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Monday, July 30, 2018

Review of BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

2.5 Stars
This book is described as a psychological thriller but this is misleading; it should be described as a paranormal thriller.

The story is narrated from the perspective of two women, Adele and Louise.   Louise, a single mother, meets David in a bar and flirts with him only to discover the next day that he is her new boss.  She literally bumps into Adele, David’s wife, and the two become friends though Adele wants their friendship kept a secret because her husband “’can be a bit funny about mixing work life and home life.’”  Things become even more complicated when Louise starts an affair with David, an affair which, of course, she wants to keep a secret from Adele.

It is obvious from the beginning that much is not as it seems.  The relationship between David and Adele is strained; the reason for the tension is not revealed because David and Adele don’t really talk and David refuses to discuss his marriage with Louise.  Gradually, however, the reader glimpses the truth behind the marriage, and as Adele’s past is exposed, it is clear that she is not Louise’s friend.  Adele teaches Louise about lucid dreaming to help with her night terrors and the technique works but has unexpected effects.

Neither of the women is a sympathetic character.  Adele is duplicitous and manipulative so she is unlikeable.  Louise constantly makes illogical choices and behaves in morally reprehensible ways.  Despite having been hurt when her ex-husband cheated on her, she puts another woman, a friend, in the same position to be hurt by a philandering husband?  Her decisions could even potentially put her son in harm’s way, yet she seems incapable of stopping her foolish behaviour.  She knows what she should do but doesn’t.   I wanted to scream the Nike slogan at her!

Adele has a plan, but it is amazing how well her plan falls into place.  Though her plan requires people to behave a certain way and for interactions between people to proceed in a specific way, not once does she suffer any setbacks?  David is the psychiatrist but Adele is the one who understands people so well that she knows exactly how they will behave?    Given the ending, Adele’s astuteness is even less plausible.  And let’s ignore the fact that there is no scientific evidence of astral projection.

Yes, that ending.  Many readers have praised the ending because it is one that no one would ever guess – as if that were a good thing.  I enjoy plot twists but the ending is ludicrous and outlandish.  Too much information is withheld so the author cheats.  One could argue that the title and statements like “We can never see who someone really is underneath the skin” are clues but these are so ambiguous as to be laughable.

At first, I enjoyed the book but as it increasingly required more and more suspension of disbelief, I became impatient with its outrageousness.  If the book had been properly described as containing paranormal elements, I would not have chosen to read it.  So the entire book is a cheat; because descriptions of the book omit reference to a key element, the reader is manipulated as much as Adele manipulates Louise. 
 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Review of THE DAUGHTER OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Leonard Goldberg

2 Stars
I hope Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is resting in peace; should he ever read this novel, he would be aghast.  There are so many Holmes’ retellings and adaptations and some of them have merit; this is not one of them. 

In 1910, seven years after the death of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and his son, Dr. John Watson, end up joining Joanna Blalock (Holmes’ daughter with Irene Adler) to investigate the death of Charles Harrelston.  His family disputes the ruling of his death as a suicide.  As the trio investigates, more deaths occur, all linked to Christopher Moran, whose father was Sherlock Holmes’ enemy. 

The majority of characters are the children of the original cast.  Besides the three already mentioned, Miss Hudson and Inspector Lestrade are the children of Mrs. Hudson and the Scotland Yard inspector respectively.  Even a dog has connections to a dog in The Sign of Four?!  A grandchild has the same birthmark as his grandfather?   And each of the children has exactly the same role as the parent?! Obviously, there are no kudos to the author for originality. 

Joanna is supposed to be very observant and intelligent but any astute reader will find the clues obvious and her deductions predictable.  The only time the reader cannot make identical deductions is if information is withheld.  This woman is unfamiliar with the Star of David (127)?  This woman, a nurse who has attended autopsies, doesn’t know about petechiae? 

She is not the only character who doesn’t always know what would be expected.  Dr. Watson is so dense that he seems to have learned nothing from his time with Sherlock.  For example, he keeps being shocked at the fact that murderers come from all walks of life:  “’A doctor and a fusilier, and he turns out to be a cold-blooded murderer!’” (61) and “’A distinguished doctor with aristocratic bearing, and he commits blatant murder’” (119).  Neither he nor his son, both medical doctors, wouldn’t immediately recognize a tourniquet (120)?  Dr. Watson, a pathologist, doesn’t know that a walking stick with a rounded top would cause a round fracture until he is given a demonstration (84)? 

