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The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search
 
 

The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search [Kindle Edition]

Martin Sixsmith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (292 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Now a major film, called Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and directed by Stephen Frears.

When she fell pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent of Roscrea, Co. Limerick, to be looked after as a ‘fallen woman’ and at the age of three her baby was whisked away and ‘sold’ to America for adoption. Coerced into signing a document promising ‘Never to Seek to Know’ what the Church did with him, she never saw him again. She would spend the next fifty years searching for her son, unaware that he spent his life searching for her.

Philomena's son, renamed Michael Hess, grew up to be a top lawyer and then a Republican politician in the first Bush administration. But he was also gay and in 1980s Washington being out and proud was not an option. He not only had to conceal not only his sexuality, but, eventually, the fact that he had AIDs. With little time left, he returned to Ireland and the convent in which he was born to plead with the nuns to tell him who his mother was, so that he might see her before he died. They refused.The Lost Child of Philomena Lee is the story of a mother and a son, whose lives were blighted by the forces of hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic and of the secrets they were forced to keep. A compelling narrative of human love and loss, Martin Sixsmith's moving account is both heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive.

Book Description

When she fell pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent of Roscrea, Co. Limerick, to be looked after as a ‘fallen woman’ and at the age of three her baby was whisked away and ‘sold’ to America for adoption. Coerced into signing a document promising ‘Never to Seek to Know’ what the Church did with him, she never saw him again. She would spend the next fifty years searching for her son, unaware that he spent his life searching for her. Philomena's son, renamed Michael Hess, grew up to be a top lawyer and then a Republican politician in the first Bush administration. But he was also gay and in 1980s Washington being out and proud was not an option. He not only had to conceal not only his sexuality, but, eventually, the fact that he had AIDs. With little time left, he returned to Ireland and the convent in which he was born to plead with the nuns to tell him who his mother was, so that he might see her before he died. They refused. The Lost Child of Philomena Lee is the story of a mother and a son, whose lives were blighted by the forces of hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic and of the secrets they were forced to keep. A compelling narrative of human love and loss, Martin Sixsmith's moving account is both heartbreaking yet ultimately redemptive.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How different it all would have been..... 22 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I cannot say I am a fan of "misery lit", but I think this book elevates itself above that terribly titled genre. This is heartfelt, genuine and desperately sad. A story of missed opportunity and almost insurmountable grief. The images that are brought brilliantly to life by Sixsmith are that of 2 people so desperate to find each other and every obstacle put in their way. You see an unloving father doing his best to be a family dictator, you picture the most unfeeling nun burning evidence that they sold children to rich Americans and you most of all you see a woman crushed by the hatred and un-Christian ways of Catholic Ireland who refuses to be bitter.

