The Magdalen Girls

Set in 1962 in Dublin, Ireland, The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander revolves around three girls from different families committed by their parents to life at the Sisters of the Holy Redemption convent. Teagan Tiernan is accused of seducing a priest, Nora Craven is believed to have thrown herself at the boys, and Lea is a bit odd and had no place to live with her stepfather once her mother died. Denied contact with the outside world, forced to work in the hot and humid laundry with the other Magdalens or repair torn lace, the girls form an alliance and plot to escape their holy prison, but their keepers are diligent in their endeavors to flush the sins from these new charges.

Filled with authentic details, Alexander's story evolves through multiple voices, including that of the Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has her own past sins to atone for and who believes punishment is the best way to show love. As the girls' friendship progresses and their desperation to escape grows, the story quickens, racing toward an ending that is both incredibly sad and hopeful. Because the novel is historically accurate (the last Magdalen laundry closed in 1996), the events depicted are particularly distressing, and readers will be engrossed and horrified by what the Catholic Church and other entities did to rehabilitate "fallen" women, who needed the grace of God to be saved from their sinful lives, no matter how true or untrue. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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