Furthermore, some of their actions make no logical sense.  When they find an intruder, they attack him and could easily subdue him but they just let him go (219)?  The trio approach an expert to help them decode a message, but don’t show him the actual message until the expert says, “’Perhaps if I examined the message I might be able to give more assistance’” (183)?  Joanna has to come out of hiding to examine an object when Dr. Watson could have easily done that (163) and not risked exposure?  Then in another pivotal scene, the person charged with watching the criminal’s every move isn’t the one who has the revolver (279)?  They place a patient who has undergone a serious, life-threatening procedure in a side room full of medical equipment and supplies (266) “where he could be carefully monitored” (286)? 

There are other things that make no sense.  A tourniquet used by a criminal “’must have slipped beneath the cushion [of a chair] where [he] could not find it’” (120)?  Dr. Watson is given four sutures for an incision “barely deep enough to break the skin” and must be told to watch for infection (219)?  The trio is almost run down by a horse and carriage on a foggy night and they assume it is a deliberate act perpetrated by the mastermind criminal even though he would have no way of knowing they would be out (271-272)? 

Of course, everyone else is even more incompetent.  Inspector Lestrade knows nothing about carrying out an investigation since he doesn’t even examine the scene of a death.  The pathologist who examines the body of the first victim likewise makes assumptions.  Joanna and the Watsons seem astute only because everyone else is totally inept. 

What is especially irritating is that the author thinks the reader is stupid too.  There is so much mansplaining.  The reader is told all about the Rosetta Stone (178) and given the astonishing information that the letter e is the most commonly used letter in the English language (179-180).  Nearsightedness is explained as though the word itself isn’t self-explanatory (35).  Does anyone not know that if a person chokes on his own vomit, there would be evidence of it in and about his lips and mouth (103)? 

Dialogue is stilted and unnatural.  Dr. Watson resides at 221b Baker Street and during a conversation there says, “’Some years later there was a knock on the door to [Sherlock’s] rooms at 221b Baker Street’” (66)?  A child, speaking to his mother about his dog, says, “’I have noticed this [behaviour] on numerous occasions with our golden retriever, Oliver’” (170).  The mother wouldn’t know the breed of the dog in her home? 

Though the book may be intended as a form of homage, it is a very amateurish attempt to copy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I certainly would not recommend it to a Sherlockian. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review of THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl (New Release)

2.5 Stars
Cecilia Wilborg lacks nothing; she has what seems to be a perfect life with her husband and two daughters, though it soon becomes clear that she is keeping some dark secrets from her family.  They end up providing a temporary foster home for a young boy named Tobias, and Cecilia’s life starts to unravel when she learns he has connections to Annika Lucasson.  Annika, a drug addict with an abusive drug-dealing boyfriend, is privy to Cecilia’s secrets which if revealed would destroy her life.

The novel has three narrators.  Cecilia’s first-person narration is interspersed with some chapters from Tobias’ perspective, also written in the first person, and some journal entries and letters written by Annika.  Cecilia’s narration becomes annoying because she keeps withholding information.  Instead, she just goes on and on about her fears that her life will disintegrate:  “I’m overwhelmed by a sensation of the past as a slithering snake sneaking up on me, ready to unleash its poison on this immaculate life I’ve fought so hard for” and “maybe [Tobias’ presence] won’t dislodge those huge, black boulders inside of me and send them crashing onto this life I’ve managed to preserve against some hefty odds” and “his very presence threatens to unleash a wave of grief and regret so huge it would knock me down forever if I don’t keep suppressing it at any cost.” 

Cecilia is not a likeable person; she certainly did not get any sympathy from me.  She is materialistic:  “being me is very expensive” and “I prefer my surroundings to be beautiful at all times.”  She is very shallow, constantly making judgments about people based on their appearance:  “Back then she was a timid, chubby girl with messy pigtails and hand-me-down clothes, and she’s not really that different now.  Scruffy is the word that comes to mind.  I must admit that she’s gone from awkwardly tall and “big-boned” to what I suppose some people might call statuesque, but she most definitely retains that gangly, clownish presence I remember from childhood.” 

