I am currently living in Cork, Ireland and my interest for abandonned buildings led me to the Good Shepherd convent, a former Magdalene laundry now derelict.
Reading about the History of this building has been an eye opener both on Ireland's culture and traditions as well as human nature in general. Wanting to understand a bit more, I purchased this book and I don't regret it.
First of all, this book is a History book presented as a novel and has the weaknesses and strengths of this category. The story here has only one purpose: Tell the reader about the industrial schools and the influence of the catholic church on Ireland and its people.
On a pure novel point of view, there are things missing, it can be difficult at times to link the "flash backs" and the present but this is not too bad and even if lots of things are missing in order to turn this book into a best seller, I enjoyed it.
Now for the History approach, I would say this is a must read for anyone who has contact with the Irish culture and it helped me understand my colleagues and friends better. Even if things have improved, the catholic church still has a lot of influence here and most of the characters in the book sound real to me, Eoin father reminds me of one of my friend's parents. Talking about this with Irish people, it seems that quite a few of them condemn the industrial schools but, at the same time, tend to blame the kids for what happened to them and this duality can be found on other topics.
Now here again, the analysis of the root causes is partly incomplete and there is much more to be said but this book remains a very good first contact with recent Irish History and the Irish culture in general.