"A historical novel that will enthrall you... I was utterly captivated..." — Joanna Goodman, author of The Home for Unwanted Girls
AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
For fans of Sold on a Monday or The Home for Unwanted Girls, Shelley Wood's novel tells the story of the Dionne Quintuplets, the world's first identical quintuplets to survive birth, told from the perspective of a midwife in training who helps bring them into the world.
Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.
Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical “Quints” playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.
As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, The Quintland Sisters is a novel of love, heartache, resilience, and enduring sisterhood—a fictional, coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Here’s the weirder-than-fiction true story that inspired this propulsive debut novel: In the 1930s, after the world’s first surviving quintuplets were born to a poor francophone family, the Ontario government turned the babies into the country’s biggest tourist attraction. The Quintland Sisters mixes letters, newspaper articles, journal entries, and meticulously researched facts with tense fiction to reconstruct this baffling moment in Canadian history. Shelley Wood’s colourful narrator is teenage midwife Emma, who’s present for the first five years of the babies’ remarkable lives. The quintuplets’ wide-eyed, devoted caregiver is an instantly lovable character.
Wood's intriguing debut is a fictionalized version of the real events surrounding the birth of the Dionne quintuplets in 1934 rural Canada. In Corbeil, Ontario, 17-year-old Emma Trimpany accompanies a midwife to a birth at the Dionne home, because Emma's mother has decided that midwifery is a suitable profession for Emma. Emma assists with the birth of the five impossibly tiny girls, who are kept warm in an apple crate placed in front of a wood stove. Emma works with nurses and Dr. Allan Dafoe as they care for the young girls round the clock, trying to keep them as healthy as possible. Against all odds, the quintuplets Marie, Cecile, Emilie, Yvonne, and Annette continue to grow and thrive as the Canadian government steps in to provide financial assistance and eventually becomes a custodian of the quintuplets. Through Emma's journal entries and newspaper clippings, the lives of the five young girls unfold as they reside in a hospital across the road from the farmhouse where they were born and become a major tourist attraction. Wood cleverly combines fact and fiction in a fast-paced novel that will leave readers contemplating how the best intentions of government intervention can have dire, unanticipated consequences.)