The decisions she made in the past and continues to make reveal her to be narcissistic and self-absorbed.  She once met a man and “less than ten minutes after he sat down beside me, Thiago was inside me”?!   She is not the greatest of mothers; she complains how her daughters keep viewing YouTube makeup tutorials and are constantly arguing, but she does nothing to intervene.  Johan, Cecilia’s husband, once tells her, “’You’re a bitch.  You can be so much more than that, and you know I love you dearly, but sometimes you really are a bitch.’”  That describes her perfectly.  As more and more about Cecilia is revealed, I ended up not caring what happened to her. 

Several events are just unbelievable.  I know nothing about Child Services in Norway but I can’t imagine that they would place a vulnerable child in a foster home that had not been properly vetted.  A child in foster care could suffer an injury and the family could keep him from attending school for some time and authorities wouldn’t care?  Then when the scar from the injury is obvious, no one would investigate?  Then there are the many coincidences.  Tobias gives Cecilia a key that, pardon the pun, unlocks everything?  How convenient!  Even the ownership of a farmhouse is connected to both Cecilia and Annika’s families?

The book is described as a “gritty novel of psychological suspense.”  There is grit since the novel includes substance abuse, prostitution, rape, physical abuse, abandoned children, and murder, but the glacial pace means there is little suspense.  In fact, the nature of Cecilia’s secrets is not difficult to guess long before the truth is revealed.  Even the title is misleading; Tobias is never a boy at the door.  

Note:  I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Review of OUR KIND OF CRUELTY by Araminta Hall

3 Stars
This psychological thriller begins with Mike Hayes stating that he is in prison after killing someone.  Then he takes us back into the past with the focus being on his relationship with Verity (whom Mike calls V).  They invented a sexual game which they called the Crave:  Mike and V would separate at a bar until some man took an interest in V; then at a signal from her, Mike would intervene, threatening violence.  The game ended when Mike and Verity, both sexually aroused by the game, would have sex. 

After several years together, Mike takes a temporary job in New York.  When he returns to London, V announces that she is getting married.  Mike is unable to accept that she is rejecting him; instead, he believes she is playing an extreme, extended version of Crave to punish him for a one-night stand, so he begins to follow her to determine what the next move is in the game.  He also doesn’t want to miss the signal when it is time for Mike to rescue her. 

Mike is the narrator; the entire novel is narrated in the first person from his point of view.  He is an unreliable narrator because as V told him when they first met, Mike is “’not very good at interpreting things.’”  It seems that Mike is misconstruing V’s behaviour but since her perspective is never given, one is left to wonder if V is indeed manipulating him.  There is also the problem that Mike has lapses in memory; these gaps often occur when he has been drinking too much or when he is stressed. 

Mike is in many ways a contradiction.  He is a successful banking executive who has come a long way from his impoverished childhood when he lived with an alcoholic mother and her string of abusive boyfriends.  He works well with numbers but he is emotionally stunted.  He thinks that by buying expensive Christmas gifts, he has done his duty to his foster family.  Mike lacks the ability to empathize.  It is chilling to read his comments about not caring “what happens to anyone apart from you and I [Verity].  I don’t wish death on others, but at the same time, there are so many pointless people out there, so many disposable lives.”  There is more than a touch of irony is his statement that V made him a better person:  “Because, before V, I was like my mother.  I didn’t care, I found it easy to shut down, I turned away and found it too easy to be cruel to others.” 

Mike also lacks the ability to read social cues though he has learned “enough lessons over the years to better understand what is and is not expected in life” so if he is invited for drinks after work, he knows “I should arrange my face into a smile and say yes.”  He admits to being dependent on V “because only she could make sense of the world for me.”

Occasionally there are touches of humour in Mike’s literalism.  The large house he buys has a drawing room though “I have no plans to become an artist.”  A work colleague tells him about having gone to an LBT meeting and Mike assumes she meant “some sort of exercise class as she was wearing Lyrca.”  A relative brags about V’s fiancé but Mike can’t interpret her tone and concludes, “She didn’t appear to like him much.”  But there is also sadness:  because Mike was holding a “tiny, battered red car” when he was removed from his childhood home, he concludes “it seems unlikely it could have meant anything much to me.”