Michael Hess's life was dedicated to finding his place in this world. To understand where you came from is so vital in understanding who you are and where you can go. He was denied this by brutal backwardness and malevolence of the highest level. Sixsmith's book is long but all the better for that as we get a real insight into Michael and his search. What you are left with at the end is not just a story of missed opportunity but something much greater and wonderfully redemptive. My only warning is to not read the last chapter in public; it literally could break your heart. A superb book.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener 3 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is probably too long, telling us too much about American politics. That said, it is an eye-opener in respect of what happened to the children who were forcibly adopted from Irish institutions. The cynicism of the deValera government in handing over control of adoptions to a cruel church for political support is almost beyond belief. If the cruelty of the nuns in those institutions doesn't make you angry, you're not human. If the evil practice of selling the children to American parents doesn't raise your hackles, you're not human. I'm keen to see what the film makes of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Unbalanced Book 26 April 2014
By Granfan
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I saw the film 'Philomena' before I read this book, which may have been a mistake, although I am not sure about that. When I got to the end of the book, my over-riding feeling was that Martin Sixsmith was not the right journalist to have been given to job of telling this story. The film attacks the story from the point of view of a mother in Ireland in the fifties, who had her son forcibly removed from her when he was three years old and given away in adoption to America. The film charts her journey to try and find him fifty years later. The book, on the other hand, pays little attention to the mother's story, apart from some detail leading up to the child's adoption, and it is all written from the point of view of the son, who was adopted by an American couple, and it follows his rise to an exalted position in the Reagan government as a legal adviser. I expect that Martin Sixsmith had little interest in a relatively uneducated Irish woman, who was just looking for her son. It comes over loud and clear in the book that his fascination was only with the political aspects of the story - probably understandable as he is, after all, a political journalist and one who was in Washington at the time that the son was rising through the political ranks. The book is 420 pages long and I read on and on, expecting it to be a story in two halves - one of the mother and one of the son. However, 405 pages are devoted to what became of the son and a miserly 15 pages rushes through the mother's quest to find her lost son. Why the book is called 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' is beyond me. It should have been called 'A biography of Michael Hess' (Anthony Lee became Michael Hess when he was adopted). Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I went to see the film and loved it. I bought the book because various friends said I should. I am very glad that I did. I learnt a great deal about the terrible losses endured by the "illegitimate" children who were given up to the Catholic Church in Ireland in the 1950's. The book delves into the life of Michael Hess in much more detail than it does in the film. I learned a great deal from Hess' life, American politics in the Regan era, homophobia and the Aids crisis of the 1980's and I cried often at the cruelty inflicted on Michael Hess by his adoptive father. In other ways the film is much more of an emotional journey - I recommend them both as essential works towards our growing understanding of trauma, especially the trauma of being an adopted child when it is done in secrecy and shame.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking Read 2 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback
I am amazed that only 3 people have read/reviewed this book. I am half-way through it for the second time, having read it several years ago and having loaned it to a number of friends. Someone mentioned to me the other day - "Grow where you are planted" - does that mean 'make the most of your life, wherever it leads?' Easy to say, harder to do. I think that it might have been better for Mike if he had had details of his earlier years, when he was old enough to ask the questions. Some adopted children have a need to know and I think it is their right. Adoptive parents and authorities should not have the right to hide the origins of their children. My first husband only discovered that he was adopted at the age of 17 when he was called up to do his National Service in 1946 and, upon production of his 'short form' birth certificate, was asked for his full certificate. He asked his mother for this and it was at this moment that his adoptive parents had to tell him that he was adopted. The shock that this gave him affected the rest of his life, although 25 years later we found both his birth mother and his birth father and learned all about his beginnings. This was really helpful and enabled him to put the past into perspective and value his adoptive parents.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to start with, disappointing after the first few chapters
I was keen to see the film because of all the publicity it had received (not to mention Dame Judy Dench's performance), and was glad I did. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Vlaamse inwijkeling
5.0 out of 5 stars winter wrapped on the sofa book
havent read it yet, im waiting for the long cold winter nights. Thats when you cant bet a good book
Published 2 days ago by loopy
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed took book on holiday to read only to find ...
Very disappointed took book on holiday to read only to find last 10 or so pages had been removed totally irritating don't expect to buy something and not be able to finish it
Published 2 days ago by Dexter
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good read
Published 10 days ago by teresa mc cusker
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good
This was a really great book and so sad at the same time. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone
Published 11 days ago by Sarah Folley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Now made into a film. True story of a unmarried mother in Ireland having her boy taking away from her by the Nuns and basically selling the boy to rich Americans. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Mr. J. G. Malone
5.0 out of 5 stars VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING
ENJOYED READING THIS BOOK COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN DURING LAST FEW CHAPTERS WONDERING WHEN/IF HE WOULD FIND HIS MOTHER OR SHE HIM. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Toolie
4.0 out of 5 stars Bit disappointed that it spent sooo long on the main characters ...
Bit disappointed that it spent sooo long on the main characters sexual preferences. On the whole a good read, glad that I read this before I saw the film.
Published 16 days ago by AJR
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the film because everything Judi Dench does is brilliant ...
I loved the film because everything Judi Dench does is brilliant but the book fleshes out Michael's life and is a better story
Published 20 days ago by Topsy
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Very enjoyable. Having enjoyed the film, I found it related a very different story but this gave a much more realistic angle.
Published 22 days ago by J C
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