Looking For Jane, a review by Di

posted in: Di | 0


Heather Marshall

Simon and Schuster Canada
March 1, 2022
384 pages

Amazon | Goodreads

This historical novel covers a more recent piece of Canadian history but not something that is talked about often. “Homes for Wayward Girls” were run by churches as places for young girls to live out their pregnancies in order to not shame their families. Of course, abortions were only available in back alleys.

The right to abortion is the main focus of the story. In the 1960s and 70s, the only way to get a legal abortion was to stand before a board of men and plead your case. Very few were approved, even if you were a young teen and a step-father had raped you.

The story details the movement of women fighting for the right to make decisions over their bodies. “Jane” is born….Jane becomes a code word, women who were looking for a safe abortion would call doctor’s offices and ask for Jane.

The story details protests and arrests. It digs deep into the anguish some of the young girls suffer, either from having to give up their baby or from sneaking down a back alley to have a questionable abortion.

But, it also has personal stories too. Intense, deeply personal stories involving secrets and heartbreak.

As always, I love it when the setting of a book is a place familiar to me. This book takes place in Toronto, Canada. Many of the streets and places named are familiar to me. This makes it seem real in my mind.

The triple timeline is a bit confusing at times but it sorts itself out. The characters are strong but vulnerable. All the main characters are women, which is unusual but appropriate because of the subject matter.

There was a twist at the end, one that I did not see coming. Perfect ending to a perfect book.

The author did extensive research into the abortion networks which existed in the timeframe of the book. And, also into homes for unwed teen mothers. While I was vaguely aware of both of these, the writing brings it all to life. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel for Heather Marshall. She put her heart and soul into it.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an Advance Readers Copy.

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