AVAILABLE FEBRUARY 7, 2024
By Julia Malye
A sweeping epic in the vein of Philipp Meyer’s The Son and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and inspired by a true story, this stunning US literary debut captures the never-before-told journey of the Baleine Brides: a ship full of young women plucked from a Paris asylum and sent to marry settlers in North America's rough Louisiana Territory.
Paris, 1720. La Salpêtrière hospital is in crisis: too many occupants, not enough beds. Halfway across the world, France's colony in the wilds of North America has space to spare and needs families to fill it. So the director of the hospital rounds up nearly a hundred female “volunteers” of childbearing age—orphans, prisoners, and mental patients—to be shipped to New Orleans.
Among this group are three unlikely friends: a sharp-tongued twelve-year old orphan, a mute ‘madwoman,’ and an accused abortionist. Charlotte, Pétronille, and Geneviève, along with the dozens of other women aboard La Baleine, have no knowledge of what lies ahead and no control over their futures. Strangers brought together by fate, these brave and fierce young women will face extraordinary adversity—pirates, slavedrivers, sickness, war—but also the private trauma of heartbreak and unrequited love, children born and lost, cruelty and unexpected pleasure, and a friendship forged in fire that will sustain through the years.
At once a gorgeously written work of startling depth and emotion and a gripping drama marrying high-seas adventure with pioneer grit, Pelican Girls is a powerful, thought-provoking novel about female friendship and desire and the daunting compromises women are forced to make to survive.