The Forgotten Daughter

Written by Joanna Goodman
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Revolving around the 1970 to 1990s French Canadian separatist movement and the plight of the 1950s Duplessis orphans, this novel makes it all personal and so achieves a deeper understanding of historical events.

Véronique Fortin has grown up with her father in prison—serving a sentence for his part in the murder of hostage Pierre LaPorte in 1970. She comes of age as an embittered separatist herself, and living dangerously as a smuggler of cigarettes and marijuana. Journalist James Phénix enters her life, looking for an interview with her father, but with his own story to tell— that of his older sister Elodie, who was placed in an orphanage which in the 1950s converted to a mental hospital, producing incalculable suffering for Elodie and five thousand other orphans via an act of state, the Catholic church, and the medical establishment of Quebec province. James and Véronique begin a turbulent affair, while the two women find a deep and loving friendship through their tribulations. Each seeks justice in her own way.

This is a rare novel that the reader may find feels like living beside real individuals rather than fictional characters. All are flawed, struggling and full of life, conflict, love, heartbreak and finally, in a most satisfying conclusion: triumph.