‘I woke up with a feeling about today,’ Stella says dreamily. ‘Something truly amazing is going to happen.’ ‘To us or to the world?’ I say. ‘To you.’ ‘To me?’ I laugh. ‘Nothing ever happens to me, Stella.’ ‘But today it will.’ ‘Will it be good?’ She looks thoughtful and then frowns. ‘I …I don’t know.’ Peach is nineteen and pretty happy with the way things are. She has her university work, two wildly different best friends, her sister, Stella, to look after and a broken heart to mend. But when she takes a summer job at a cafe in the old convent, her idea of who she is takes a sharp turn into the past. Where once there were nuns, young girls and women who had fallen on hard times, Peach discovers secrets from three generations of her family. As their stories are revealed, Peach is jolted out of her comfort zone. But does she really want to know who she is? Warm and real, intense and provocative, Maureen McCarthy’s The Convent shows in vivid detail how fate and the choices we make ripple and reverberate through time. A novel to fall in love with.
Maureen McCarthy begins her wonderful new novel by introducing us to four women, Sadie, Edna, Cecilia and Perpetua (or Peach), all from one family and all of whom have been affected in some way by the Abbotsford Convent.
Peach is at university and has a part-time job at the Convent Cafe. While her much-loved parents are overseas, she is looking after her younger sister and dealing with her friends’ lives and dilemmas, as well as recovering from her own broken romance – the usual growing up issues. Then, out of the blue, she gets a letter from an old woman whose daughter Cecilia was once a nun at the convent and is Peach’s birth mother.
In this totally absorbing novel, the Abbotsford Convent and the story of the women who struggled and survived there becomes a little world writ large. Friendship, betrayals, cruelty, faith, idealism and the search for meaning are all there.
McCarthy’s story is one of girls determined to survive and live authentic lives in different generations, despite coming from totally different standpoints. This is a fascinating book, written for young adults but to be passed round friends and family of every generation, and then discussed over pastries and coffee in the convent gardens!
Kathy Kozlowski is a Children’s Book Specialist who has worked in kid’s books for over 40 years. Positively retro! She is now pleased to have grandchildren whose literary tastes to indulge.
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