Convent by Maureen McCarthy
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.