Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search (Movie Tie-in)

Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search (Movie Tie-in)

3.5 71
by Martin Sixsmith
     
 

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New York Times Bestseller

The heartbreaking true story of an Irishwoman and the secret she kept for 50 years

When she became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to be looked after as a “fallen woman.” Then the nuns took her baby from her and sold him, like thousands ofSee more details below

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller

The heartbreaking true story of an Irishwoman and the secret she kept for 50 years

When she became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to be looked after as a “fallen woman.” Then the nuns took her baby from her and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. Fifty years later, Philomena decided to find him.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Philomena’s son was trying to find her. Renamed Michael Hess, he had become a leading lawyer in the first Bush administration, and he struggled to hide secrets that would jeopardize his career in the Republican Party and endanger his quest to find his mother.

A gripping exposé told with novelistic intrigue, Philomena pulls back the curtain on the role of the Catholic Church in forced adoptions and on the love between a mother and son who endured a lifelong separation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1952, Philomena Lee, a young unwed Irish Catholic woman, was sent away to an abbey in County Tipperary to await the birth of her illegitimate child. Journalist Sixsmith (Russia: A 1,000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East) chillingly recounts the subsequent events. After surviving a harrowing breech birth attended to only by an inexperienced nun, Philomena learned she had to work in the abbey for three years to pay off the cost of her care. She rose at 6 a.m. each day to feed her son, Anthony, before attending Mass and spending the next several hours sweating in the abbey’s laundry room. But the worst was yet to come. At the end of Philomena’s service, Anthony was taken from her to be placed with “any person” the abbey’s Superioress deemed “fit and proper”—a practice condoned by the Catholic Church and facilitated by the Irish government. An American couple adopted Anthony, took him to the States, and changed his name to Michael Hess. This part of the book is riveting, but the 50-year search promised in the subtitle takes a backseat to Michael’s suburban upbringing and his experiences as a gay man; Philomena all but disappears. The much-anticipated ending of this mother-and-son saga is hurried, incomplete, and unsatisfying. 36 b&w photos. Agent: Peter Straus, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“The extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman . . . Philomena’s tale is special. . . . It reveals a remarkable human being with astonishing fortitude and a truly humbling willingness to forgive. . . . I hope Philomena’s heroic search and her courage in allowing her story to be told will bring comfort to all who have suffered a similar fate.” —Judi Dench,from the Foreword

“A searingly poignant account of forced adoption and its consequences.” —Kirkus Reviews(starred review)

“Riveting . . . Sixsmith chillingly recounts . . . this mother-and-son saga.” —Publishers Weekly

“Emotionally compelling.” —Library Journal

“A powerful testament to the strength of the bond between mother and child.” —Shelf Awareness

“Heartbreaking . . . a story that needed to be told.” —The Independent

“Delves into a woman’s grief with restraint and sensitivity.” —Independent on Sunday
 
“The touching story of a mother’s fifty-year search for her son.” —Sunday Times (London)

Library Journal
09/01/2013
In this book first published in the UK in 2009, Sixsmith (former foreign correspondent, BBC; Putin's Oil) tells the story of Philomena Lee, who in 1952 was compelled to enter one of Ireland's convents where pregnant teenagers, considered reprobates by the Catholic Church, were sent to give birth. She was forced to give up her son, christened Anthony Lee, and told never to speak of him. Adopted by an American family and renamed Michael Hess, the boy grew up to become a successful lawyer for the Republican Party under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was also gay. Sixsmith attempts to reconstruct Philomena's and Michael's separate lives, ending with Michael's seeking to learn more about his Irish birth mother. It was one of Philomena's daughters from her subsequent marriage who asked Sixsmith to help uncover the past. Sixsmith's narrative, while emotionally compelling, lacks context and verges at times on the sensationalistic, with invented dialog and narration. (This makes it distinct from Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, where the author is telling his own story.) There are no source citations, bibliography, or index. VERDICT As a film is in the works, starring Judi Dench (who provides the foreword here), this title is likely to be in demand in public libraries. However, readers looking for an objective narrative should consider James M. Smith's Ireland's Magdalene Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment.—Hanna Clutterbuck, Countway Lib., Harvard Univ., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
A British journalist's novelistic biography about an unwed Irish mother and the son she was forced to give up for adoption. In the sexually repressive Ireland of the 1950s, single motherhood was a mark of shame not only for girls and women, but also for their families. So when 18-year-old Philomena Lee became pregnant in late 1952, her father sent her to a convent for fallen women. Philomena worked as a virtual slave for the nuns who ran it in exchange for room and board. She gave birth to and cared for an infant son she called Anthony, a son who would be forcibly turned over to a Catholic couple willing to offer a "donation" for the privilege of adopting. Against Philomena's wishes, an American doctor and his wife adopted her son, along with a female playmate he adored. The couple renamed the boy Michael and took him and his "sister" Mary to live in the United States. Michael grew up a model child, but Sixsmith's (Russia: A 1,000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, 2011, etc.) psychologically probing portrait of Philomena's son reveals how he also suffered from a "secret certainty of his own worthlessness," which stemmed from the pain of maternal abandonment and a growing awareness of his own homosexuality. Michael became a successful Washington, D.C., lawyer whose expertise in gerrymandering issues garnered him the attention of Republican Party elites. Yet due to the fact that Michael could not accept himself, he indulged in darker compulsions--risky sex, alcohol and drugs--that destroyed his relationships and eventually caused him to contract AIDS. His personal tragedy was compounded by the fact that he and his mother searched for each other without success. Since the secretive Catholic Church could not reveal the sordid truth behind the adoption to either Philomena or Michael, the pair "reunited" only after Sixsmith's chance intervention--and only after it was too late. Judi Dench, who provides the foreword, will star in the upcoming film adaptation. A searingly poignant account of forced adoption and its consequences.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101636022
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/06/2013
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
52,676
File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“The extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman . . . Philomena’s tale is special. . . . It reveals a remarkable human being with astonishing fortitude and a truly humbling willingness to forgive. . . . I hope Philomena’s heroic search and her courage in allowing her story to be told will bring comfort to all who have suffered a similar fate.” —Judi Dench,from the Foreword

“A searingly poignant account of forced adoption and its consequences.” —Kirkus Reviews(starred review)

“Riveting . . . Sixsmith chillingly recounts . . . this mother-and-son saga.” —Publishers Weekly

“Emotionally compelling.” —Library Journal

“A powerful testament to the strength of the bond between mother and child.” —Shelf Awareness

“Heartbreaking . . . a story that needed to be told.” —The Independent

“Delves into a woman’s grief with restraint and sensitivity.” Independent on Sunday
 

“The touching story of a mother’s fifty-year search for her son.” Sunday Times (London)

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