Cover Image: The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls

The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls

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Member Reviews

"The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls" by Ursula Hegi is a well-written and thought-provoking novel that explores complex themes of identity, family, and religion. The story follows a young girl named Toni, who is sent to live in a Catholic home for unwed mothers after becoming pregnant. Through Toni's experiences, the reader is taken on a journey of self-discovery and the search for acceptance and love.

Hegi's writing style is both lyrical and engaging, capturing the essence of the time and place in which the story takes place. The characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional, adding depth and nuance to the narrative.

The themes of motherhood, shame, and forgiveness are explored with sensitivity and nuance, creating a powerful story that is both touching and thought-provoking. "The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls" is a compelling and thought-provoking novel that is well worth the read.
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A captivating story of families intertwined by tragedy and rebirth. I love the plot twists and the character development, and a dynamic storyline. I highly recommend this
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I liked bits and pieces of this one, but overall, it was not my favorite read. The writing was beautiful, but the plot was disjointed and hard to keep straight for me.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the chance to read and review this book. Published August 18, 2020.

This review is very easy...

The beginning....Gibberish!


The ending.... Gibberish!

I had so expected to like this book. I usually love all circus - especially historical circus stories. Maybe had I read the print edition it would have made sense - but listening to the audio - gibberish! It started with about 10 characters in the first 15 min and the narrator just seemed to ramble on without even taking a breath. Personally I could not even settle characters in mind before she rattled on a few more. Being truthful this book became just noise in the background for me. I had hoped to like it, but certainly did not. Gibberish!
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The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls follows a series of core characters through the years after a massive flood has killed 3 children. There is a lot more to this story but that is the gist. 

This book could be super hard to follow. It has a lot of different angles and point of view for story telling but they all are thrown together and their is no delineation between them. I enjoyed the characters once I figured out who everyone was. The underlying themes of the story were very poignant and so refreshing to see. I also really loved the setting. There aren't many historical fiction novels set in 1880s-1890s Germany and I really appreciated that piece of the story. Overall, I would read the physical book and not do the audio. I would also recommend taking this one slow so it can be followed correctly.
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A beautiful piece of fiction by an author who is on the top of her game. This book is a masterpiece of visual fiction. The imagery is amazing, the language is rich and the characters have depth. It is told in a style of a legendary tale so it does take time to get used to and portions of the story are dropped and lost but once you get into the book it is so worth it. It is a story of children, fathers who are not present for children, mothers who are lost to their children, and women who step up to be present in the lives of children who are, not theirs. At its depth, it is a story of families.
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The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls was beautifully written - lyrical and poetic. It was also thematically difficult and disjointed in its presentation. I appreciated it more than I liked it.
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This book was beautifully written. It had so many different themes and descriptions, it just wasn’t my style. I think I was in the mood for fun and fluff this week. I just didn’t get drawn into any character.
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I want to thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  I admit in my joy at joining NetGalley I may have been overzealous in my requesting numbers.  As this book has already been published, I am choosing to work on the current upcoming publish date books in my que.  As I complete those I will work on my backlogged request and will provide a review at that time.  I again send my sincere thanks and apologies.
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This book is heartbreaking in a really beautiful way. The nun. The pregnant teenager. The parents who have lost everything. The abandoned mother of a special needs child. Melancholy in highlighting each individual's loneliness. I would have given it five stars if not for the abrupt ending, I feel like it needed a few more paragraphs at least.
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always love Ursula Hegi and this book is no different. Her wonderful writing and complex plot make this a pleasure to read.
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I reviewed for The Boston Globe:

A story of motherhood, madness, and love in ‘The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls’
By Clea Simon Globe Correspondent,Updated August 13, 2020, 12:00 p.m.

Seaside light can make reality less harsh. Hazy and diffuse with moisture, bright with reflection, it lends its subjects a particular glow. In “The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls,” her 11th novel, Ursula Hegi uses that illumination to cast a dream-like spell over the community of Nordstrand, Germany, for a lyrical meditation on motherhood and mourning.

August 1879 and Nordstrand, a small island in the Nordsee, is at its best. The Ludwig Zirkus has arrived for its annual appearance, setting up its tent on the grounds of St. Margaret’s Home for Pregnant Girls in exchange for tickets, to everyone’s delight. But as one family wends its way home over the tidal flats, wading happily in “the sun’s water,” a freak occurrence — a “hundred-year wave” — takes three children, tearing them from their mother Lotte’s grasp. During the search, the pregnant Tilli — a St. Margaret’s girl — goes into labor, while Sabine – the circus’s costumer and a mother herself — seeks to support the grief-maddened Lotte. As the waters recede with no sign of the missing children, these three will grow increasingly entwined through love, grief, and healing.


