Fifteen year old Maggie lives in 1950s Quebec. When her parents find out she’s pregnant, they force her to go live with her aunt and uncle until the baby is born. Even though she doesn’t get to keep her child, she names her Elodie. It is the name of a lily, a flower she’s always loved.
The one thing Maggie has always known is that when she grows up she wants to take over her father’s seed company. She loves everything about gardening and seeds. Her father is known as “the seed man.”
Elodie is raised in an impoverished orphanage system that is abruptly switched into mental institutions. All the orphans are declared mentally ill because the government pays the orphanage more money to care for the mentally ill.
Elodie suffers at the hands of the nuns and lives an abysmal existence. Finally she ages out of the system into a world she knows nothing about and is ill-equipped to live in. In a few years she has a daughter of her own and understands that it isn’t easy to be a single mother.
Maggie married a man her father approved of, but who she never really loved like she loved Elodie’s father. Her father never approved of Gabriel because he was French and poor.
A decade later Maggie runs into Gabriel. Maggie and Gabriel end up getting back together. They try to find Elodie, but the nuns lie to them and say that Elodie died shortly after birth. They tell Elodie that her mother died as well.
This is a terrific book. I read it in two nights and did not want the story to end. I was so intrigued with the characters and the fact that this heartbreaking novel is based on a true story.
I wish there was a sequel because I’d be first in line to read it.
About The Author:
JOANNA GOODMAN is the author of four previous novels, including Canadian bestseller, The Finishing School. Her stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Ottawa Citizen, B & A Fiction, Event, The New Quarterly, and White Wall Review, as well as excerpted in Elisabeth Harvor’s fiction anthology A Room at the Heart of Things.
The Home for Unwanted Girls is inspired by the story of Joanna’s mother, who was the daughter of an Anglo “Seed Man” and a French-Canadian mother.
Originally from Montreal, Joanna now lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids, and is the owner of the Canadian linen company Au Lit Fine Linens.