Friday, May 4, 2012

Book 71: The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler

I love the Smyrna Adult Book Discussion Group! We just started meeting in May, and this was our first book we read together. I didn't finish it in time for the book discussion but I got it done today.

This book is about the girls and women who were sent away to pregnancy retreats beginning in the 1940's because, as unwed mothers, they had shamed their families. Most of them (from what the author, Ann Fessler, says) were coerced into giving their babies up for adoption. Their lives were never right again.

I had a tough time getting into this book. I had difficulty absorbing it because it seemed so disjointed. Ann Fessler collected their stories and interspersed them with facts about the times, the psychology of girls and women, and data outcomes. I felt like the momentum was off a bit.... that's really just a stylistic preference.

Gratitude was the most powerful emotion that this book evoked in me. I was grateful that I grew up in a time when education about sex was okay, when anyone could get condoms at the local community college - no questions asked - and when parents learn to accept, even celebrate a birth that may not have been, well, completely timely. I didn't have any children out of wedlock, partially because I knew how it happened, how to avoid it, and why.

In the 40's and 50's, talking about sex was so taboo that some women in this book didn't even know they were having sex when they were having sex! Could anything be more crazy?

It took a while to get into this one, because it was pretty hard, dark, and deep stuff to wrap my mind around.


  1. Esther I read this too to gain insight I to my birthmother's experience. It was a hard read emotionally

    1. Christine, thanks for commenting. I feel you. I was so, so sad when I finished this book. And still, grateful.