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About The Book

For readers of Joanna Goodman and Genevieve Graham comes a masterful debut novel about 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—inspired by true stories.

Tell them you’re looking for Jane.

2017

When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession in a stack of forgotten mail, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane...

1971

As a teenager, Dr. Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for “fallen” women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption—a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite harrowing police raids and the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had.

1980

After discovering a shocking secret about her family history, twenty-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates “Jane” and finds a place of her own alongside Dr. Taylor within the network’s ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.

Weaving together the lives of three women, Looking for Jane is an unforgettable debut about the devastating consequences that come from a lack of choice—and the enduring power of a mother’s love.

Reading Group Guide

LOOKING FOR JANE

TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1. Did you know about the postwar maternity homes and the underground networks offering illegal abortions before reading this book? How do these chapters of history inform your understanding of women’s rights in Canada?

2. Due to an unfortunate mistake, the letter addressed to Nancy doesn’t arrive to her in 2010. What do you think might have happened if she had received it then?

3. St. Agnes’s Home for Unwed Mothers is not a welcoming place for the women who are sent there. How are the girls made to feel small or powerless? Where and how do they find joy, despite their situation?

4. The power of a mother’s love is a central theme throughout the novel. How do the women in the novel express their love for their children, either adopted or biological, or during pregnancy? When does that love help heal relationships? When does it cause unintentional harm?

5. The novel also explores the mother-daughter relationship, particularly through Nancy, but also Angela. How are these women shaped by their mothers’ decisions, and how do those choices affect their own attitudes toward pregnancy and motherhood?

6. Similarly, why is it so important to Angela to reunite Nancy with her biological mother?

7. What are the social expectations of women during the 1960s and onward, and how do the women in the novel fulfill or circumvent these expectations? For example, what barriers does Evelyn overcome while pursuing medical school or working as a doctor? What pressures might Frances also experience?

8. Dr. Morgentaler warns Evelyn that the costs of illegally providing abortion are high. What risks do Evelyn—and others fighting for women’s rights—face? Why are the risks worth it?

9. Describe the impact that witnessing Clara’s illegal abortion has on Nancy. How does it change their relationship as cousins? How does it help set Nancy on the path to Jane?

10. Contrast the experience Nancy has at Clara’s abortion against her own. What do their stories highlight about freedom of choice and the importance of accessibility?

11. How does Angela’s storyline illustrate the evolution of women’s rights? In what ways do they still need to advance?

12. Consider the ways friendship and family are portrayed in the novel. What brings people together? What do these examples say about our need for human connection?

13. Discuss the role of secrets through the characters of Frances, Sister Agatha, Nancy, and Evelyn. What is accomplished when they share their stories or secrets with one another? What happens when they don’t?

14. The novel underscores that time as a force can drive the characters’ decisions and regrets. How does the passage of time influence Evelyn, Nancy, and Frances as their lives unfold?

15. Were you surprised by the revelation about Evelyn and Maggie’s final days at St. Agnes’s?

16. In the author’s note, she says that more than 300,000 mothers in Canada are estimated to have been forced into the postwar-era maternity home system. What do you make of the government’s lack of apology or interest in reparation to the survivors of these homes?

17. What is the significance of the title Looking for Jane?

About The Author

Photograph by Amanda Kopcic

Heather Marshall is the instant #1 bestselling author of Looking for Jane. She worked in politics and communications before turning her attention to her true passion: storytelling. Heather lives with her family near Toronto. Visit her website at HeatherMarshallAuthor.com or connect with her on Instagram @HeatherMarshallAuthor.

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1, 2022)
  • Runtime: 11 hours and 16 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781668004906

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Raves and Reviews

An original and poignant story that holds a mirror to the ongoing fight for women’s rights. In reflecting on a dark spot in Canadian history, Heather Marshall speaks to the power of solidarity and of brave women who dare to take a stand.”
ELLEN KEITH, bestselling author of The Dutch Wife

“Marshall shines a spotlight on the unsettling truths and heartbreaking realities faced by women of every generation. Looking for Jane is a compelling, courageous must-read about motherhood and choice.”
GENEVIEVE GRAHAM, USA Today and #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child

“A masterful debut about motherhood and choices, the things we keep, the things we lose, and the things that stay with us and change us at our core forever. . . . A searing, important, beautifully written novel about the choices we all make and where they lead us—as well as a wise and timely reminder of the difficult road women had to walk not so long ago.”
KRISTIN HARMEL, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Vanishing Stars

“Marshall vividly brings to life the dangers involved with operating Jane . . . A page-turner . . . readers will be moved by the courage and thoughtfulness with which these characters face their dilemmas.”
Publishers Weekly

“A beautifully written meditation on the lengths mothers will go to for their children as well as an eye-opening history of women. It is an ode to the doctors, nurses, and volunteers who fought for the rights of future generations to have a say over their bodies. This gracefully entwined story of three generations of women, societal mores, and mothers and daughters stole my heart.”
JANET SKESLIEN CHARLES, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

“This powerful novel features a trio of strong women whose lives are woven together across the years through a lost letter and a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose. This timely novel about motherhood and choices is a must for all fiction collections.”
Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Gripping from the moment it starts . . . Looking for Jane has the potential to remain pertinent for generations.”
Associated Press

“Heather Marshall has pulled off a remarkable feat with this vital and incisive tale. It is at once an urgently necessary read and a pleasure to spend time with. The characters felt like friends, their story deeply essential to my own existence. A brave, generous, capable exploration of what it means to be a mother, to be a woman, and to stand up for inexorable truths.”
MARISSA STAPLEY, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky

“A confident debut that offers a fascinating, often disturbing insight into the state of Canadian women’s reproductive rights in our recent history. . . . Timely.”
The Globe and Mail

“Masterful . . . A poignant celebration of motherhood, and a devastating reminder of the consequences of denying women the right to choose. Fierce, beautifully written, and unforgettable.”
FIONA DAVIS, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

Awards and Honors

  • ALA "The Reading List" Selection

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