Sisters of Belfast: A Novel
Melanie Maure’s Sisters of Belfast tells the story of twins Isabel and Aelish McGuire, who are orphaned at the age of ten and sent to live with the Sisters of Bethlehem at a local Belfast convent. While Aelish is taken by the sisters and the reverence of the world, in large part because she is too afraid to resist all that is demanded of her, Isabel never assimilates and, at the age of fifteen, runs away.
1955 sees the young girls grown to women; Aelish is now known as Sister Clare and Isabel is married with twins herself after moving to Newfoundland with her husband Declan. When Isabel takes ill, Aelish is called to leave Northern Ireland to attend to the sister she hasn’t seen in nearly fifteen years. The sisters do not have an easy reunion, and Aelish’s memories of Declan from their years as children complicate her feelings. When tragedy strikes the family and they must return to Ireland, some of the girl’s darkest secrets, tied to Ireland herself, finally come to light.
The novel is a story of faith and family as well as an expose of one of the most horrific scandals in Irish history. Mother and baby homes, meant to provide a stable and safe environment for pregnant young women, were discovered to be hellish homes from which there was often no escape. Isabel and Aelish reveal what hope may be found when the truth finally comes to light.
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