Motherhood poses unique challenges to these women. Lotte’s situation is the most obvious, but the problems increase as her loss incapacitates her from caring for her surviving child, the infant Wilhelm. Sabine, a single mother, struggles to protect her daughter Heike, who, although physically adult, has the cognition of an 8-year-old. “Lotte used to think how devastating it must be for Sabine to raise such a child. But now — she shivers.” Tilli, meanwhile, is a child herself. At just 11 years old, she is lucky to survive giving birth. Rejected by her family — who choose to keep the twin brother who impregnated her — she is also reeling from the loss of her baby, surrendered for adoption.

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How these three cope is at the center of this book, and Hegi doesn’t shy away from their pain, which manifests in the details. Lotte bargains fruitlessly: “The one in my arms for the other three,” while Tilli wakes to disorientation: “and the infirmary is dark and keening and she’s terrified of the keening and of the empty where her own girl — is? — was?”


These losses are compounded when Kalle, Lotte’s overwhelmed husband, runs away with the circus when it leaves, a betrayal that prompts Sabine to recall her own abandonment and the realization that Heike — “body of a woman, mind of a child” — will never be able to deal with the responsibilities of motherhood. Life is difficult for all, of course, but particularly the women of Nordstrand, and the cemetery has its portion of “mothers who die in childbirth and are buried with their infants — born dead, or alive for just a few hours,” who come to include TIlli’s friend, Marlene.

But Hegi is gentle with her characters, offering them consolation in their shared humanity. An abused wife finds comfort with the loving fisherman she jilted long ago, while the son of the circus’s ringmaster learns in the most prosaic way that his aging father views his male partner as family. Even the nuns who run St. Margaret’s are warm and understanding of their young charges, with idiosyncrasies and appetites of their own. Sister Hildegund, for example, takes undue pride in her fantastical — and frighteningly bad — paintings of the house’s patron saint and a dragon, but proves herself to be more pragmatic when confronted with lesbian relationships among the order.


“This is not right,” she confronts the sister caught sneaking down the hall one night. “You wake everyone up traipsing back and forth,” she says, before solving the problem by moving the lovers to adjoining cells.

Cast largely as a series of intimate vignettes, these everyday interactions are depicted with a sensitivity that gives these most human of relationships their proper weight. Narrated by a succession of characters, they are beautiful in their specificity. The priest, for example, “knows all the sisters by their confessions: Sister Ida is secretive; Sister Elinor takes pride in her body; Sister Konstanze prefers birds to humans.” In Hegi’s precise, almost imagistic prose, such quotidian scenes come to seem as magical as the miracle Sister Hildegunde is constantly attempting to paint. After Kalle “leaps into the dory of the beekeeper who lunges for the oars, arms silver with pale hairs, like a god who will go beneath the sea to bring back your children,” other legends, such as one about the lost island of Rungholt that can be reached only once each spring, seem feasible.

No surprise, then, that when Lotte’s madness threatens another tragedy, it will be their communal experience that draws these three mothers — and their families — together, ultimately transforming them all.



By Ursula Hegi

Flatiron Books, 288 pp., $26.99

Clea Simon’s latest novel is “An Incantation of Cats.” She can be reached at

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Ursula Hegi is a wonderful writer, her words are lovely and poetic. That being said, I was not a fan of The. Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls. It was sad, dreamy,  but most of all so many ideas thrown out and few followed through. So many subplots that were just left dangling.

Thank you to Net Galley for the ARC for an honest opinion.
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Very interesting premise. The writing style also was different than usual - in a good way! It was very well laid out prose with lots of foreshadowing. Unfortunately I did not finish this book due to the incest storyline, which I do not enjoy reading about. I have given this book two stars, only because I was unable to finish it.
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I'm not sure how this one ended up in the Not Giving Feedback  folder, but I do have it on my Kindle and I have read some of it... I do enjoy reading fiction books of this type- lyrical, poem-y- somewhat surreal- yet I just couldn't get into the characters and the plot lines meandered, too much to keep track of, too busy. I read as much as I could, maybe half the book, before I had to put it aside. Maybe I'll take another shot at it in the future, but just now...I can't.  I am sure there will be other readers who enjoy this sort of book. But right now, I'm not among them Sorry.
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THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS is the first book that I have read by Ursula Hegi, a historical tale centered around St. Margaret’s Home for Pregnant Girls and the strong women and young girls who work or reside there.

