The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

April 11, 2014

Book review: Philomena a sad, worthwhile read

NORMAN — by Amber Hodge

Book: The Lost Child of Philomena Lee (2009, Macmillan)

Author: Martin Sixsmith

Why you should read: Originally published in 2009, “Philomena” tells the true story of Michael Hess, who was a lawyer, and later deputy chief counsel and chief counsel for the Republican National Committee during the administrations of Reagan and Bush. The account begins with his birth to unwed mother Philomena Lee in a convent in Roscrea, Ireland. When a young American couple comes to the convent looking to adopt a little girl, they wind up taking young Anthony Lee, as he was named at the time, much to his mother’s dismay. From then, the story focuses on Michael, who is raised by a Catholic family in the Midwest, and his life up until his death in 1995.

A graduate of Notre Dame and George Washington law school, Michael struggled to come to terms with being gay as he moved into adulthood. In his attempts to explore his sexuality, he frequented gay bars and dated numerous men, which led to failed relationships and opened him up to darker urges in his endeavors. It was, during that era, that AIDS began to make itself known, and Michael fell victim to the fatal disease, which took his life at age 43. Michael’s failed attempts to find his birth mother and her attempts to find her lost son only add to the tragic narrative.

“Philomena,” while ultimately sad, is a worthwhile and interesting read. This story has had a significant impact in both the literary and cinematic world. The book currently sits at No. 18 on the NY Times Best Seller’s list for paperback nonfiction. The movie, titled “Philomena,” released in November 2013. It has been nominated for three Golden Globes and four Oscar Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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