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The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and A Fifty-Year Search

366 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230744271
ISBN-10: 0230744273
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Martin Sixsmith was born in Cheshire and educated at Oxford, Harvard and the Sorbonne. From 1980 to 1997 he worked for the BBC, as the Corporation's correspondent in Moscow, Washington, Brussels and Warsaw. From 1997 to 2002 he worked for the British Government as Director of Communications. He is now a writer, presenter and journalist. His previous books are The Litvinenko File, Moscow Coup: The Death of the Soviet System and two novels, Spin and I Heard Lenin Laugh.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (October 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230744273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230744271
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (366 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

350 of 377 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just finished reading the 18 reader reviews of "The Lost Child of Philomena", before writing my own review of the book. And I can't figure out if everybody reviewing this book read the same book. About half of the reviewers referred to the book as mostly about Philomena, an Irish "Magdalene", torn apart from her child after raising him for three years in a home for unwed mothers in Ireland. The others appeared to have read a different book -and the same one I read - which is mostly about the child, Michael Hess, who was adopted by an American couple in the mid-1950's. The story is mostly about HIS life in the US and his growing up with the angst that adopted children sometimes have about their origins, as well as his coming to terms about his sexuality and life in college and law school and life in Washington DC as an official at the Reagen and HW Bush administrations and then at the Republican National Committee. Only at the end were Martin Sixsmith and Philomena brought back into the story.

Okay, that's not a problem for the purchaser and reader of the book, now retitled "Philomena: A Mother, A Son, and A 50 Year Search", as long as s/he knows in advance that's NOT what the book is about. This book is about 75% about Michael, his life, and his family - which IS very interesting - and about 25% about Irish shaming of young pregnant women, the eventual "selling" of their babies, and Philomena's search for her given-up child. I am going to see the movie, starring Dame Judi Dench this weekend, and I'll bet that the movie is more about Philomena than her child.

I point this out because the movie marketers seem to have taken a book - more about the son - and turned it around and made the movie more about the mother, and then tried to rebrand the book to align with the movie.
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153 of 169 people found the following review helpful By jocelyn on April 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Philomena Lee represents thousands of women who might otherwise have lived fruitful lives and their children might have otherwise given Ireland educators, musicians, scientists, doctors, writers, productive happy people. The Catholic Church took all that away from its own country that supported it and was too loyal. The nuns and priests again were above the law, and were responsible for many innocent people living through tortuous frustration, thinking they had done something wrong, they were being punishes for their "sins." Young Michael/Andrew has memories of his mother, but feels as though he never belonged anywhere. His life may have been much different had the nuns at the Abbey treated Philomena with humaneness and respect, and maybe just a little love for God's "image and likeness." This search for the son and mother was well researched and very well written. I couldn't leave the book alone. I had to remind myself often that this is a true story. I could picture the roads in that part of Ireland and the old ruins since I've recently been to Tipperary. Now I want to return just to see the places Martin Sixsmith writes about. I also need to research some of the Nixon-Reagan years as this will help me understand how Michael lived during those conservative, stringent times. The photographs in the book are impressive. Thank you, Mr. Sixsmith, for including them.

I have recommended this book to many people. This needs to be known!
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113 of 127 people found the following review helpful By A. Hux on June 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The adoption process run in Ireland by Catholic Authorities sold children for money, without regard for the women and their children, effectively exploiting Mothers and their children whose lives were forever affected by the inhumane deception and cruelty - State & Church benefited financially. Secrecy, lies and illegal practices were the order of the day at Sean Ross Abbey fully supported by strong political governmental connections.

"The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" by Michael Sixsmith is a tragically true story. At first I hesitated to buy it, 451 pages long, but once I started to read I couldn't put it down. Mike/Anthony Lee searched for years. He felt a strong connection with his Irish roots and hoped one day his Mother, Philomena Lee, might find him.

Women victims in these Prison type Religious Institutions served as slaves and used to breast feed their children (cost saving for the Convent) and then when no longer needed thrown out without any guidance, counseling or meaningful support, which made way for more inmates. It's a wonder that any of these women and their children survived.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Swirls on January 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Philomena Lee is young, single and pregnant. She is living in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1952. And she is living with the shame, humiliation and degradation that her pregnancy brings at the hands of the Irish Catholic nuns.

Martin Sixsmith’s initial chapters concerning Philomena’s plight are poignant in the extreme. The heartfelt narrative delivers us to the Abbey where we become that frightened, cowering girl. We know the anguish she is going through, we bear witness to the ostracisation and indoctrination, so we understand why she signed those adoption papers despite loving her son so dearly.
This is the first 20 percent of the book.

The remainder of the book then focuses on her son’s life (born Anthony Lee / adopted name Michael Hess). Sixsmith narrates Michael’s torment from being wrenched from his mother, and his inability later on to gain information to reconnect with her.

But the overwhelming focus seems to be on Michael’s burgeoning homosexuality and his inner conflict. The conflict stems from the hypocrisy he feels at working in the top echelons of the Regan administration (known for its blatant homophobia and inaction over the AIDS epidemic) whilst he himself is a closeted gay. The book really is a biography of HIS life, and this part really does become too long winded.

Sixsmith was an English political correspondent for 17 years. He also spent time working with the Blair government. It seems that Sixsmith, in labouring over Michael’s political career, has taken the book to a place he knows best. And whilst all this is interesting, it is a very long tangent from what the book title suggests it will be all about.

Sixsmith does return to Philomena’s quest in the last few pages.
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