This book surprised me in many ways! Jee reviews a compelling, moving, tear-jerker, #TheGirlsWithNoNames by @SerenaBurdick @HarlequinBooks @NetGalley #NetGalley #eARC #historicalfiction #generalfiction

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.

Pages: 336

Published: Jan 07, 2020

My verdict: A compelling, heart-breaking read about love, courage and survival

My thoughts:

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.

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!

16 Comments Add yours

  1. I read this one and loved it, too, Jee! It definitely was so surprising and heartfelt! I’m happy you found it memorable also!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! How are you doing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am pretty good, Jee! Keeping so busy working from home. How are you and your family? ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        We’re doing ok too 🙂 just, my kids drive me nuts some days 😅

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous review, Jee. I’m adding this one to my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Stephen! I hope you enjoy’ll enjoy it too! I think it’s on sale on Kindle now! Do you read on Kindle?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I do read on Kindle. I’ll definitely try and check it out!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Rosie Amber says:

    I think I might like this book too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I think you might too, Rosie!


  4. nsfordwriter says:

    Excellent review Jee! Did you get through a whole box of tissues?! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, NS! Hahaha no…not the whole box LOL Just that a box is convenient and you can pull out those tissues anytime LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rae Reads says:

    Terrific review. It sounds like a real tear-jerker.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Rae! Yes, it is… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Brilliant review, Jee. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      TQ, Scarlett! xoxo


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