Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall

Looking for Jane is a superb debut Historical Fiction novel from Canadian author Heather Marshall.

This masterfully told story follows three women whose lives are bound together by a long-lost letter, a mother’s love, and a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose and is inspired by true stories. Multiple timelines and points of view are explored starting with Angela Creighton discovering a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession in a stack of forgotten mail in 2017. Her determination to find the rightful recipient of the letter took her back to the 1970s to a group of courageous women who operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto. The second timeline and point of view followed Evelyn Taylor, who as a teenager in 1972 was sent to a maternity home for unwed women. Women in these homes were forced to give up their babies for adoption. Evelyn Taylor eventually became a medical doctor and despite the threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to provide women with the choice that she never had. The third timeline and point of view followed twenty-year-old Nancy Mitchell who discovered a shocking family secret in 1980.

It came as a great shock to me that these maternity homes actually existed. These government-funded maternity homes existed in the postwar era and were run by multiple churches. Over 300,000 unmarried Canadian women were forced to give up their babies for adoption.

Looking for Jane is beautifully written and despite the topics becoming heavy at times, I could not stop reading and I continue to think about this book, weeks after finishing. Heather did an amazing job writing these inspiring women, the multiple timelines and points of view without it becoming muddled. This is such an impactful book and is sadly even more of an important and timely read given the current conversations happening south of our borders about a woman’s right to choose.

“Do not mistake your humanity for weakness. It is, unfortunately, a common misconception”

On the surface Looking for Jane appears to be about abortion, but you will find that it is ultimately about choice in a broader sense, about “wanting to be a mother and not wanting to be a mother and all the gray areas in-between”. There are so many lessons to be taken from this book, regardless of your views on the subject of choice and women’s rights.

The extensive notes and resources included in the Author’s Notes highlighted the fact that the author spent a great deal of time doing extensive research before and during the writing process. I was fortunate enough to participate in a Zoom chat with Heather Marshall about the inspiration behind this novel and her writing process. This session confirmed the extensive research that went into this masterpiece and two things stuck out to me from that conversation. Firstly, in writing this book Heather wanted to talk about topics that are often only whispered about and secondly, she wanted to spread the message of having compassion for each others’ choices.  

Heather Marshall has written a remarkable and informative book highlighting a difficult time in our history and a difficult subject that we often only whisper about. This debut novel would be a great read and I highly recommend it, regardless of your views on the subjects covered.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.

Heather Marshall lives with her family near Toronto. She completed master’s degrees in Canadian history and political science, and worked in politics and communications before turning her attention to her true passion: storytelling. Looking for Jane is her debut novel. Visit her website and connect on social channels at HeatherMarshallAuthor.com.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster (March 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1982170239
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982170233

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Ramona Porter grew up on the tropical island of Jamaica but now calls Georgetown, Ontario home. Acknowledgement and thanks to the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation for sharing their traditional territory with us.
Ramona works as a Human Resources Manager for a private college group. She has a BSc in Management Studies from The University of the West Indies, Mona and a Post- graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management from York University.
She is an avid reader who shares her love of reading and books with others through her Bookstagram account. You can follow her on Instagram at @readingwithramona. She reads a wide range of genres depending on her mood. The moments spent not reading are spent with her husband and two boys.