Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary: Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.
Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.
Wow - well first off, I didn't know what I was getting into when I picked this up. It was definitely judging a book by it's cover - because I really love it. But the subject matter was hard for me to read. It was a part of history that I didn't know existed - at least in this fashion. I knew about women being locked in insane asylums when they didn't fall in line with the societal norms but I didn't know the religious side of it.
Alexander did a good job at trying to not demonize the Catholic church while still showing the indignities that occurred.
It was a book that left me angry and frustrated for the characters - for the fact that there was no way for their voice to be heard - for the lack of justice and mercy. It went against the grain of innocent until proven guilty and just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I think Teagan was the one who gave me the most grief. She was put in simply because a priest (who really had no business joining the clergy) was having "impure thoughts" about her. And just like that her parents signed her over to the custody of the nuns with no sign of ever taking her back. So many times she tried to tell the truth, explain what happened and no one would listen to her simply because she was fallen.
Being a Christian myself the whole scenario left me feeling terrible. In no way did the actions reflect the teachings of Christ - but as I earlier stated, Alexander wrote this in such a way that while the local leaders we dealt with drove me crazy she didn't condemn the Church as a whole.
Overall, if you want to find out more about a little known bit of history go for it.
I was given a galley copy in exchange for an honest review.