Book Reviews

Book Review: Silent Sisters by Joanne Lee

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Silent Sisters by Joanne LeeSilent Sisters by Joanne Lee
Published on April 18, 2019
Genres: Nonfiction, True Crime
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 205
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

A deadly secret. A horrifying discovery. For over 20 years, Joanne Lee's mother kept the remains of not one, but three newborn babies hidden in a bin in her wardrobe. She had buried a fourth baby in newspaper and rags in St Helens Cemetery.

For the first time since exposing her mother's crimes, Joanne breaks her silence over her family's horrific ordeal and her fight for justice for the siblings she never knew.
Growing up in chaotic circumstances on Merseyside, Joanne suffered at the hands of a violent boyfriend and controlling relatives, as her mother lapsed into a downward spiral of drinking and casual sex following the break-up of her marriage. But the consequences of her mother's messy lifestyle turned out to be far worse than Joanne could ever have imagined.

She already knew about the baby buried in a shallow makeshift grave next to the family plot. But when Joanne came across a red plastic bin in her mother's wardrobe in 2009, she realized that the family home held an even more sinister secret.

In Silent Sisters, the daughter who was falsely accused of murdering her own baby sister will tell her full story for the first time, detailing her struggle to understand her mother, to piece together the truth and to give the four babies the proper burial they deserve.

Joanne Lee bravely pens the harrowing true story about growing up with a woman capable of hiding dead babies in a garbage bags. If the brutality of that statement startles you, then this non-fiction novel will haunt you as the real tragedy has haunted Joanne Lee for all these years.

If you have heard the name Berndatte Quirk, odds are you are familiar with this story. Bernadette hid four babies in red bin at her home. She claims each one was stillborn, but regardless, hiding their births and keeping their corpses stuffed away like trash is a monstrous act.

I found Lee’s story a heart-breaking and tragic tale of motherly deceit and betrayal. Clearly, Lee has lived both an extraordinary and daunting life. I can’t imagine growing up in those circumstances and I commend her for her bravery in telling the world the truth about her trauma and the trials of living with a woman like Berndatte.

As far as the actual novel goes, it was a pretty quick and engaging read. I did find some segments and stylistic language choice got to be repetitive at times but the material is fascinating, albeit often grotesque. Joanne Lee does not shy away from the gruesome details, but as this is her own experience she is trying to convey, it’s not for me to say if they were necessary or not. It certainly does paint a vivid picture and I feel like she was being true to the horrors she faced in her life.