Review By Veronica

Looking for Jane is an emotional and masterfully written debut novel from Heather Marshall.

Favourite Quote:

As she stands outside the home in her low-heeled buckled shoes, she’s unable to move, her mind dully processing her new reality. Her mother made a phone call, Father Richard visited the house for tea, and the decision to send her to St. Agne’s was reached by the time the priest requested his second cup of orange pekoe. 

On the one hand, she’s grateful to be out from under her mother’s dark glances, to have a little room to breathe while she waits out this pregnancy. But on the other, she’s heartbroken and appalled that she must be here at all, and afraid of what awaits her behind that heavy wooden door with the large brass knocker. No one told her what to expect. She feels as though she’s been swept up by a tornado like Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ and dropped miles away from her home in a strange place. Everything seems upside down. Distorted and wrong.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

2017: When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane.

1971: As a teenager, Dr. Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for “fallen” women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption—a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite harrowing police raids and the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had.

1980: After discovering a shocking secret about her family, twenty-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates “Jane” and finds a place of her own alongside Dr. Taylor within the network’s ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.

Looking for Jane is one of those books I struggle to write a review for, not because it isn’t good, but because it is so well written that I am afraid my review won’t do it justice. One of the great things about this book is that it is relevant to many issues women and society still face today. Now I do realize the topics of abortion and forced adoption are highly politically charged right now. However, I still encourage anyone to read this book because these women’s stories are worth hearing. 

There are many things that I love about this book. It was great to read something set in Toronto, Ontario (not too far from where I live) because I could make this personal connection with the setting and learn more about this area’s history. The Jane Collective was a group of women who helped create this underground network that provided abortions for women during the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s. It was interesting learning about this collective, especially when I read news stories of similar things happening in the States today. This book also deals with the topic of forced adoptions. Women who were unwed were often sent to these homes to have their babies, and they would be forcefully taken from them after the baby was born. 

This story is challenging because it deals with tough topics and sheds light on a very dark time for women’s rights. It’s going to tug on those heartstrings, and it’s going to have you feeling those big emotions. I applaud Heather for finding a way to talk about these issues intelligently and compassionately. I can tell she has done her research and put a lot of thought and heart into this story. 

Thank you, Atria Books, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.