Author: Sharon Robards
Opening line: “…Well, Well, life can change in an instant in the most unexpected manner…”
Blurb: Set in the 1960s UNFORGIVABLE is the story of a teenage girl and a young nun caught up in the great religious and social upheaval brought on by the Vatican, and a thriving adoption industry driven by society’s fierce disapproval of unmarried mothers. Seventeen-year-old Sylvia, like many unmarried teenage mothers across Australia in 1966, is forced to wait for the birth of her child in one of the homes and hospitals run by the Catholic Church. St Joseph’s Hospital, is managed by the Sisters of St Anthony, and has never had a girl walk out the front gate without first leaving behind her baby. But the sisters had never met Sylvia, defiant and headstrong and determined to keep her child.
My thoughts: In the 1960s it was considered to be a real shame job to be an unmarried mother, and society was unflinchingly cruel towards an unwed woman with a child. The best a pregnant girl could hope for was to hide away in a nursing home, have her child, give it up for adoption, and return home without anyone learning about this shameful period of her history. This is all very good if that is what the young teen wanted to do, but many of them were forced into this decision.
Sylvia is pregnant, a teen and unmarried. She dearly loves the father of her child, Tommy, and he loves her but her mother tricks Sylvia and drags her off to a nursing home for unmarried mothers where no outside contact can be made. Sylvia determines that no-one is going to be allowed to take her child, and besides surely Tommy has the right to decide the child’s fate? She refuses to sign the relinquishing papers and fights the nuns every step of the way. Kim is also in the nursing home, her fiancé dumped her when he found out she was pregnant even though he was the father. She feels there is no alternative but to give her child up for adoption and is more or less resigned to her fate even though she passionately wishes she can keep the baby. Sister Gregory is given the job of instructing Sylvia and Kim and she feels sympathy for the girls in her care; so much so she is facing a crisis of faith. As the two girls approach their respective births the emotions are running high and the actions of the nuns seem little less than cruel. I was in turns horrified, devastated, and angry at some of the things that were done to the girls, windows nailed closed, forced to use different names; and I was very proud of Sylvia’s resistance. Author Sharon Robards managed to arouse huge depths of feelings in me as her story unfolded. I became so involved with the characters – even being compelled to hurl verbal abuse at the various ‘nasty’ characters and cry with the ‘innocent’ characters. In the home when the girls have given birth their babies are whisked away before they can even see them. To my horror the girls were then put into the general ward where the married mums are nursing and cuddling their babies. I was utterly filled with rage! I was also angry that it took Sister Gregory so long to speak up and that her superiors were convinced that the girls were being treated was perfectly ok. How these women of God could act so callously blew me away. Sylvia was a very courageous young woman and I was cheering her every step of the way. My only complaint, and it is a very minor one, I would have liked to know more of what happened to Sylvia after the story finished. We saw what happened with Kim 26 years later, but not Sylvia. The same with Sister Gregory where was she many years later, was there a good life in a convent for a nun with deep faith but who didn’t always agree with Catholic doctrine? Having had my grumble the story as it stands was totally completed for me; just lingering wonderings about these last two characters.
UNFORGIVABLE is a powerful story about unforgivable decisions and acts applied to the innocent. Mothers being forced to give up their babies and go back to the real world and pretend nothing had happened while their hearts bled for the child they would never hold. They may have gone out into the world, but they never forgot.
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A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.
With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review