Review of “The Magdalenes” by Jeanne Skartsiaris

I was so honored to receive an ARC of this award-winning piece from Jeanne Skartsiaris. It’s women’s fiction dealing with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the fight to overcome the pain and loss, and from the description alone I was excited to read it. I also knew it would pack a punch – check your triggers on this because there are heavy themes – although there is a good resolution by the ending.

The Magdalenes is a story of redemption and reinvention.

You will root for the main character every step of the way, as you are drawn into her story from the very first chapter. So, let’s get into it!

This book follow the life of Jude Madigan, a successful plaintiff’s attorney who lived out a nightmare and spent years keeping it hidden. After being raped and impregnated by a Catholic priest when she was only 14 years old, she has spent years creating a new life for herself. She is heavily driven to get justice for her clients, in part because of what happened to her. Despite her personal mission and how good she is at her job, Jude is still battling her inner demons.

She buries her past and her emotions under a solid veneer of ambition, but they’re still there, lurking, haunting her. Will she ever truly have peace after what happened to her? Can anyone ever really “get over” trauma like that?

Just as she’s about to bring her biggest litigation case to trial, a strange assignment is forced upon her. Her law firm is given a huge commission to handle the estate of a recently deceased woman, with the catch that Jude, and no one else, must act as trustee. She could use the money, and of course the firm needs the gig, but the terms require her to oversee the construction and finances of a Catholic halfway house for prostitutes.

Jude fights against this agreement since she turned her back on the church years ago, and intends to keep it that way. After what happened to her, how could she involve herself with anything related to the Church? Her boss insists she complies, not knowing about her past—or the pain of having her daughter taken from her arms minutes after birth by a nun. Not wanting to air her own dirty and painful past, she has no choice but to go along.

Damaged and patched together with anger and shame, Jude is reluctant, but becomes involved with a group of nuns and the prostitutes they’re trying to help. Will she find peace and healing in the most unexpected place?

But the mystery remains as to why the stranger specified her, a litigation attorney, not an estate attorney, to handle the case. Though Jude struggles both personally and professionally, she discovers that what she feared most was what she needed to heal. Every belief is tested, and a lost dream is realized.

Skartsiaris’s narrative strength lies in her ability to create complex characters that are riddled with flaws, yet innately human and relatable. Jude’s journey from a deeply wounded past to her unpredictable present is heart-rending and you can feel her pain, her ambition, her determination with every page. Her resilience in the face of immense personal trauma is both inspiring and a testament to the human spirit’s ability to heal and reinvent.

The book’s setting, a Catholic halfway house for prostitutes, offers a unique juxtaposition of despair and hope, sin and salvation. The nuns and the women they aid serve as poignant reminders of the lengths to which compassion and faith can stretch. And the author does it without coming off as preachy or one-sided. This was a solid read for me and I definitely recommend!

The Magdalenes won first place in fiction at the San Antonio Writers Guild 2019. It also received a five-star review with Reader Favorites 2019.

About the Author

Award winning author, Jeanne Skartsiaris, spins stories about life, digging into the soul her characters while they deal with real life challenges. Many readers identify with her stories, making them laugh as well as cry.

By day, Jeanne Skartsiaris works as a sonographer in an Ob/Gyn’s office. Working in sonography helped her get her BA degree in photography, with a goal to get a Masters in Medical Illustration. After graduation, she was offered a job as a medical/legal photographer for a plaintiff’s law firm. Instead of completing the graduate program, she worked as a photographer and art director for seventeen years in the legal community.

She attended creative writing courses at Southern Methodist University. Her novel, “Dance Like You Mean” It is a coming-of-middle-age story. Also the author of YA novels, “Surviving Life” and “Snow Globe”. The Magdalenes (due for release August 15 2023) speaks of shedding the past and reinventing oneself after a trauma.

The Magdalenes won first place in the San Antonio’s Writer’s Guild in 2019 and received a five-star review with Reader’s Favorites in 2019. Dance Like You Mean It was a finalist in the humor category in the 2017 Best Book Awards by American Book Fest and and received five stars at Reader’s Favorites Awards.

Her books are available on amazon and other book retailers.

You can find Jeanne on Facebook at: Jeanne Skartsiaris; Instagram at JeanneSkartsiaris; and Twitter, @jskartsiaris. And also on her website.

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