Title/Author: The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
In a nutshell (Publisher):
A beautiful tale of hope, courage, and sisterhood—inspired by the real House of Mercy and the girls confined there for daring to break the rules.
Growing up in New York City in the 1910s, Luella and Effie Tildon realize that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen elder sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases. Her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone.
Effie suspects her father has sent Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s own escape seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on their tenuous friendship to survive.
Home for Unwanted Girls meets The Dollhouse in this atmospheric, heartwarming story that explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives—and secrets—of the girls who stayed there.
Published: Jan 07, 2020
My verdict: A compelling, heart-breaking read about love, courage and survival
1900’s. New York.
A twelve-year-old girl, Effie, was in desperate search for her sister, Luella, after believing that her sister had been sent away to the House of Mercy, a workhouse for wayward girls, by their father for fear that she’ll disclose his secret.
Effie’s sheltered upbringing didn’t prepare her for what was in store for her at the House of Mercy where ‘immoral’ girls were imprisoned, overworked, enslaved and abused. There she befriended two girls, Mable and Edna, who took her under their wing when they deemed her trustworthy.
This novel was told from three different perspectives – Effie, Mable and Jeanne, Effie’s mother.
Two very different girls, Mable and Effie, led very different lives, and brought up in very different conditions, both loved by their families but in very different ways. Life toughened them and brought them together.
Mabel’s story was the most compelling of the three, yet toughest to read. It broke my heart to see her suffer. She was pregnant when she lost her mother and she had no family members to rely on; she was living hand to mouth. Nothing in her life had been easy. If I didn’t know her story, and only read of her crime reported in the papers, I would’ve judged and cursed her for what she did. It also made me think, should she be punished for what she did given the circumstances she was in?
On the other hand, Effie was born with a silver spoon and had always been protected by her family, especially her sister. But having left the comforts of her home in search for her sister, she soon came to realize that life can be harsh and cruel. Being bullied at the House of Mercy, she began to learn that survival was the only way she could get herself out of the wretched place, even if it meant betraying the only person who had helped her escape.
Jeanne, mother of Effie and Luella, was portrayed as a compliant and dutiful wife and mother. The girls adored her until they saw those qualities as weaknesses. Jeanne blamed herself for her missing girls and her broken household. But as we get to know her, we’ll see that it was from her that her girls inherited their resilience and strength.
This book surprised me in many ways. First, I expected to like it, but I didn’t. I LOVED IT. Second, I didn’t expect it to make me so emotional. But it did. Third, I never expected the twists. But it had.
The characters, especially Mable, and the plot propelled the novel. I also enjoyed reading about the lives of the Romani people (referred to as ‘gypsies’ by the author for historical accuracy), during that time period, who were seen as ‘ignorant’and ‘dishonest’ people.
That said, the title, ‘The Girls with No Names’ would’ve been more apt if it were a story about the 3 girls – Effie, Mable and Edna and their lives in the Mercy House. So if you plan to read this, don’t expect to read much about the House of Mercy. It covered maybe 20% of the book? But it didn’t deter me from enjoying the novel.
This book is about family and friendship, bravery and survival, hope and courage, trust, compassion and living as a woman in the 1900s. It also covered historical events such as the suffragette movement, a shirtwaist fire (which I believe was the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. I googled lol), laundries (workhouses run by churches), the contrasting lives of the poor and the rich, and the shunned and discriminated.
Overall, a compelling, emotional read. If you’re one for a slow-paced historical fiction, this one’s for you. If you’re a sensitive reader like me, be sure to have a box of tissue by your side.Tweet
Thank you Harlequin Mira for the invitation to read this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to read it? Please share with me your thoughts!
Meanwhile, stay safe and well! Happy reading!