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What She Left Behind: A Haunting and Heartbreaking Story of 1920s Historical Fiction

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In this stunning novel, the acclaimed author of The Plum Tree merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty--and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most. Ten years ago, Izzy Stone's mother fatally shot her father while he slept. Devastated by her mother's apparent insanity, Izzy, now seventeen, refuses to visit her In this stunning novel, the acclaimed author of The Plum Tree merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty--and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most. Ten years ago, Izzy Stone's mother fatally shot her father while he slept. Devastated by her mother's apparent insanity, Izzy, now seventeen, refuses to visit her in prison. But her new foster parents, employees at the local museum, have enlisted Izzy's help in cataloging items at a long-shuttered state asylum. There, amid piles of abandoned belongings, Izzy discovers a stack of unopened letters, a decades-old journal, and a window into her own past. Clara Cartwright, eighteen years old in 1929, is caught between her overbearing parents and her love for an Italian immigrant. Furious when she rejects an arranged marriage, Clara's father sends her to a genteel home for nervous invalids. But when his fortune is lost in the stock market crash, he can no longer afford her care--and Clara is committed to the public asylum. Even as Izzy deals with the challenges of yet another new beginning, Clara's story keeps drawing her into the past. If Clara was never really mentally ill, could something else explain her own mother's violent act? Piecing together Clara's fate compels Izzy to re-examine her own choices--with shocking and unexpected results.


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In this stunning novel, the acclaimed author of The Plum Tree merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty--and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most. Ten years ago, Izzy Stone's mother fatally shot her father while he slept. Devastated by her mother's apparent insanity, Izzy, now seventeen, refuses to visit her In this stunning novel, the acclaimed author of The Plum Tree merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty--and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most. Ten years ago, Izzy Stone's mother fatally shot her father while he slept. Devastated by her mother's apparent insanity, Izzy, now seventeen, refuses to visit her in prison. But her new foster parents, employees at the local museum, have enlisted Izzy's help in cataloging items at a long-shuttered state asylum. There, amid piles of abandoned belongings, Izzy discovers a stack of unopened letters, a decades-old journal, and a window into her own past. Clara Cartwright, eighteen years old in 1929, is caught between her overbearing parents and her love for an Italian immigrant. Furious when she rejects an arranged marriage, Clara's father sends her to a genteel home for nervous invalids. But when his fortune is lost in the stock market crash, he can no longer afford her care--and Clara is committed to the public asylum. Even as Izzy deals with the challenges of yet another new beginning, Clara's story keeps drawing her into the past. If Clara was never really mentally ill, could something else explain her own mother's violent act? Piecing together Clara's fate compels Izzy to re-examine her own choices--with shocking and unexpected results.

30 review for What She Left Behind: A Haunting and Heartbreaking Story of 1920s Historical Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Crumb

