Ghosts of the Orphanage

Ghosts of the Orphanage by Christine Kenneally

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Ghosts of the Orphanage:

“Orphanage” is a super misleading term.

Quick synopsis:

The history of abuse at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Vermont.

Fact for Non-History People:

Most children in orphanages WERE NOT ORPHANS. Usually, one, if NOT BOTH, parents were still alive.

Fact for History Nerds:

Efforts by the Catholic Church to make religious orders less strict actually led to a massive drop in the population. Some estimates put it at 80%.

My Take on Ghosts of the Orphanage:

I’d like to start off this review by stating unequivocally that this book is excellent, well-researched, fair, and the prose is easy to read. All that said, it is going to ruin your day.

Ghost of the Orphanage by Christine Kenneally chronicles the horrific story of the abuse of children at St. Joseph’s orphanage in Vermont. There are some short detours to other areas but trust me, there are enough stories from St. Joseph’s alone to ruin your soul. The book is based off an article published by Buzzfeed and penned by Kenneally. I truly appreciated the way Kenneally approached the subject and the people within it. Where a lot of books have a clear agenda from the outset, Kenneally at multiple points will let her own skepticism come through even if the evidence quickly clears it up. She is not afraid to add nuance to the narrative and it makes for balanced but clear story.

It goes without saying that for those who are triggered by abuse stories, this may not be the book for you. But for anyone who wants to read about systemic abuse and those who fought back, it is a must read.

(This book was provided to me as an advance copy by Netgalley and PublicAffairs.)


One of my new favorites. A tough subject matter presented masterfully. Buy it here!

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