The Foundling; Ann Leary
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022
Scribner/Marysue Ricci Books - 2022
Mary Engle was raised in a Catholic orphanage when her mother died shortly after her birth. Her best friend there was Lillian Henning.
Fast forward to 1927, Mary is now eighteen and has been hired as a secretary by Ann Vogel, a psychiatrist she met at a lecture. The brilliant Dr, Agnes Vogel runs the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age. She believes that weak, feeble minded women are preyed upon by unscrupulous men and should be confined in an institution where they can do farm labor to earn their room and board. Unfortunately, many of the women at this institution were not feebleminded, instead they were dumped there by spouses and parents if they were deemed difficult or in some cases unmarried and expecting a child. The institution is located in a remote area and conditions at the institution were horrific to say the least.
One of the women at Nettleton is Mary's former friend Lilian Henning. She has been confined there for having the child of a black man who she was not married to. Lillian begs Mary to help free her.
Mary was a frustrating character at times who failed to see what was going on before her very eyes. Quite naive to say the least, I gave her a pass at times because of what she went though as a child. The novel is a fictionalized account of Laurelton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age which was located in central PA.
The story was frightening at times forcing you to think about what went on back in the day when women were deemed unfit to have children. We learn about eugenics -- selective breeding and removing undesirables from the race, forced sterilizations and the prohibition of mixed races from marrying as well as individuals with mental and physical disabilities.
I thought the author did a good job getting her story across. This is my third book in the last few years that has focused on the treatment of women in the 1920s. It was disheartening to see women considered as mere chattel back in the day regardless if they were rich or poor. I originally started the audiobook, read by Laura Benanti, but, I then switched to the eBook which I preferred.
Rating - 4/5 stars
NOTE: I received an audio and eBook download from the publisher at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.