‘The Paper Bracelet’ is the latest book by Irish author Rachael English.
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 the first book that I’ve read by Rachael English and I must admit that it was a truly charming story that tugged at the readers’ heartstrings.
The story is about a mother and baby home called Carrigbrack in Ireland during the 1960’s where young women who became pregnant were sent away to. These homes were by the Catholic church and the women were mistreated and babies were taken away, never to be seen again. The story is seen from the perspective of Katie, who was in a nurse in the Carrigbrack and decides she wants to help reunite mothers with their children, as she collected the paper bracelets that each baby was given with their date of birth and weight. The story is seen from her narrative with the help of niece Beth, as well as the perspectives of Gary, Brandon and Alish who have spent their lives looking for their real mothers. Another inclusion in the story is flashbacks to the Carrigbrack from the perspective of a young mother called Patricia who’s expecting a baby.
The sad thing about this story is that it is based on true events. Ireland had homes where women disappeared to have children and were exposed to harsh brutalities of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They were punished for becoming pregnant, even though some of their pregnancies may have come from sexual abuse within the family. It’s a shocking read in parts, especially with the cruelties of the nuns and how they treated the women, they lacked compassion and sympathy towards the situations. The different narratives give a lovely slant to the story as we join Alish, Brandon and Gary find their mothers and try to piece their lives together and find their place in life properly. I loved Katie, having lost her husband, she’s now committed to helping reunite families and it makes for tender reading as we join her on this journey.
A heartwarming story that is reminiscent of a Maeve Binchy story, ‘The Paper Bracelet’ is a beautifully written and emotional story about the tragic hardships of mother and baby homes. Written with tenderness and filled with warmth and Irish charm, this book is the perfect page turner.
You can buy ‘The Paper Bracelet’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.