unwed mothers were sent to orphanages, what is unique to Montreal is the law that was enacted in the 1950s that declared many such orphans mentally unfit and turned the orphanages into mental hospitals. Why? Because nuns were paid significantly more to care for the mentally retarded than for children born out of wedlock.
This story follows both Maggie, who falls for her poor neighbor, is forced to give their daughter up for adoption, and then [attempt to] live out a normal life. We also regularly check in on that daughter, Elodie, as she navigates this corrupt orphanage/mental hospital system.
I thought the book was tied up a bit too neatly, but overall enjoyed it. I particularly liked learning about this whole Duplessis orphan situation as well as the tensions between French and English Canadians. This book offered a new angle to orphan drama that I really appreciated.
3.5 out of 5.