For almost fifty years, Katie has kept a box of secrets.
It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland mother and baby home, and contains a notebook with details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets.
Following the death of her husband, Katie makes a decision she has long kept at bay. She posts a message on an internet forum, knowing that the information she possesses could help reunite adopted people with their birth mothers.
Soon, the replies are rolling in, and Katie encounters success, failure, heartache and joy as she finds herself in the role of part-detective, part-counsellor – chasing down leads, piecing together stories, and returning many of the bracelets to their original owners.
But there is one bracelet in the box that holds the key to a story that may never be told …
The Paper Bracelet is a gripping and moving story of secrets, lies and a love that never dies.
The Paper Bracelet by Rachel English is something special, a moving story told in a gentle way about a dark period in Irish history and is based on true historical events. The story weaves back and forth from a home for unwed mothers in Ireland and the present day: where Katie, a one time nurse in the home, is seeking to reunite the identity bracelets of babies taken from their mothers, with the children and the mothers themselves.
I loved the way the story was told in two parts, weaving the past and present together. We see events in the home for unwed mothers in flashback and then Katie’s present life and how she’s trying to reunite children and their mothers, forced apart by the brutal regime within the homes. There is heartache and pain a plenty, but the writer balances that with hope and happiness and it makes the story ultimately uplifting. Rachel English takes us through Katie’s story as she seeks to redress the past and also into the individual lives of the children looking for their parents.
Such a simple delicate item, the identity bracelet, is used to lead us and them on a very emotional and moving journey. I was thrown from the heart breaking lows of events in the home, where young mothers were treated almost like slaves, some never recovering from the loss of their children, to the joy and hope characters like Ailish are given from just the chance of finding their missing mother.
It’s a deeply vivid tale made all the more affecting for me, by characters that are easy to love, believe in and whom I desperately wanted to find happiness. I know well-being can never be found for all, but Rachel English made me love Katie, Ailish, Brandon and Gary so much, I wanted each to find resolution and my heart actually ached for them. It is important in a book like this, that the heart break is not too intense or it becomes unbearable to read, or too light because it then fails to do justice the story and characters. In The Paper Bracelet Rachel English delivers the balance perfectly, She gives them all moments of hope to balance out the pain and it endears each of the stories in a way constant grief never could. I walked a path with all of them and at the end, I felt a lightness of being from knowing that even though not everyone is destined to find the answers to the mystery of their birth, the journey they take, is one I was lucky to take with them.
The Paper Bracelet is a wonderful read. Emotional, but also very pleasurable to be a part of.
Many thanks to the author, publisher and blog tour organiser, for the ARC in return for an honest review.
About the author
Rachael English is a bestselling novelist and presenter on Ireland’s most popular radio show, Morning Ireland. During more than twenty years as a journalist, she has worked on most of RTÉ Radio’s leading current affairs programmes, covering a huge range of national and international stories.