What is difficult to believe is the extent of Mike’s delusions.  He is obviously intelligent but totally irrational when it comes to affairs of the heart.  He sees V’s engagement as a sign that “she had lost her mind with the distress I had caused her” or as an indication that she has begun another game of Crave!   He believes that he and V “are the only people ever to have felt the way we do.”  And he thinks “sometimes two people need each other so much it is worth sacrificing others to make sure they end up together.”  At one point he admits to having misunderstood a woman who tried to befriend him but he never makes the jump to realizing he could be misunderstanding V as well.  All he does understand is that without V, he will have a “deep, all-encompassing void in my soul” and thoughts of losing her leave him with “a feeling of inescapable terror.”  The reader will feel some sympathy for Mike because of his upbringing, but his behaviour is so obsessive and extreme that it stretches the reader’s credulity.

The book is not a difficult read though it is unsettling.  For me, its portrayal of Mike’s behaviour is too over the top to be believable.  The author, in the Acknowledgments, states that the book’s first draft was written in a “mad spurt” of “male-centered anger.”  I think this anger was not reined in sufficiently.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review of FULL DISCLOSURE by Beverley McLachlan

3 Stars
When I heard that Canada’s first female Chief Justice had written a legal thriller, I had to check it out.  Is there any better-informed legal authority who could shed light on the Canadian justice system?

Jilly Truitt is an ambitious criminal defense lawyer working in Vancouver.  Despite warnings from several people, she takes on the case of defending a wealthy businessman, Vincent Trussardi, who is charged with murdering his wife.  She hopes she can find something which will give the jury reasonable doubt to acquit her client.  As she discovers that Trussardi comes with considerable baggage, she deals with her own past which involved foster care and drug abuse. 

I appreciated reading a book written from a Canadian perspective.  It shows the criminal justice system in Canada and what happens in a Canadian courtroom; this is a refreshing change from the plethora of American legal thrillers and television courtroom dramas.  The book is truly Canadian in many respects:  it shows the various neighbourhoods of Vancouver and makes reference to the Pickton’s pig farm, the vineyards of the Okanagan, and Indigenous art like Salish carvings.  So what’s with the Americanized spelling of words like “color” and “favor” and “splendor”?

Unfortunately, there are weaknesses in the novel.  For instance, there are so many people connected to Jilly who have had dealings with Vincent:  her social worker, her almost-fiancé, her last foster father.  What are the chances that a drug dealer known to Jilly would also have known the murder victim?  Months pass for the truth of what happened to be discovered yet nothing is, but then after the verdict has been delivered, the truth is quickly revealed. 

The identity of the murderer is fairly obvious.  The list of perpetrators is very short considering how the victim was killed, so a Sherlock Holmes is not required to solve the case.   There is considerable discussion of “tunnel vision” during the trial, but it seems that the reader is expected to suffer from this defect. 

The book blurb mentions that Jilly “uncovers a startling revelation that will change not only the case, but her life forever.”  This is not true.  An astute reader will suspect the truth very early on because the clues are so obvious.  Repeatedly conversations are cut short:  “’No, I didn’t” and “’It’s over, Jilly’” are two statements made by people which Jilly should have followed up with “What do you mean?” but she doesn’t. 

I feel uncomfortable criticizing the work of such an accomplished woman, but I would be less than honest if I ignored the flaws.  The novel is a quick read with short, easily manageable chapters, and it requires little thought so the best I can say is that it is a good beach or airport read.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review of BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD by Attica Locke

3.5 Stars
I chose to read this book because I have read Attica Locke’s previous novels and really enjoyed them.  And then I learned that this one received the 2018 Edgar Award for best novel.

Darren Mathews is a black Texas Ranger who ends up becoming involved in twin murder investigations in East Texas.  The body of Michael Wright, a black lawyer from Chicago, is found in the bayou behind a café owned by Geneva Sweet, a 69-year-old black woman.  Three days later, the body of Missy Dale, a white waitress in a nearby redneck bar, is found in the same bayou.  Darren thinks the deaths are connected, though “the order of the killings: black man dies, then the white girl” doesn’t fit the “agreed-upon American script” in which a black man commits an act of violence against a white woman and is then punished by the white community. 

