The Home for Unwanted Girls

Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,310 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Philomena meets The Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit - the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility - much like Maggie Hughes' parents. Maggie's English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don't include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie's heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at 15, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life "back on track".

Elodie is raised in Quebec's impoverished orphanage system. It's a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns' hands, finally earning her freedom at 17, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

©2018 Joanna Goodman (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Home for Unwanted Girls

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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I couldn't finish this book

This book was so incredibly bleak. I only made it about 3/4 through and had to quit. There was just one tragedy after another with very little happiness. The Narrator was excellent though.

89 people found this helpful

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Is this a true story?

I absolutely love this book it is intriguing, dynamic and fascinating. I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. This is not my go to genre. I normally read urban fiction, love stories and memoirs. My favorite part is the two girls eating at the restaurant. It is so dramatic and I can feel the excitement. What I like about the book (this won’t make sense unless you read the book but…) is the following of the mother and daughter separately but during the same time. I also like that it doesn’t appear to be a work of fiction. I was enthralled and anticipating every new turn. I also can relate to a mother’s love of a child not in her care. I will say no more as not to spoil the book for others. I will end with this, I have never wanted to get to the end of a book so bad and wanting it to never end at the same time.

44 people found this helpful

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A book about unwanted PEOPLE finding a way to put meaning into life: Unexpectedly realistic with deep emotions of trauma

Honestly, I think the description of this book may be a bit misleading. It’s truly about a girl that we’re following that grows up into a woman, all along the way with many hardships. This happens over the course of many, many chapters. This girl gets pregnant at 15, gives birth at 16, and her baby is forcefully taken from her by her parents’ doing. Later she questions herself for letting this happen, but it is not her fault. However, we get to see her child’s point of view, and we see the parallels, yet also the drastic differences, between their lives. The mother grows up with a tough family, and the child grows up with no family. The historical part of this book comes in with some of the aspects of the English & French Canadians. However, the biggest historical aspect is that the orphanages in Canada were converted into mental hospitals (this actually happened). You can probably imagine how that may effect things, but you will have to listen to find out.

Overall, very, very good book. It was unexpectedly realistic with deep emotions of trauma in multiple different ways, but also subtly points out how you cannot express these traumatic moments to someone else and explain reasonings behind certain decisions that were made. It’ll probably make you think about people in your life that you have no true idea about what may have happened to them, because it would be wrong to speak of. I’m saying it this way to not ruin any aspects of the story, but all in all, it’s a good book that concludes incredibly well. Well as in: realistically, but not fictitiously satisfying. No stretches are made to make you happy by the ending, it is realistically satisfying. It is a very good listen, but is sure to break your heart multiple times, all the while making you smile along the way. So good. Listen to this book.

PSA: This book is definitely not for children, it’s pretty vulgar and includes multiple sexual “scenes.”

42 people found this helpful

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Sad tale of a horrific Quebec era!

Grew up in the 1950s close to an orphanage in Outremont run by nuns. The memory of a haunted-like structure is reawakened every time I revisit the area. Congratulation to the author who so vividly told the tale of the horrors that occurred as a result of the corrupt Duplessis era. Highly recommended listening!

33 people found this helpful

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Predictable Cliche

I wish I knew which reviews I read that made me think I would like this book so I would never rely on them again. From the first chapter you knew exactly where the story was headed, no surprises just completely predictable cliche ridden. The best I can say about it is that I did finish it, but the journey was not pleasant.

21 people found this helpful

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Sad story

Difficult to hear but unable to stop listening to the story. I have read many stories about orphans and adoptions and some of my first cousins were adopted. They are our family and we wouldn't be a complete family without them.

20 people found this helpful

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Tragic piece of history

The historical background to this story is heartbreaking, and that was the most interesting aspect of this book. Unfortunately the plot is rather melodramatic, the characters were stereotypes ( especially the cruel nuns) and that depleted the impact of this sad bit of history. The narration was excellent.

16 people found this helpful

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Best book I have read this year!!!!!!!!

I am in tears, this book was so great, and sad....... dont want to give anything away. READ IT PLEASE!!!!!!

11 people found this helpful

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Good history lesson that ends with hope

I liked how this story brought to life a sad period in history that needs to be recognized. The love story between Gabrielle and Maddie is a bit unrealistic and tedious, but the overall story is one of hope. A good listen.

10 people found this helpful

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Wonderful!!

My wife and I absoutely love the story. The narration was spot on! Ten Star

7 people found this helpful