‘Every baby’s bracelet held a mother’s secret…’
– The Paper Bracelet
[ About the Book ]
For almost fifty years, Katie has kept a box of secrets.
It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland mother and baby home, and contains a notebook with details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets.
Following the death of her husband, Katie makes a decision she has long kept at bay. She posts a message on an internet forum, knowing that the information she possesses could help reunite adopted people with their birth mothers.
Soon, the replies are rolling in, and Katie encounters success, failure, heartache and joy as she finds herself in the role of part-detective, part-counsellor – chasing down leads, piecing together stories, and returning many of the bracelets to their original owners.
But there is one bracelet in the box that holds the key to a story that may never be told …
[ My Review ]
The Paper Bracelet is the latest novel from Irish writer Rachael English. Just published today, February 27th, with Hachette Ireland, it is described as ‘a gripping and moving story of secrets, lies and a love that never dies’.
Rachael English has been a journalist for more than twenty years and it is from earlier research that the inspiration for The Paper Bracelet evolved. While Rachael was in Cork in the 1990s interviewing women who had been born in a mother and baby home, she was impacted deeply by the conversations had. These women struggled daily to find out the truth of their past, find any link to their birth mothers, any link to their history. Rachael was shocked with the numbers involved and the challenges they encountered.
“Thousands of women were continuing to live with a bitter legacy, and many were doing so in secret. These were the women who had been treated like criminals when some were the victims of crime. Their children had been taken from them and they’d been warned that any attempt to find their son or daughter was illegal.
I wanted to try and bring the mothers and the women who ran the homes to life. It’s too easy to portray the nuns as caricatures of evil and the mothers as devoid of wit and personality.
I hope I’ve done them justice.”
Rachael English approaches her tale through the eyes of those who were there. Katie is now in her 70s, recently widowed and living in Dublin. Katie had a good life but now wants to finally pick up on something she has put off for way too long. Katie was a nurse in the 1970s in a mother and baby home in the west of Ireland. While only nursing there for a short few years, Katie actively hid the paper bracelets from the babies handed over, aswell as a record of dates and names. Never knowing what she would do with the information, Katie kept it safe in a box in her bedroom. Now Katie decides is the right time to trawl through this information and see if it’s possible to match any of these babies with their birth mothers.
With the help of her niece Beth, they put some information, a query, on an online forum to see if any results would arise. Amid the trolls and the nasty comments, the first positive email arrives in, followed shortly by more. Katie and Beth soon find themselves on a very unexpected journey, an emotional roller-coaster, with many disappointments, but also with many joyous moments.
The reader is transported back inside the walls of the Carrigbrack Mother and Baby Home in the early 1970s. It is a very tough environment with very little affection offered the young girls who are there. These girls are placed in the home by parents and relatives, with no alternative offered. They work there while pregnant and following the birth of their baby, many are forced to continue on working there to repay the home for their ‘care’. With their babies removed from their arms at a very early stage these girls are distressed by the experience. It was the belief of many in authority at the time that these girls had a better chance if their babies were passed over for adoption. This allowed them to continue on with their lives but, as is evident today, many of these girls grew up carrying the trauma of those years in their hearts never able to forget the injustice and pain of it all.
The Paper Bracelet is a very respectfully written insight into the lives of the mothers and babies who passed through the doors of Carrigbrack. Although a fictional location, Rachael English used real stories bringing life to these women and their accounts.
“Women were stripped of their names; pain relief during pregnancy was frowned upon; children disappeared without warning; graves weren’t properly marked. It’s also true that women, some heavily pregnant, were forced to carry out manual labour.
To this day it can be hard for women to talk about the secretive system that treated them so harshly”
The Paper Bracelet is a heart-breaking read but there is also plenty of hope and joy between the pages. Rachael English beautifully recounts a history that needs to be remembered, handling such a sensitive and delicate subject with grace while giving dignity to those who will never forget, those who will never forgive.
The Paper Bracelet is an uplifting read filled with compassion and carrying a great empathy. The characters are all wonderfully portrayed, all brought very much to life for the reader. A genuine and heartfelt read, The Paper Bracelet really is a very charming and engaging tale but it also challenges the reader and reminds us all that we must never forget….
[ Bio ]
Rachael English is a bestselling novelist and presenter on Ireland’s most popular radio show, Morning Ireland.
During more than twenty years as a journalist, she has worked on most of RTÉ Radio’s leading current affairs programmes, covering a huge range of national and international stories.
Twitter ~ @EnglishRachael