The Lost child of Philomena Lee Book Club Discussion Questions

The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith is available as one of the Gold Coast Libraries’ Book Club kits.

**Please be aware that book discussion questions may contain spoilers**

Synopsis: Irish lass Philomena Lee is a mere teenager when she falls pregnant and is handed by her family, over to the nuns at Roscrea Abbey. The year is 1952 and the Irish people and the Church’s consensual  view of conception out of wedlock is a rather harsh and foreboding one. For three years, Philomena stays at the convent home for unwed mothers, where she resides alongside many other “fallen women”. They work rigorously for the church and for forgiveness for their sins of conceiving a child out of wedlock.  In addition to working for the church, the women are allowed to visit their children briefly each day. After three years Philomena is forecfully coerced into signing her child over for adoption on the grounds that she will never talk of the child or attempt to locate him again. Like many other adopted children of the era, Philomena’s child is sold and adopted out to American parents. He crosses the Atlantic, his name is changed and traces of his origin and his past are blurred significantly.

Years pass. Philomena marries and has subsequent children who are ignorant about their step-brother and their mother’s experience. Philomena never in her heart forgets her lost child.  After decades of silence and private beratement, one night after a few glasses of sherry, Philomena reveals her shameful secret to her family. The Lost child of Philomena Lee is a sad tale of secrets, shame, love and loss.

Discussion Questions:

1. How do you think Ireland’s opinions of unwed mothers & children born out of wedlock have changed from the 1950s to the present day?

2. Do you believe that the Church acted in the best interest of these women & children? 

3. Discuss Philomena’s families reaction when they admit her to the Abbey and when they later come to visit?

4.  Anthony’s spontaneous show of affection towards Marge and his defensive care for Mary chang the direction of both his and Mary’s lives. Discuss Marge and her generosity, her love and care.

5. Discuss Mary and Anthony’s relationship throughout their lives.

6. Philomena and Anthony both find forgiveness and acceptance of the Church. Do you think you could be so understanding?

7. Can you understand Michael’s desire to be buried in Ireland?

8. What did you find to be the most horrifying aspect of this story?

9. Philomena Lee is a secondary subject in the book. Did you feel that you wanted to know more about Philomena rather than about Anthony?

10. Have you watched the film Philomena? How closely do you think the book and film are related?

Helpful links:

Review on Good Reads

Publishers website – Pan MacMillan