Darren has to deal with personal issues and obstacles in his investigation.  Because he has refused to stop being a Texas Ranger, his marriage is in difficulty.  This and a recent suspension have led to a serous drinking problem.  The murders occur in a tiny rural town, and the townsfolk and local law enforcement close ranks against an outsider.  Then there’s Wallace Jefferson III, a local white businessman and landowner who seems to have undue influence and whose bar seems to be a gathering place for a chapter of the Aryan Brotherhood. 

Darren emerges as a credible and complex protagonist.  It is not his personal demons that are most interesting; instead, it is his loyalty to Texas that stands out.  “He was Texas-bred on both sides, going all the way back to slavery” and “What they were not going to be was run off.”   Ironically, “The belief that they were special, that they had the stones to endure what others couldn’t, was the most quintessentially Texas thing about them.  It was an arrogance born of genuine fortitude and a streak of hardheadedness six generations deep.”  Darren had been taught that “You could run, wouldn’t nobody judge you if you did.  But you could also stay and fight. . . . ‘The nobility is in the fight, son, in all things.’”  He sees his job as a way of fighting for the right of blacks to claim a home in Texas:  “’The badge was to say this land is my land, too, my state, my country, and I’m not gon’ be run off.  I can stand my ground, too.  My people built this, and we’re not going anywhere.’” 

The one character who is not credible is Randie, the widow of Michael Wright.  She arrives to claim her estranged husband’s body and wants to know what happened.  She is a career woman, “a fashion photographer, rather sought after around the world” yet she behaves in an unconvincing way.  For instance, she walks into a redneck bar alone and doesn’t understand the hostility she encounters?  As a black, she has never experienced prejudice?!  She is an independent woman who has travelled the world but she is reduced to a screaming, trembling hysteric? 

There is considerable commentary on the issue of race and justice.  Though one of Darren’s uncles believed that “the law would save [blacks] by protecting us – by prosecuting crimes against us as zealously as it prosecutes crimes against whites,” another uncle stated “the law is a lie black folks need protection from – a set of rules that were written against us from the time ink was first set to parchment.”  “For black folks, injustice came from both sides of the law, a double-edged sword of heartache and pain” because “for every story about a black mother, sister, or wife crying over a man who was locked up for something he didn’t do, there was a black mother, sister, wife, husband, father, or brother crying over the murder of a loved one for which no one was locked up.”  And then there’s this telling statement about the current state of affairs:  “[Darren’s] uncles adhered to those ancient rules of southern living, for they understood how easily a colored man’s general comportment could turn into a matter of life and death.  Darren had always wanted to believe that theirs was the last generation to have to live that way, that change might trickle down from the White House.  When in fact the opposite had proved to be true.  In the wake of Obama, America had told on itself.”

The ending of the book suggests that there could be a sequel or that this is the first of a series featuring Darren Mathews.  I will definitely be looking out for any follow-up or any future books by this author because she provides the reader with a great story and food for thought as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review of TANGERINE by Christine Mangan

3 Stars
It is 1956 in Tangier.  Lucy Mason shows up for an unannounced visit with her estranged friend Alice Shipley.  The two had been college roommates and inseparable friends in Vermont until some unspecified tragedy resulted in their not having spoken in a year.  In that year Alice married and moved with her husband to Morocco.  How did Lucy find her?  Why did she come to Tangier? 

In alternating chapters, the two women discuss both the past and the present.  Both are unreliable narrators.  Alice is emotionally fragile; in Tangier, she struggles with anxiety and loneliness, and she speaks of “darkness and shadows” hovering above her “so that at times I questioned the accuracy of my mind, of my memories” (185).  Lucy is more independent but experiences “a slight fluttering” in her ear which was diagnosed as “a nervous condition” (24-25).  And then there’s her unhealthy obsession with Alice.  Their versions of past events conflict so the reader is left to wonder who is telling the truth. 

The pace of the first part of the book is glacial.  It is only when the mystery of the tragedy in Vermont is explained that things pick up.  Unfortunately it is then that the reader’s credulity is stretched to its limits.  The villain’s machinations suggest she possesses exceptional foresight.  The success of her schemes also requires great serendipity, unqualified stupidity on the part of the police, and extreme gullibility on the part of several people. 

