In Deborah Henry’s compelling literary novel, THE WHIPPING CLUB, it’s the late 1950’s in Dublin, Ireland and a young Catholic teacher meets and falls in love with a young Jewish Journalist and finds herself carrying his child out of wedlock. Marian plans on telling Ben but because of their vastly different backgrounds and his mother’s obvious displeasure at his even dating a woman who isn’t Jewish, she agrees to her Uncle Priest’s plan to go away to “a gorgeous spot down in the country” where Marian can have her baby and give it up for adoption to an American couple and no one will ever know.

…enlightening and captivating…

Ten years later Marian and Ben are married with another child and Marian have never spoken to anyone of the child she gave away and her time with the nuns. And though on the outside everything looks normal and happy, the consequences for this decision is now going to have to be faced and the horrors of Marian’s time at the Castleboro Mother Baby Home will pale in comparison to what she will learn her first born son has suffered in the State supported Catholic institutions common at that time in Ireland. Will she be able to save her son? Will her family be able to sustain the secrets of the past? Will Marian learn to forgive, not only those in authority but herself as well?

Though sometimes convoluted, Ms. Henry’s graphic portrayal of Ireland’s notorious handling of those society deemed shameful at the time and the complexities faced by interfaith marriages is enlightening and captivating. I really liked the authentic usage of Irish slang and the culture of Dublin in the late 50’s and 60’s; but I thought that there were too many side stories mentioned in the book that were brought up and never went anywhere (i.e., the troubles in the north for instance) and the jumping from current times to back stories made it hard to follow at times.


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About the Reviewer

Sue Dever
Susan, a History major, minoring in English in school, has always found reading to be one of her most favorite things to do. Curling up on the couch with her two labradoodles on either side of her with a good book is her ideal day. That is when she is not being a mother, grandmother, Vice President of the Board of Directors for her local Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center. She is a retired Administrator with the Department of the Navy. Her administrative skills have been put to the test these past few years as she has juggled some very personnel issues, the death of her beloved husband and best friend; the cold case investigation and subsequent murder trial of her step daughter who went missing in 1996, all the while playing a major role in helping a struggling organization get back on the right track so that it can assist victims of rape and domestic violence in her community. Through the dark days her faith sustains her and left her stronger, knowing God is not finished with her yet.