    All the ★★★★★ in the world! Whew..What. A. Book. Upon finishing this book, I felt exhausted, both emotionally and mentally.. my insides twisted in knots. It was unsettling.. it was terrifying.. and it was a complete masterpiece. In the early 1930's an individual could be sent to an insane asylum for a myriad of different reasons. In this book, the protagonist, Clara Cartwright is unjustly sent away to a mental institution known as Willard State. The reason? Her father demanded that Clara would m All the ★★★★★ in the world! Whew..What. A. Book. Upon finishing this book, I felt exhausted, both emotionally and mentally.. my insides twisted in knots. It was unsettling.. it was terrifying.. and it was a complete masterpiece. In the early 1930's an individual could be sent to an insane asylum for a myriad of different reasons. In this book, the protagonist, Clara Cartwright is unjustly sent away to a mental institution known as Willard State. The reason? Her father demanded that Clara would marry a wealthy man from a distinguished family. However, Clara had plans to become Bruno's wife. Bruno was an Italian immigrant, and according to Clara's father, unsuitable to wed. Therefore, as result of this decision, Clara's father called 911 and told the authorities that his daughter was having an "episode." During her "imprisonment" at Willard, Clara was introduced to a couple of women who had met a similar fate. One woman imprisoned within the confines of Willard had fled an abusive husband. There was also a woman sent away to Willard merely for kissing another man while married to another. These are the "infractions" that could get an individual sent away to Willard. Historical works of fiction are my favorites. Not only are you reading a book, but the author offers you a glimpse into a time period or subject area that you otherwise wouldn't be exposed to. I was vaguely aware that the mentally ill were mistreated years ago, but I didn't know to what extent. I was also clueless that women were sent to a mental institution for next to nothing! That was infuriating to me. Every fiber of my being was screaming with outrage. Why weren't the orderlies or nurses trying to help Clara? She clearly didn't belong there. It was all so unfair.. so unjust. This is my third novel that I've read by Wiseman, and she has yet to disappoint. Her books are always meticulously researched and written with a flawless, dexterous hand. Highly, highly recommended!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    4 Stars. Imagine being an Eighteen Year-Old Woman named Clara Cartwright with a bright future ahead of you. The world is YOURS. The Year is 1929. You travel abroad with your parents, go to posh clubs, laugh with friends and simply enjoy what life has to offer you. And then, you meet a man. He is tall, dark and handsome and he makes you happy. You fall in love. So what do you do? Why you introduce Bruno to your parents of course! They disapprove and they plan an arranged marriage for you – to some 4 Stars. Imagine being an Eighteen Year-Old Woman named Clara Cartwright with a bright future ahead of you. The world is YOURS. The Year is 1929. You travel abroad with your parents, go to posh clubs, laugh with friends and simply enjoy what life has to offer you. And then, you meet a man. He is tall, dark and handsome and he makes you happy. You fall in love. So what do you do? Why you introduce Bruno to your parents of course! They disapprove and they plan an arranged marriage for you – to someone who seems like he would be a good match, financially, but who is not a good kind man. In fact he is cruel. And you are devastated. Yet you decide to go against your parents and try to convince them that Bruno is the one as you think that they must listen to reason as they want you to be happy…and what do they do? They admit you to an Insane Asylum. This happened to Clara Cartwright. The world was not her oyster. Now imagine being Isabelle (Izzy) Stone, a Seventeen Year-Old Girl and being in and out of Foster Homes for the last ten years. The year is 1995. Her mother killed her father and her mother has been in jail ever since. Izzy is currently living with Foster parents named Peg and Henry who actually seems to care about her. For her, this is an anomaly, for she has only ever had herself to rely on. Because of her past, she gets bullied at school and has a heck of a time adjusting. Izzy, however is a survivor. While in foster care, Peg asks Izzy to help her with a work assignment cataloging old artifacts and records at Willard State Asylum. In reviewing trunks of former patient’s belongings’, Izzy comes across Clara Cartwright’s journal’s, a photograph of her and Bruno and letters she wrote to him. Izzy can’t help but be intrigued, thus she decides to find out what happened to Clara in hopes that it will help her come to terms with her own past. “What She Left Behind” is told in alternating viewpoints between Clara and Izzy. It is a powerful story that tugs at many a heart string. The horrors that Clara had to endure at Willard Asylum (as well as the State run Asylum) are horrific, while the pain that Izzy has gone through her entire life is unimaginable. The way that Ellen Marie Wiseman interwove the stories of both Clara and Izzy is brilliantly done. Their stories have a profound effect on the reader, or at least they had a profound effect on me. Though the story was hard to read, it was worth it and it will affect me for a long time to come. Published on Goodreads and Amazon on 6.13.17.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Shoulders

