The Forgotten Daughter

Yesterday was I Read Canadian Day and if you’re looking to read more books by the tremendously talented authors we have here in Canada, let me introduce you to Joanna Goodman.

When I read Goodman’s previous book The Home for Unwanted Girls in 2018, I learned a lot about a dark part of Canadian history that I was never taught in school. How thousands of orphaned children in Québec were wrongly diagnosed as mentally ill so orphanages could be turned into mental institutions, allowing the Québec government and Catholic Church to get millions of dollars in federal funding. In her latest book The Forgotten Daughter, set in the beautiful city of Montréal, Goodman brings readers into a tumultuous time in Québec’s history and an equally turbulent relationship between a radical separatist and a journalist who opposes Québec separatism.

This is an eye-opening look into French-Canadian history, this time focusing on the Separatist movement and the continued struggle of the thousands of Duplessis Orphans as they push to have their years of suffering acknowledged by the Catholic Church and the Québec government. Readers should be aware that this is a sequel of sorts to The Home For Unwanted Girls so while technically this book could be read as a standalone, I strongly recommend reading The Home for Unwanted Girls first to better understand the lingering issues facing Elodie and the other Duplessis orphans, and why they were fighting so hard for an apology, closure and restitution for their decades of abuse and suffering.

This story is told in two different eras – the 1950’s and the 1990’s – from the point of view of a few characters. Véronique, a staunch Separatist and the daughter of Léo Fortin, a radical separatist and FLQ member who was convicted of murder in the 1950’s. Elodie, now in middle age and her struggles as a Duplessis Orphan. And James, Elodie’s younger brother, an anti-Separatist in the 1990’s who falls in love with Véronique, despite their vastly different beliefs for their province’s future. Through these characters, Goodman brings both sides of the separatist issue and the resulting tension, emotions and sometimes violence, into her story.

The Forgotten Daughter is a revealing look at Québec’s fight for independence as well as the abuse of power and blatant corruption of the Québec government and the Catholic Church. As an Anglo-Canadian, I appreciate how Goodman brings the issues and emotions of Québec’s Separatist issue into this story that is equally informative, emotional and inspiring. Both The Home for Unwanted Girls and The Forgotten Daughter are available in various formats at WPL.

— Laurie P