Ten Hail Marys follows the first 17 years of Kate Howarth's life in Sydney and country New South Wales. Raised by various Indigenous relatives, she is abandoned by her mother and then her grandmother, and through it all manages to believe that she will have a better life. In the mid-1960s, at the age of 15, she becomes pregnant and is sent to St Margaret's Home for unwed mothers in Sydney, where she resists intense pressure to give up her baby for adoption. She becomes one of the few women to ever leave the Home with her baby. Ten Hail Marys tells the story of a childhood beset by hardship, abuse, profound grief, poverty, emotional ambivalence and more than enough unpredictable turns of events in any young life. While at times shocking in her frankness, Howarth is never self-pitying or bitter. Her natural gift for storytelling, her cast of larger-than-life characters, including Mamma (her grandmother), whose presence looms large from the outset, her vivid sense of place and dark understated humour make Ten Hail Marys one of the most compelling memoirs of the year.
Kate Howarth is of Aborigine descent. She has been a factory worker, an Avon lady, a corporate executive, and a restaurateur.