I loved Ann Leary’s voice throughout this powerful story, and now I am keen to read her backlist. Set in the US during a time when many women had the same rights as children, the main character of “The Foundling”, Mary, starts out as a woman of her times. She follows the rules without question, assuming her boss is always behaving as she should, because neither Mary’s moral compass nor her self-confidence have caught up to reality yet. This is a story of great tragedy – and one the needed to be told. The ‘Nettle State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age’ was a eugenics asylum (‘Nettleton’ is the fictionalized name of the real site, ‘Laurelton’) which locked up women who were deemed ‘mentally or morally defective’ so that they would not produce future ‘defectives’ (as written in Leary’s Note at the beginning of the book). It follows Mary’s life from a grown orphan struggling to enter the working world and possibly find real love for the first time, through her determination to follow authority at all costs, then to her great disillusionment when the veil is finally lifted and she cannot go back. Historical fiction at its finest.
Purchase The Foundling here.