Book Review: My Mother’s Children

The people I loved and trusted most in the world had kept secrets from me for God knows how long.

~ Annette Sills


Carmel Doherty’s life is a mess. She has just lost her mother Tess and brother Mikey, her marriage is falling apart and her thirty-year friendship with Karen is on the rocks.

While clearing out her childhood home, Carmel discovers that her mother gave birth to a baby in an Irish Mother and Baby home when she was an unmarried teenager. These places were notorious for cruelty, mass burial of babies and illegal adoption.

As Carmel searches for the truth about her troubled mother’s past, her journey takes her from her comfortable Manchester home to the west of Ireland and to London’s theatre scene. But will she find what she is looking for, or are some secrets best left buried?


I’ve read a few books on the Magdalene asylums or laundries, and the mothers and children forced to stay there. The history of the Irish babies born out of wedlock into appalling conditions is both shocking and interesting, so this book had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to expectations.

I liked the story of My Mother’s Children, but struggled with the writing style. Parts of it were vague, with a lack of description and aspects of the story felt rushed. Yet at the same time there were a lot of unnecessary details included.

There were a lot of stories running parallel to the lost baby, as Carmel battles with friendship, anxiety, marriage issues and grief. This detracted from the key messages and diluted the emotional effect of the book.

The characters were unlikeable, which didn’t make it easy to relate to them, or to sympathise with their situations. The ending was not as happy as I’d been expecting, but i quite liked that, as it made the overall story more realistic and gritty.

If you’re interested in the stories of the lost Magdalene children, Annette Sills’ book is a fairly good introduction, but the main focus is on the descendants and their life.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was given an ARC from BookSirens in exchange for an honest review.

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