Sunday, August 03, 2014

Philomena: Heartlessness, Hypocrisy, Shame

Before adoption of African children and Chinese children by American families, there was the adoption of Irish children. I'm reading Philomena by Martin Sixsmith, a journalist. It is based on the real life story of a pregnant Irish teen and her friend who were abandoned by their families, forced to work for free at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, then forced to sign away their rights to their children by giving them up for adoption to strangers from America. The time period is the 1950s when it was shameful to be an unmarried pregnant woman.

In Martin Sixsmith's own words, this is a story of heartlessness and hypocrisy.  I would say another theme in the story is shame. Anthony and Mary were adopted by an American couple but the Dad did not really want any more children. The couple already had three boys.  Adding two Irish children, one of whom spoke little English, to the family seemed to terrify the Dad and his boys, particularly the third boy. The presence of the children aged 2 and 3  threw the family off balance. While the children could not remember much about their real Moms, they felt incomplete, felt abandoned and were confused by the abandonment. Anthony in particular, renamed Mike, tried to get information about his biological Mom to no avail.

I am on page 243 and Mike is living with his partner Mark who was also of  Irish heritage.

The book has already been made into a movie starring Judi Dench as Philomena.  Audiences in Venice and Toronto gave this movie a standing ovation in the midst of their tears and laughter. I am requesting it through netflix.

Since the movie, there is an increase in the number of people putting their names on adoption registers to trace birth parents or trace children given up for adoption.

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