Why is Lucy is always stumbling?  When Lucy first arrives, she describes stumbling so her knee “connected with the hard, dusty road beneath” (17).  Later she collides with Alice “so that she fell to the ground, a cry escaping her lips” (187).  Shortly afterwards, Lucy stumbles again “enough to wrench my ankle so it smarted” (193).  And then again, “I lost my balance, falling to the hard, dusty ground” (204).  Alice becomes equally clumsy:  “I jumped at the sound of her voice, slipping in the process, my already bruised knees connecting with the hardwood floor” (213).  Yet one of these klutzes somehow acquires both mental and physical dexterity and becomes a criminal mastermind?

Neither of the two women made a connection with me.  Alice is the demure rich girl who lets herself be manipulated by the insensitive cad she married on short acquaintance.  Lucy has more spunk but she also does stupid things like becoming involved with a man who has a reputation as a grifter.  Both are emotionally overwrought and constantly over-analyzing everyone’s facial expressions, gestures, and words.  There’s just too much needless drama for my liking.

This book came to my attention because it became the subject of a bidding war in the U.S.  where Harper Collins bought it for a reported $1.1 million. It has since been optioned for film by George Clooney’s production company, with Scarlett Johansson billed as the star.  It is huge hype for a debut to live up to, and I’m afraid the book does not.  I almost always prefer a book to its film version but perhaps in this case the film will be better than the book?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review of THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS by Joanna Goodman

3.5 Stars
In 1950s Quebec, Maggie Hughes, a 15-year-old, becomes pregnant.  Her family forces her to give up the baby and to cut off all contact with her boyfriend, Gabriel Phénix.  Her decision haunts her in later years so she sets out to find her daughter, but her search is constantly stonewalled.  Maggie’s perspective is alternated with that of Elodie, Maggie’s daughter.  We learn of her life in an orphanage and then in a psychiatric institution when the Duplessis government of the province had many orphans declared mentally deficient in order to receive more funding from the federal government.

The book focuses on a dark chapter in Quebec’s history.  I had heard of Duplessis orphans but knew little of the details.  The government’s role in what happened to children born out of wedlock, children “born in sin”, is made clear but so is the role of the Catholic Church.  Various orders of nuns were complicit in the scheme to maximize federal funding. 

The novel also highlights English/French divisions in Quebec.  Most of the story is set in the Eastern Townships where both French and English “live in relative harmony – that is, relative to Quebec, where the French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility but don’t mingle the way other more homogeneous communities do.”  Maggie’s father, Wellington Hughes, is English and her mother is “pure laine French” so her home is “like the province in which she lives, where the French and English are perpetually vying for the upper hand.”  Her father wants his children to speak French because it will help them in business but he sends his children in English schools because “’French is the inferior language’” and “He’s cautioned Maggie many times about French boys, always reminding her that they're mostly poor, don’t finish school, and their teeth rot before they turn forty [because they drink so much Pepsi].” 

It is the characterization of Wellington Hughes that is most complex.  He is an interesting mix of contradictions.  He looks down on French Canadians but he marries a woman who “has never made any effort to absorb even the rudiments of the English language.”  He threatens to disown Maggie if she sees the French Canadian Gabriel but has a different opinion of Gabriel’s sister.  Much is explained about him in the latter half of the novel so Wellington emerges as a fully developed character who arouses both anger and sympathy in the reader.

On the other hand, Sister Ignatia emerges as the villain who has no redeeming qualities.  Her treatment of the children in her care is truly sadistic, but the lies she tells are perhaps her most unforgiveable actions.  It is difficult to think of her as a practicing Christian; at one point, she says to Elodie, “’I am your judge, and I judge not only your transgressions today, but all of your sins, as well as the sins of your parents.”  At various times she is described as having “black eyes and flared nostrils” and “a menacing half smile” and “bat-like eyes” and a “grim demeanor, cartoonish frown, and harsh voice”.  Unfortunately, by not showing any positive traits, the author turns Sister Ignatia into a cartoonish villain.

This book is a disturbing read.  Sympathy is certainly felt for Maggie who had virtually no choice but to give up her illegitimate child.  She was young and lived in a religious society which had no compassion for someone in her position.  But it is the treatment Elodie receives that is most horrific.  I kept thinking that surely this mistreatment must be an exaggeration of what orphans endured, but even cursory research reveals that the author’s depictions are accurate. 

I definitely recommend this book to Canadians.  We should know about this dark episode in Canada’s human rights’ history.  I hope to find a book that presents the view of the Quebec children who were sold by Catholic orphanages to Jewish families in the United States.