The Girls With No Names by Serena Burdick (Review by Missi Gwartney)

2 min read

Rating: 4.3 out of 5.0

It’s 1913 and Effie Tildon lives close to the House of Mercy, but never thinks twice at what happens within its walls. Known to be a place to reform “destitute and fallen women”, why would a well off, well behaved teenager find herself among its residents? Burdick’s The Girls with No Names will follow Effie inside the House of Mercy as she is sure this is where her sister has “disappeared” to. However, when Effie realizes she has made a horrible mistake, will it be too late to save not only her sister but also herself?

Effie and her sister Luella live with all the perks of a high society family. When they discover that their family may not be the picture of perfection, Luella starts a rebellious streak and Effie is sure this behavior is behind Luella’s sudden disappearance. Convinced her father sent Luella to the House of Mercy, Effie is sure her plan to bring Luella home will work. However, once she enters the gates, Effie enters a nightmare that may be inescapable, and Luella is nowhere to be found…

Can Effie convince anyone that she really doesn’t belong here? And where is Luella? Effie must now come up with another plan which involves Mabel, a girl also in the House of Mercy. Each coming from drastically different backgrounds and both looking for a way out, they will have to decide if trust and friendship is worth the risk and their decisions may mean the difference of survival not only inside the walls but also if they make it to the outside.

I had no idea that places like this existed until reading this book and the research that went into the story. While it’s fiction, there were many real women who were imprisoned in these places and never released. It’s hard to think about a woman, or even child, facing such horrific conditions for being rebellious and/or committing an “immoral act”. Narrated from three different points of view, the story is both intriguing and easy to follow. Each character provides a glimpse into their own life, past and present, while learning to overcome the struggles that seem to weigh them down. I found myself longing for escape, horrified by haunting pasts, and desperate for them to find answers and their own voice. I’d highly recommend this book and felt like I was exposed to a little piece of history that I never knew existed.

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