Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

by Julie Kibler

Overview: In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.

A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she'd let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.

Deanna Boe (12/07/19): For those of you who have read my reviews you might not know I recently celebrated my 78th birthday. I mention this only because of the topic discussed in this novel, unwed girls in 1933, isn’t too far from 1941, the year I was born. This is a book about young girls who became pregnant and were not married and how they could become “outcasts” in our society. It is a far cry from our society today who often has couples marrying long after they have had their first or even their second child – or not at all. When I grew up young couples either married as quickly as possible or the girl was sent away to visit “relatives” which was actually a “home for unwed mothers.” For those who did marry the “joke” was the first baby could arrive at any time but future babies took the usual nine months. I am only mentioning all of this because it shows how customs have changed and the stigma that use to be present isn’t true today.

This is a story based on a true home that existed for unwed girls in Arlington, Texas. The cemetery that is mentioned in the book still exists and it is what inspired the author to research and write this book. It is a story that needs to be told of what happened to these “fallen” girls and their lives. Unfortunately I feel it was somewhat confusing with the back and forth from the present time to the past period being discussed. It could have gone further into the lives of the girls back then; in short the potential was there but left me wanting more.

Interesting enough the storyline that is found on the inside of the cover states how this novel “explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin and the paths we take to return to ourselves.” Even this short synopsis obviously is referring to the girls who have been lead to ruin with no reference to the men who got them into this situation. As we “women” well know “men” can walk away from this “problem” whereas the woman (usually a young girl) can not. Is the answer today better concerning this situation? Is it no longer a stigma? This book had lots of potential but left me feeling unsatisfied with her writing.
Rating: ***

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