Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls
By Ursula Hegi
A joy to read." ―New York Times Book Review
In the summer of 1878, the Ludwig Zirkus arrives on Nordstrand in Germany, to the delight of the island’s people. But after the show, a Hundred-Year Wave roars from the Nordsee and claims three young children.
Three mothers are on the beach when it happens: Lotte, whose children are lost; Sabine, a Zirkus seamstress with her grown daughter; and Tilli, just a girl herself, who will give birth later that day at St. Margaret’s Home for Pregnant Girls. After the tragedy, Lotte’s husband escapes with the Zirkus, while she loses the will to care for their surviving son. Tilli steps in, bonding with him in a way she isn’t allowed to with her own baby, taken away at birth. Sabine, struggling to keep her childlike daughter safe in the world, forms a complicated friendship with Lotte. But the mothers' fragile trio is threatened when Lotte and her husband hatch a dangerous plan to reunite their family, and Tilli and Sabine must try to find a way to pull them back to reality.
As full of joy and beauty as it is of pain, and told with the luminous power that has made Ursula Hegi a beloved bestselling author for decades, The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls is a shining testament to the ways in which women hold each other up in the most unexpected of circumstances.
How can a novel that begins with a drowning and probes the depths of loss, grief and longing be such a joy to read? Part of the answer can be found in Hegi’s rhapsodic conjuring of the natural wonders of Nordstrand, in her depiction of the warmth of its people and the emotions that move them, sometimes against their best interests. There’s also her ease in deploying a large and varied cast of characters…Nordstrand is full of surprises.”
―New York Times Book Review
“Deeply compassionate…A surprisingly sunlit tale of grief and rebirth, drawing on history and folklore to create an indelible portrait of a family and community forged in crisis…Hegi performs a kind of alchemical cartography, transporting readers to a place so vividly rendered they may undergo culture shock upon reentering our own damaged world.”
―The Washington Post
“Magical…A lyrical meditation on motherhood and mourning…Hegi is gentle with her characters, offering them consolation in their shared humanity…Ultimately transforming.”
―The Boston Globe
“The novel’s canvas resembles a feminist take on those hectic old Flemish masterworks…As Hegi perhaps prefers, we can choose to submit to untidiness ― to magical descriptions of a liminal landscape, to the rhythms of characters living and dying, thinking and acting in ways far removed from our own and yet intimately, perfectly familiar.”
―Los Angeles Times