Author Photo Copyright: Marion Ettlinger Deborah Henry attended American College in Paris and graduated cum laude from Boston University with a minor in French language and literature. She received her MFA at Fairfield University. She is an active member of The Academy of American Poets, a Board member of Cavankerry Press and a patron of the Irish Arts Center in New York. Curious about the duality of her own Jewish/Irish heritage, Henry was inspired to examine the territory of interfaith marriage and in so doing was led to the subject of the Irish Industrial School system. She has traveled to Ireland where she has done extensive research and interviews, including those with the late Mary Raftery (States of Fear documentary filmmaker and co-author of Suffer the Little Children) and Mike Milotte (award-winning journalist), as well as first-hand reports from the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, Mother Baby Homes, Orphanages and the Industrial Schools. Her first short story was published by The Copperfield Review, was a historical fiction finalist for Solander Magazine of The Historical Novel Society and was longlisted in the 2009/10 Fish Short Story Prize. THE WHIPPING CLUB is her first novel. She lives in Connecticut and New York City with her husband and their three children. She is currently at work on her next book.
“A powerful saga of love and survival.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A princess must defend her realm from a would-be usurper in this illustrated children’s book.
Princess Dembe is the sole heir to the throne of the Beloved Land, and is herself beloved by the Bwindi Forest’s fairies and other creatures, including the mountain gorilla Abbo, who once saved her from a crocodile. Dembe, along with her father, King Rumba, mourn Queen Tessa’s recent death. Prince Damian, however, can think only about taking the throne for himself: “I swear on all my land that I will either marry Dembe or do away with her….I was born to be King and so I am the King of them all!” After hearing this, the fairies transform Damian into an anteater, but a mistake allows him to become human again. He then gathers an army, intending to take over the throne and marry the princess, but the fairies warn Dembe, who alerts her people of the coming attack. Later, Dembe celebrates with the people, animals, and fairies of the Beloved Land, announcing, “We are one people now. We shall live in peace.” Henry (The Whipping Club, 2012) places her children’s book in an apparently African setting; for example, the Bwindi Forest recalls Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which also has gorillas. However, there also many odd European and North American elements mixed in, such as fairies, wild cranberries, and names such as Bertha, Wanda, and Miranda. That said, the story is engaging, and Henry persuasively conveys its urgency. When Dembe announces the coming attack, for example, the author writes that “The crowd breathed out as if one huge breath of worry.” Greaves’ (Imagine, 2019, etc.) pen-and-ink illustrations, presented in black-and-white with touches of red, are nicely detailed and expressive, as when they show the gorilla’s protectiveness or Damian’s sullenness.
A compelling fable about unity, peace, and pride, despite some clashing cultural components.
Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2019
Page count: 38pp
Publisher: Daisy Lane Publishing
Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019
Inspired by her heritage and research of the Irish Industrial School system, Henry’s auspicious debut chronicles a couple’s attempt to save their son from horrific institutions.
Marian McKeever and Ben Ellis are not typical young lovers in 1957 Dublin, Ireland; she’s Catholic and teaches at Zion School, and he’s Jewish and a budding journalist. The two plan to wed, but their families object to an interfaith marriage. And when Marian becomes pregnant, she doesn’t tell Ben. Coerced by Father Brennan (a Catholic priest who is also her uncle), Marian goes to Castleboro Mother Baby Home, an institution ruled by Sister Paulinas and Sister Agnes where “sins are purged” via abuse; i.e., pregnant girls are forced to mow the lawn by pulling grass on their hands and knees. Marian is told that her son, Adrian, will be adopted by an American family. The riveting storyline provides many surprises as it fast-forwards to 1967 where Marian and Ben are married and have a 10-year-old daughter. Marian’s painful secret emerges when she learns that her son was dumped in an abusive orphanage not far from her middle-class home and Sister Agnes is his legal guardian. Thus begins a labyrinthine journey through red tape as the couple fight to regain their firstborn child. Ultimately, 12-year-old Adrian is placed in the Surtane Industrial School for Boys, which is rife with brutality and sexual abuse at the hands of “Christian Brother Ryder.” Though unchecked church power abounds, this is not a religious stereotype or an indictment of faith. Hateful characters like Brother Ryder are balanced with compassionate ones, such as a timid nurse from the Mother Baby Home. Father Brennan deepens into a three-dimensional character who struggles to do what is right. Henry weaves multilayered themes of prejudice, corruption and redemption with an authentic voice and swift, seamless dialogue. Her prose is engaging, and light poetic touches add immediacy. For example, when Marian returned to Mother Baby Home after 11 years, she “opened the car door and stepped onto the gravel, wanting to quiet its crunch, like skeletons underneath her shoes.” Echoing the painful lessons of the Jewish Holocaust, Henry’s tale reveals what happens when good people remain silent. A powerful saga of love and survival.
Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012
Page count: 345pp
Publisher: T.S. Poetry
Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2012
Cinematic Book Trailer - The Whipping Club
Kirkus Star: THE WHIPPING CLUB
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