cover image The Whipping Club

The Whipping Club

Deborah Henry. T.S. Poetry (Ingram, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-0-9845531-7-4

Set in 1960s Ireland, Henry's deeply disturbing but riveting debut novel explores the far-reaching effects of a single decision. Rather than tell her Jewish fianc%C3%A9 of her pregnancy, 23-year-old Marian heeds the advice of her uncle, Father Brennan, and retreats to an abusive home for unwed mothers before finally relinquishing her baby boy to adoption. Though Marian and Ben marry and have a lively daughter, Joanna, Marian is consumed by guilt. Her tentative happiness is shattered when she learns that her son, declared a "mixed-blood" by the nuns at the mediating organization, was deemed unfit for adoption, and thus relegated to a brutal existence in the orphanage. Marian reveals her secret to Ben, and the couple decides to welcome Adrian into their home. The juxtaposition of the hardscrabble newcomer with the promise of Joanna allows Henry to graphically portray one family's struggle to reconcile the past and present, while simultaneously reflecting on the religious intolerance and societal ills of an Ireland in flux. (Feb.)