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.
“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