Orphan Sisters by Lola Jaye is published by Ebury Press and Penguin Random House on 21st September 2017. Orphan Sisters follows Lanre and Mayowa Cole entering 1950s Britain with their mother (Adanya) from Nigeria, to be with their father (Tayo) who had already travelled ahead to secure work and go to college. Although initially moving to Britain is seen as a great adventure, "in England there was no conflict and no hardship" and they would "have a good and happy life" there, the girls soon see the harsh reality of a racist 1950s London first hand. Only Auntie Ginny, the next door neighbour, greets them with open arms. They are faced with signs in lodging houses that state "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish". The headmaster at their new school insists that they are given English names that are easy to pronounce, so they become Lana and Maya. Sadly their father dies unexpectedly and their mother has a third little girl - Tina. With their mother unable to cope, the three little girls are put in to a care in Sir John Adams Children's home. Lana tries desperately to keep her family together but Tina is adopted and Maya bcomes increasinly lost in her books with no friends and has to deal with Stan's harassment.
The story follows their lives up to the 1980s. Lana, with her childhood friend Clifton puts her energies into putting the jigsaw that is their lives back together and tracing her two sisters, Ginny and discovering what really happened to her mother. Maya drags herself up from the underbelly, seedier side of London to become a financially successful business woman whilst Tina remains unaware that she is adopted and has two Nigerian half sisters. Lana puts her little family back together and fits the jigsaw that is their life back together.
Beautifully written, the story is empathetic and caring to the plight of the Cole family. Drawing upon black political and social history in 1950s England, Jaye tackles issues such as systemic racism and failures within social services head on, whilst also creating a story about a family that brings a tear to the reader's eye that three little girls should suffer so much sadness and loss but still be determined to carry on.
I received my copy from NetGalley, Ebury Press and Penguin Random House UK in exchange for an honest review but this does not influence my opinions as all opinions are my own.