Language : English
Hardcover : 336 pages
ISBN-10 : 1643139304
ISBN-13 : 978-1643139302
“McNees has written a powerful, cinematic, and very beautiful novel about the miracles and catastrophes of motherhood. The women who inhabit this story are all so gloriously alive! Humane, compelling, sharp, and sensitive, The Myth of Surrender will stay with me for a very long time.” —Amy Dickinson, “Ask Amy” advice columnist, New York Times bestselling author of The Mighty Queens of Freeville
“A brave and important book. McNees’s literary acumen is on full display in this beautiful, deeply affecting novel. She explores what it meant to be unwed and pregnant in mid-century America with sensitivity, erudition, and first-rate storytelling. Impossible to put down, this is a spell-binding tale of deceit, abuse, and ultimately, reclamation.” ―Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
“Both an illumination of the past and an indictment of the present, The Myth of Surrender is McNees at her best—giving voice to women who could not speak for themselves.” —Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS and THE LIGHT IN PARIS
“A timely and powerful tale of motherhood, loss, and second chances. Kelly O’Connor McNees’s unforgettable novel illuminates an era that all too many people tried to forget. The scars are there—brava to McNees for also revealing the beauty.” —Siobhan Fallon, author of YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE and THE CONFUSION OF LANGUAGES
What if the most important decision of your life was not yours to make? This vivid and powerful novel follows two women whose paths intersect at a maternity home in the “Baby Scoop Era.”
In 1960, free-spirited Doreen is a recent high-school grad and waitress in a Chicago diner. She doesn’t know Margie, sixteen and bookish, who lives a sheltered suburban life, but they soon meet when unplanned pregnancies send them to the Holy Family Home for the Wayward in rural Illinois. Assigned as roommates because their due dates line up, Margie and Doreen navigate Holy Family’s culture of secrecy and shame and become fast friends as the weight of their coming decision — to keep or surrender their babies — becomes clear.
Except, they soon realize, the decision has already been made for them. Holy Family, like many of the maternity homes where 1.5 million women “relinquished” their babies in what is now known as the Baby Scoop Era, is not interested in what the birth mothers want. In its zeal to make the babies “legitimate” in closed adoptions, Holy Family manipulates and bullies birth mothers, often coercing them to sign away their parental rights while still under the effects of anesthesia.
What happens next, as their babies are born and they leave Holy Family behind, will force each woman to confront the depths and limits of motherhood and friendship, and fight to reclaim control over their own lives.
Written by the acclaimed author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and Undiscovered Country, The Myth of Surrender explores a hidden chapter of American history that still reverberates across the lives of millions of women and their children.
O’Connor McNees’s forthcoming novel, The Myth of Surrender (March 2022, Pegasus), is the story of an unlikely friendship forged between two young women navigating the secrecy and shame of unwed pregnancy at a home for wayward girls, at the height of the Mad Men age.
In addition to her five novels, Kelly’s writing has appeared in The Millions, The Washington Post, The Toast, and in Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology. She has also written for The Boxcar Children series. Kelly is represented by Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. Born and raised in Michigan, she lives in Chicago with her family.
THE MYTH OF SURRENDER BY KELLY O’CONNOR MCNEES EXCERPT
Margie had already filled one of her composition notebooks
full of letters to Timothy she had written over the years, fragments
extracted from the radio static that played in the background of her mind
at all times. But she couldn’t imagine sending one of those. Instead, she
wrote to Sister Simon, who was still, no doubt, telling the story of the bad
girl who kept her baby and the good girl who gave her baby up. “e story,
she now understood, of Doreen and Margie. Except that the rewards of
being that good girl had never materialized, and that made her wonder
about the consequences of being the bad one. Was Doreen living on the
street, turning to prostitution to keep body and soul together? Somehow,
Margie doubted that. She waited weeks for Sister Simon’s reply, but it
never came. Being ignored stung, but had she expected anything else?
Margie’s resolve hardened.
She thought about how, on the rare occasions when Verna was
unhappy with the service at Field’s, her mother went up the chain and
demanded to speak to the department manager. Margie needed to go
up the chain, she had realized, to the archdiocese that oversaw Holy
Family and who knows how many other homes like it. She drafted
her request in plain terms: access solely to any information that would
confirm Timothy’s current health and well-being, and nothing more.
And here was the reply.
Margie waited through the rest of Professor Butler’s lecture, imagining
what she would do if the letter actually contained good news. Timothy
would turn five in a week. He might be living anywhere in the country
now, watching spring take hold in a city park, in the desert, on the prairie.
If she could only know that the people who had him, wherever they were,
made sure his coat was warm enough, made sure his shoes weren’t too
tight. In her reverie she saw a comb passing through sandy-blond hair,
a cowlick, long slender fingers that were a miniature version of her own.
Would she ever get to see his picture?
When at last the other girls fled out of the room, Margie stayed at
the table and tore the rest of the envelope away.
Dear Miss Ahern,
This is a response to your inquiry of February 3 requesting
information on a baby born at Prairie Creek General Hospital and
surrendered for adoption to the State of Illinois. In accordance with
the Illinois Revised Statutes of 1945 on the Adoption of Children,
all petitions, decrees, and all other papers and records relating to
the adoption have been impounded by the clerk of the court. !e
archdiocese has no authority to supersede the dictates of this law.
therefore, we must deny your request.
It was the only answer that made sense, of course, perfectly predictable,
and yet it landed like a punch in her stomach.
“Margie?” Professor Butler paused in gathering her books and papers
and turned to her in concern. “Are you all right?”
Why was it that, anytime someone asked that question, you couldn’t
tell the truth?
Copyright © 2022 by Kelly O’Connor McNees