“Secret babies and the people who made them” is the theme addressed by Irish author Margaret Hawkins in her new novel Deny Me Not which tells the story of Hannah Casey, a 40-year old nurse raised in a County Wicklow children’s home who discovers the identity of her natural father and sets about the difficult task of getting him to acknowledge her as his daughter.
Adoption is an emotive subject for many people in Ireland where difficult accounts have emerged in recent years of how single mothers and their children were treated in institutions such as the Magdalene Laundries. The website, www.adoptionloss.ie suggests about 42,000 individuals have been adopted in Ireland since the introduction of legal adoption in 1952 while an article, “Vital adoption reforms delayed“, in The Irish Examiner on Monday 4 March 2013 referred to an estimated “at least 50,000 adopted people”.
In Deny Me Not Hawkins, a health columnist with the Irish Farmers Journal, gets behind these figures to present a very human and believable story about illegitimacy, inheritance, pride and identity. On her death bed, single mother, Lil Casey, reveals that a wealthy landowning farmer, Abraham Stephenson, is her daughter Hannah’s natural father. Lil, who chose not to have Hannah adopted preferring instead that she be raised in a children’s home cautions Hannah against pursuing Abraham Stephenson but Hannah becomes increasingly determined to be acknowledged by her father.
When Hannah turns up to claim her mother’s childhood home, she finds herself living in close proximity to the Stephensons where her presence is not universally welcomed. Deny Me Not has a well-realised cast of characters that includes Abraham’s wife Florrie, his sister Vera Kemp and her sons Leo and Roy — all of whose lives stand to be affected by Hannah’s arrival in their midst.
Slowly the secrets unfold in a well-structured and compelling story that is an entertaining page-turner where the pace is sustained right to the last page.
Hawkins has categorised Deny Me Not as “agri-lit” describing it as rural-based commercial fiction but essentially this is a family drama that many readers will relate to and enjoy.
Deny Me Not is published by Bushel Press; ISBN-10:0957534221; ISBN-13:978-0957534223.