“The Mother House” by Katherine Doyle

Book Cover The Mother House

The Mother House

Katherine Doyle
Canambooks (2021)
ISBN 9781777590000
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (7/2021)

“Having a secret was hard. It was thrilling and wicked at the same time and she was torn between excitement and shame. The sisters had taught her to seek forgiveness and absolution for her sins but she knew there was no forgiveness for her. She was the only one who would feel thrilled by what she had done, who she was becoming.”—p. 96

Tugging at the heartstrings of every mother, “The Mother House” educates the mind and the heart with the peppering of Canadian French and Catholicism.

“The Mother House” is a slow build, spanning several decades, with each chapter bringing a deeper depth of resilience, strength and determination from our main protagonist, Frances. This is a powerful story, from the heart of a well-versed author, firmly rooted in the world of Catholicism, and a read that really stuck with me. Against all odds and fervent judgement, Frances rose above it all. 

As someone who was raised in a family of devote Catholics, I easily understood the social pressures and criticism Frances faced. However, Doyle did an exceptional job of layering her writing so those without a similar Catholic background could understand the culture in which Frances was raised. Outlining Frances’ upbringing. From her attendance at church to religion classes and schools run by nuns, it was clear the sacraments, rituals, prayers and power were never questioned. With a story that begins in the early 1930s, Frances’ narrative takes place well before the public’s broader knowledge of the sweeping coverups of the Catholic institution, outlined in movies such as “Spotlight.” 

But, beyond the Catholic underpinning of the book, “The Mother House” takes on the struggles both the young and old face in finding a vocation or purpose in their work. Whether entering priesthood, becoming a nun, teaching or going into nursing, many can relate to the struggles of finding a career fit. 

The themes are heavy, and tastefully wide sweeping as no topic is off limits. “The Mother House” will move you with a story you won’t soon forget. And the beauty does not start and stop as it pertains to the written word, nearly as notable as the story within is the meaning of the cover art. A local artist, who used their interpretation of Frances’ strength, demeanor, upbringing and time period to craft the female depicted in color on the front—making this book a wholly engrossing work of art designed the cover.

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