A bestseller in the UK, this moving debut novel is a modern Philomena story of love, both lost and found.
Secrets can’t last forever. . . .
In a crumbling mansion in a small Irish village in County Wicklow, two elderly sisters, Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan, live alone in Roscarbury Hall with their secrets, memories, and mutual hatred. Long estranged, the two communicate only by terse notes. But when the sisters are threatened with bankruptcy, Ella defies Roberta’s wishes and converts the mansion's old ballroom into a café.
Much to Roberta’s displeasure, the café is a hit and the sisters are reluctantly drawn back into the village life they abandoned decades ago. But gossip has a long life. As the local convent comes under scrutiny, the O’Callaghan sisters find themselves caught up in an adoption scandal that dates back to the 1960s and spreads all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
Only by overcoming their enmity and facing up to the past can they face the future together—but can they finally put their differences behind them?
After 50 years of resentment and grief, unraveled family secrets are rewoven into a bittersweet truth in this poignant debut novel from Irish journalist O'Laughlin. To save her family's languishing Irish estate, Ella O'Callaghan opens the Ballroom Caf against her sister Roberta O'Callaghan's objections: "Give up now for all our sakes." The reclusive sisters of Roscarbury Hall haven't spoken since the late 1950s, living together without speaking, communicating only through written notes. Into this tension walks Debbie Kading, an American woman looking for her biological mother. Ella and Debbie bond over the caf and life's cruel turns. But when Debbie's search hits a dead end at a local convent, she takes her story to national radio and inadvertently exhumes a near-forgotten Irish adoption scandal. The caf and Roscarbury bloom with the publicity, but so does the bitterness between Ella and Roberta, still determined to cling to their grudges and guilt. The truth, like Roscarbury Hall, is at first "a sorry pile... long neglected." Silence and hope are common threads to both personal and national tragedies in this story. Making use of her experience reporting the actual adoption scandal in which tens of thousands of babies were sold off by nuns O'Laughlin metes out revelations, both painful and redeeming, in this warm, patient debut.
The story moved a bit slow but characters were interesting and I enjoyed the setting. The main plot and the ending were sad but it reflected realities of life.
Lately I have little time to myself, but when I do I enjoy reading a few chapters of a well written book. The characters were realistic and I experienced their emotions- pain, frustration, happiness, regret, and great sorrow for the years lost. I will read more from this author.