Factory Girls

Algonquin. Nov. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781643752457. pap. $17.99. F
It’s 1994, just before the Irish peace agreement, and 18-year-old Maeve Murray is waiting for her life to begin. More specifically, she is awaiting exam results that will confirm her acceptance to university and provide an escape from her Northern Ireland hometown and the violence endemic of the times. She will also leave behind her family, still grieving the tragic death of her older sister. So Maeve considers herself fortunate when she and her two best friends land summer jobs at a shirt factory and find cheap lodging across the street. The work is grueling, as Maeve is assigned to the ironing station where she is on her feet steam-pressing hundreds of shirts a day. But the pay will help fund her university expenses, and the summer will open the girls’ eyes to the other side of the conflict and to the dodgy business practices condoned by both sides.
VERDICT From the author of Big Girl, Small Town, this novel is a wonder; the heroine is cheeky, the humor dark, the dialect thick, the sorrow palpable. Fans of Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast and television’s Derry Girls will find much to love.
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