The hobby of genealogy, of tracing family connections, is currently popular as people look for a place to fit in an increasingly chaotic and disconnected society. Young took on the challenge of tracing her family tree and found herself unexpectedly stonewalled in her grandmother’s generation. Why did her grandmother lie about her real name, her birthplace, her parents? Genealogy buffs will enjoy the details of Young’s search, others the information about the Home Children. These were British orphans, and children whose parents couldn’t afford to keep them, who were sent out in batches to Canada in the early part of the 20th century, generally to be house help (the girls) and farm help (the boys). Being a Home Child, an orphan, or an illegitimate child was shameful until fairly recently, and the grandma of the title does all she can to obscure the facts of her early life. She later has a child out of wedlock, and hides that, too.
After all the stories are told, we have a portrait of two strong women who are at odds with each other because of silence and lies. Unhappily for Grandma and her daughter, the rift lasts. Happily, Young’s tolerance, understanding, and complete absence of rancour ensure that the revealing of family secrets makes for an unexpectedly inspiring read. mRb