The narrative follows two separate timelines, one in the Summer of 1878 to Spring of 1880, with a backstory as early as 1842:
’[T]o the delight of the island’s people, the Ludwig Zirkus arrives in Norstrand, Germany. But after the show, a Hundred-Year Wave roars from the Nordsee and claims three young children.’
’Three mothers are on the beach when it happens: Lotte, whose children are lost; Sabine, a Zirkus seamstress with her grown daughter; and Tilli, just a girl herself, who will give birth later that day at St. Margaret’s Home for Pregnant Girls.’
THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS was a heartbreaking story, though in a writing style I’m not used to; it's refreshing to read something different, specifically, a book that puts women in the forefront and highlights not only what they endure, but also how strong they are. 
Hegi does an excellent job blending German text with English throughout, though I admit I’m a bit rusty, I had to use Google Translate for some words, which wasn’t an issue at all. In many passages, the author provides an accompanying translation.
The following is a passage of conversation between two of the Sisters at St. Margaret’s Home for Pregnant Girls that I got a kick out of: 
“If they tell you it’s a sin you won’t do it.”
”Or not as often.” 
“But eighty-five Hail Marys? Whatever did you do, Maria?” 
Maria whispers, “Would you like to know?” 
”If I wanted you to know…” 
They lean toward her. “Yes?”
’... then I would tell you—not some priest.” 
”Oh—” ”You can be so…” “… exasperating.”
 ”Stubborn,” Maria corrects them. “Stubborn.”

Thank you, #NetGalley and Flatiron Books, for loaning me an eGalley of THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS in exchange for an honest review.
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This book has a great premise and the overarching themes are interesting. The format or editing wasn’t quite right though. And this book wound up a bit disjointed for my taste. This was an okay read to me. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset for it. Just not my favorite. 
#ThePatronSaintofPregnantGirls. #NetGalley #FlatironBooks
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The structure of this book was a bit difficult as it felt disjointed. This one changes perspectives often and at least once it occurred mid-chapter. I found it disjointed which made it more difficult to connect. The writing was quite beautiful though and the characters inspired so much empathy and compassion.

This book is filled with sad and tragic stories -- all centered on motherhood. One girl is pregnant from incest at only 11 years old. Another woman watched her three children swept out to sea and drowned. And the third mother in the story is a single woman struggling to assist her learning disabled daughter. I cared about each of them. I was fully involved in their stories and hoping for good news that could relieve some of their pain and grief. But the switches between third person narrative and first person didn't work for me. Each change of voice and narrator came as jarring surprise, and I found myself wondering who was talking to me now.

I never fully connected to this one and didn't really believe the stories that surrounded each character.
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There's both much to enjoy and dislike in this novel that begins in 1878 when the girls from St. Margaret's Home for Pregnant girls gather to see the parade on their island in Germany.  After the parade, readers watch a mother lose three children to a tidal wave in the beginning of the novel,  and she tosses out her alive child, hoping it will bring back the three she lost, and her husband rescues the child, and their marriage dissolves when he eventually leaves to join the circus. From there we meet 11 year old Tillie who becomes pregnant by a relative, and joins the home for pregnant girls.  Even though the novel takes place over a one year span, as we become engrossed with one thread of this fantastical store, we then shift to different characters in different situations, leaving behind the characters that we were following.  I know. Patience is a virtue, and maybe under more normal circumstances when there was a sense of normalcy before this pandemic, my attention span and patience were greater, but I will admit, that by the time the ending was approaching, the novel does make a full circle, completing this tidal wave of loss and grief, bravery and humor, and all makes sense once again.
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While I admire Hegi’s departure from her usual style of writing, issues dealing with more modern times in Germany, I found this story of motherhood and loss to meander. Focusing on three mothers in the mid 1800’s, Hegi has chosen an 11-year old impregnated by her twin brother who is forced to go to a Catholic home for unwed mothers, Sabine who is mother to a mentally handicapped daughter and Lotte, who goes to live at the Catholic home for unwed mothers after three of her children drowned in a freak wave. There is a lot of compassion in the writing and like her outstanding book Stones from the River, misfits are central to the story. Where Trudi the dwarf in Stones from the River gripped me in empathy from the beginning, I was unable to get caught up emotionally in this story.
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