A Mother, Her Son, and A Fifty-year Search

Paperback - 2013
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"When she became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to be looked after as a "fallen woman." Then the nuns took her baby from her and sold him, like thousands of others, to America for adoption. Fifty years later, Philomena decided to find him. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Philomena's son was trying to find her. Renamed Michael Hess, he had become a leading lawyer in the first Bush administration, and he struggled to hide secrets that would jeopardize his career in the Republican Party and endanger his quest to find his mother. A gripping exposâe told with novelistic intrigue, Philomena pulls back the curtain on the role of the Catholic Church in forced adoptions and on the love between a mother and son who endured a lifelong separation." -- Publisher's description.
Publisher: New York, New York : Penguin Books, 2013.
Copyright Date: ©2009
ISBN: 9780143124726
Characteristics: vi, 420 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

MrFrida Aug 13, 2014

A true and revealing story of how love between mother and child endures a lifetime despite separation. Each is forced to take separate journeys and live without the other, yet each never forgets the other. A life-long questioning and eventual search by a son for his mother. A long kept secret ... Read More »

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Jan 09, 2019

If you liked or loved the movie Philomena, I can almost guarantee you'll hate this book. It was originally published under the title "The Lost Child of Phillomena." After the movie "Philomena" it was reissued with the picture from the movie on the front of the book. This is very misleading because the movie bears almost no relation to the book. The is very little about Philomena in this book; she is mentioned on a few pages. I think the movie was mostly made up, which was a wise decision.

I found this book both boring and depressing. It is basically a biography of the "lost child" of Philomena, a closeted gay man who worked by day as a lawyer for the at-that-time gay-unfriendly Reagan and Bush-administrations. He is not an especially likeable or admirable person. I can see no reason why this man's life merited a book at all. It's hard to tell if the fact that he was adopted had anything to do with the problems he experienced later in life. A pointless book that somehow got made into an entertaining movie.

Jan 10, 2018

This book was such a disappointment. I thought it was about a woman's fifty-year search for the son she was forced to give up but it wasn't about this at all. The book is 452 pages in length and the entire description of Philomena's "search" covers about 5 pages at the end of the book. The book is completely centred on the son's life as he grows up in the U.S., having been adopted by a well-off doctor's family. The chronicle follows Michael's difficult struggle as a gay man as a Washington lawyer in the Republican party during the homophobic Reagan years of the 1980's. In this detail, the book is well written. Michael's many legal achievements are well documented as is the portrayal of the AIDS crises of the 1980's. Michael is tormented by inner demons which the author attempts to link up with Michael's adoption but it's fairly obvious Michael's upbringing with his harsh and homophobic adoptive father and hostile brothers might have more to do with the inner demons than his adoptive status. I would agree with another reviewer in that the author takes a large artistic license with assuming Michael's thoughts and conversations with others (unsupported) and even in describing Michael's dreams (how would he ever know this?) Overall, it was a sad story to read but the book's description is misleading and not at all what I expected to read. Disappointed.

Jun 16, 2017

I loved the movie, but the book is very disappointing. It's not just that the book spends very little time on Philomela, as others have noted. What bothered me most was that 80% of the book consisted of dialogue that was clearly made up out of whole cloth, much of it between two characters who are both dead. Even when one may still be alive, the question "How does the author know what these two people said to each other?" is never answered. The line between fiction and non-fiction gets blurred so much, and Sixsmith takes so many liberties with what he thinks the people probably said and did, that I ended feeling like he was dishonoring the main characters instead of honoring them.

BrooklynLady_42 Jan 15, 2017

I watched the movie twice which I liked very much. Now I will read the book which will have more details.

Another reviewer mentioned "I would like to know why the cover depicts a smiling Judi Dench. There is nothing at all to smile about...". Yes, there is. Just as in life, there are sad experiences and good experiences. We laugh and smile, and we cry.

We saw in the movie that Philomena was a down to earth woman. She shocked Michael lots of times with her comments.

I am looking forward to receiving the book and devouring it.

Sep 04, 2015

I first read this in 2014 while trying to face up to the demons of my adopted past. As an Irish-Syrian bastard, I found chapter after chapter so gut-wrenching and heart-breaking, I was unsure I could keep turning the pages. Once I'd finished the book, I unfairly hoped the movie was at least as good. I understand why it had to go the watered down route it did, but I was still terribly disappointed. So, I'm back at the book for a second time.

Aug 21, 2015

I truly enjoyed the book. Although it was sad, you wanted to read it all hoping for the best. I felt very bad for Philomena and what happened to her and other girls that had these babies out of wedlock and had them taken from them. Looking forward to seeing the movie now.

Aug 03, 2015

Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty Year Search by Martin Sixsmith
"Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty Year Search" is exactly that, the heartbreaking story of the separation of a woman and the son she loved so dearly (as told by Martin Sixsmith). Philomena Lee was one of many young Irish women who found themselves pregnant and alone. Without a father for her child, Philomena's family sent her to the Sean Ross Abbey in Ireland. Here she gave birth to a son, Anthony Lee (later changed to Michael Hess). Anthony grows up in the convent, only allowed to visit with his mother when she has completed the tasks the nuns assign to her. Philomena loves her son but, she knows the fate that awaits him. Soon enough a rich couple from America come and adopt him. The nuns force Philomena to sign the adoption papers, then release her saying she has atoned for her sins. However, Philomena never gives up the search for her son, and neither does he. Sixsmith's recounting of true events in this book was touching, and powerful. In addition the book itself, the wording and order of events, bare the mark of a true writer. Sixsmith acts as an excellent narrator, mixing his journey with that of his subjects. He finds a way to balance the moments of success in Anthony's life with elements of tragedy that define his story. In addition the book does not blame the church. It points out that there are good Catholics (like Philomena and Anthony's adoptive mother) as well as bad Catholics (like the bishop that orchestrated the adoptions). A truly beautifully written book. There is also a movie that I feel is a very good companion to the book. The movie follows Philomena's journey whereas the book focuses on Anthony. In this way they complement each other very well.

Aug 31, 2014

This book should be called Philomena and Michael, because most of the book is about the son she had out of wedlock and his gay lifestyle. A very sad ending which had me crying.

MrFrida Aug 13, 2014

A true and revealing story of how love between mother and child endures a lifetime despite separation. Each is forced to take separate journeys and live without the other, yet each never forgets the other. A life-long questioning and eventual search by a son for his mother. A long kept secret by the mother. Each lives their life always wondering about the other. Their separation forcibly imposed on them. The story of true love and the twists and turns of life.

booklady413 Jul 11, 2014

This book was quite different from the movie. It was more about the life of Michael Anthony. Perhaps a sequel about her life should follow. Thank goodness this type of home for unwed mothers does not exist in Ireland today.

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