Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
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.
Told with candor, compassion, and vivid historical detail, The Magdalen Girls is a masterfully written novel of life within the era's notorious institutions--and an inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage.
When her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest, sixteen-year-old Teagan is sent to one of Dublin's Magdalen Laundries for fallen women, where she befriends two other girls who help her endure the harsh captivity.
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Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In 1962 Dublin, there still exist the commercial laundries in convents, known as Magdalen laundries, run by nuns and worked by young women of "ill repute"-prostitutes, petty thieves, unwed mothers, and girls abandoned by their families for various reasons. Such is the fate of 17-year-old Teagan Tiernan, who was accused by her drunken father of having caused prurient thoughts in the heart of a young priest. Twice Teagan and her friend Nora try to escape, only to be brought back by the police for more punishment and rebuke. The future looks bleak for Teagan and the other Magdalen girls unless they are deemed acceptable to enter the nunnery or a miracle happens. In Teagan's case, she experiences a shocking change of circumstance, which handled by a less-accomplished writer might have seemed contrived. VERDICT Using the pen name Alexander, author -Michael Meeske (Poe's Mother) has clearly done his homework. Chilling in its realism, his work depicts the improprieties long condoned by the Catholic Church and only recently acknowledged. Fans of the book and film Philomena will want to read this.-Susan -Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Set in early 1960s Dublin, Alexander's first novel chronicles the lives of three teenagers who are sent to live indefinitely as penitents under the watch of occasionally sadistic Catholic nuns. After a minor flirtation with a priest, 16-year-old Tegan finds herself sentenced to a life mostly in silence with meager food and an enormous workload as a laundress. She's joined shortly by loud, hotheaded Nora, who takes a shine to her. The girls make a pact to look out for each other. They form a trio with vulnerable, quiet former farm girl Lea, who appears to have inherited a gift for clairvoyance from her mother. Both Tegan and Nora make ill-fated attempts to escape, while Lea has largely resigned herself to her fate. The convent's brutal Mother Superior, Sister Anne, cuts herself occasionally and harbors a dark secret. Sister Anne devises barbaric punishments for her wards under the guise of caring for their spiritual salvation: among other things, penitents are made to hold their hands over the flame of a candle to experience hellfire. The Magdalen laundries where Tegan works were infamous for their severe conditions and the inhuman way their girls were treated, but Alexander explains away Sister Anne's hardness with a backstory that ends up undercutting the ubiquitous cruelty of these institutions. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Set in Dublin in the early 1960s, this novel examines a dark chapter in the history of the Catholic Church. The story follows 16-year-old Teagan, who is disowned by her parents and sent without explanation to the Magdalen Laundries after innocently tempting a young priest. Teagan befriends the rebellious Nora, who was sent away for being insubordinate, and their friendship helps to ease their lives of physical labor and abuse at the hands of the nuns. Readers learn that though the mission of the laundries was to lead young female "sinners" onto the path of salvation, many girls grew into adults who were ill equipped to deal with the outside world. Alexander stresses the powerlessness of the young women. Teens will appreciate this tale that effectively incorporates themes of friendship, loyalty, and independence. More important, the book illustrates what "fallen women" (unwed and pregnant) endured up until fairly recently in many parts of the world. Readers will empathize with the young mothers who were often forced to give up their babies for adoption. VERDICT This poignant, thoughtful narrative is recommended for most collections.-Sherry J. Mills, Hazelwood East High School, St. Louis © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Teagan Tiernan and Nora Craven were unlikely friends, but the Sisters of the Holy Redemption brought them together. Deep in the heart of the Dublin convent, they traded stolen whispers, comforted each other, and shared memories they would never forget. Teagan and Nora were sent to the convent to work in the Magdalen laundry, an institution run by the sisters to rehabilitate fallen women. Teagan's only crime was speaking to a young priest, but the rumors swirled in her small town and her parents saw the Magdalen laundry as her only option. While Teagan, Nora, and the other girls learned how to survive in their cruel new environment, they never stopped dreaming of the lives they could have led. Showcasing hard-won victories and a terrible tragedy, this novel shines a light on a dark period in twentieth-century Ireland. Alexander has done his homework, peppering his novel with details of the convent lifestyle and the shameful treatment of the Magdalen laundry girls. Fans of Barbara Davis and Ashley Hay will enjoy this tenderhearted story of sinners, saints, and redemption.--Turza, Stephanie Copyright 2016 Booklist