    What began as an interesting idea morphed into a story so fraught with horrible events that the reader is left with disbelief instead of empathy. Wiseman interweaves two stories from two different time periods. Nineteen-year-old Clara comes from an upper crust family in 1929. Her love for an Italian immigrant causes her father to place her into a mental health facility. When money becomes a problem Clara finds herself in a state mental institution. In modern time, seventeen-year-old Izzy becomes p What began as an interesting idea morphed into a story so fraught with horrible events that the reader is left with disbelief instead of empathy. Wiseman interweaves two stories from two different time periods. Nineteen-year-old Clara comes from an upper crust family in 1929. Her love for an Italian immigrant causes her father to place her into a mental health facility. When money becomes a problem Clara finds herself in a state mental institution. In modern time, seventeen-year-old Izzy becomes part of the foster care system when her mother kills her father. Izzy seems to have no idea why the murder took place and is unwilling to read her mother's letters to find out why. The two stories come together when Izzy current foster parents, museum curators, ask for her help in categorizing trunks left behind in no longer used state mental institution. There Izzy find Clara's unsent letters. Unfortunately while the premise is good, its execution is clumsy. Izzy's story reads like a YA novel filled with the cliches' of high school life. Much of the narrative does little to propel the storyline. Clara's narrative is much more interesting but she deals with one bad thing or person after another that it lacks authenticity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    There were several places in this book where I just had to put it down for a while. The brutal treatment that Clara endured at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane and her heart wrenching sadness was just too much to bear. But I was compelled to continue with it. This is one of those books that pulls you in from the beginning and won't let you go even after you've finished reading it. The alternating narratives of Clara in the 1920’s and 30”s and Izzy in the present day are skillfully blende There were several places in this book where I just had to put it down for a while. The brutal treatment that Clara endured at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane and her heart wrenching sadness was just too much to bear. But I was compelled to continue with it. This is one of those books that pulls you in from the beginning and won't let you go even after you've finished reading it. The alternating narratives of Clara in the 1920’s and 30”s and Izzy in the present day are skillfully blended. Clara comes from a wealthy family and when she defies her parents and wants to marry for love rather than an arranged marriage, she is committed by her parents to a mental health facility and then is forced into a horrible existence in a public asylum, Willard. Izzy is in foster care, struggling to deal with the fact that her mother has murdered her father. Izzy discovers Clara’s story and the impact on Izzy is life changing. Wiseman touches on a number of social issues : the foster care system, the horrors of the mental health system in the 1920’s and 1930’s and child abuse. Underlying all of this is a passionate love story that will leave you holding your breath. It is chilling that Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane was a real place in upstate NY and even more chilling for me is that I live just over an hour away. Absolutely 5 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    It's 1929 and 18 year old Clara Cartwright has just told her parents she is in love with a man they disapprove of. The result: she is committed to an insane asylum. Fast forward to 1995. Izzy Stone is passed to another foster family as her mom sits in jail for killing Izzy's father. The 2 stories converge when Izzy begins work on a project involving the recovering of items from the condemned asylum. Clara’s truth is revealed when they find her diary in her travelling trunk: The sad life she was It's 1929 and 18 year old Clara Cartwright has just told her parents she is in love with a man they disapprove of. The result: she is committed to an insane asylum. Fast forward to 1995. Izzy Stone is passed to another foster family as her mom sits in jail for killing Izzy's father. The 2 stories converge when Izzy begins work on a project involving the recovering of items from the condemned asylum. Clara’s truth is revealed when they find her diary in her travelling trunk: The sad life she was forced to endure during a time when little was known about mental illness and when one had no control over one's life and didn't "conform" to the "norm". The tandem story structure worked well. Clara's story had an emotional intensity that was disturbing to the bone; Izzy’s was a modern day tragedy, far easier to understand, and although no less believable, seemed to temper that of Clara's. It's through this veracity Izzy is able to find forgiveness and redemption in her own life. Overall, a super good read and I give it 4 ★ Shortcoming to story - a reference to "BFF" was made in this book which threw the chronological timing of this novel off. Wiseman, if you are going to use acronyms ensure they are created before the year your story is.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    FROM THE BLURB In this stunning new novel, the acclaimed author of THE PLUM TREE merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty—and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.Ever since I read The Plum Tree I was thinking about this author and her style of writing. She had a wholesome way of addressing the unthinkable. She finds flowers where nature itself gave up. The sparkle of hope when everyone else turned their back and walked away. For t FROM THE BLURB In this stunning new novel, the acclaimed author of THE PLUM TREE merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty—and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.Ever since I read The Plum Tree I was thinking about this author and her style of writing. She had a wholesome way of addressing the unthinkable. She finds flowers where nature itself gave up. The sparkle of hope when everyone else turned their back and walked away. For this reason I wanted to read more of her books. The theme of this book is as realistic and heart-wrenching as in The Plum Tree. However, in What She Left Behind it is a different kind of horror—the misunderstood science, or no science at all, which stands front and center accused in the destruction of thousands of lives. But in the end the author brought hope and light into the world of broken people, who were lost in a system's hospitals, institutions and jails which could not mend their fractured hearts, wounded minds and trampled spirits. In 1929 eighteen-year-old Clara Elizabeth Cartwright fell in love with a dashing but unacceptable Italian immigrant, Bruno Moretti. Her wealthy parents arranged a marriage with a more suitable choice, and when Clara refused, she was institutionalized. She wrote many letters to Bruno, but it was never mailed. She was captured for life in a place where she did not belong, with nobody to believe or back her up. Her letters had no postal stamps or post office marks. 1995. Seventeen-year-old Isabelle (Izzy) Stone landed up with two employers of a museum, migrating through the foster system while her mother is serving a life sentence in the Elmira Psychiatric Center, for killing her father. Peg and Harry Barrows, at last but almost too late, offered her a real home with foster parents who really cared. She was once again admitted to a new school and immediately singled out for bullying. It was her final school year and the last time she would be 'handed over' for fostering. She had only herself to rely on. Her mother wrote her letters, which she refused to read for ten years. Izzy's letters had postal stamps and post office marks. It was the only difference between the two writers of these letters. The postal stamps. The content spoke of heartbreak, a plea for help and understanding. But both authors were declared insane. Peg and Harry Barrows got involved in the Willard Project at the museum, in which they tried to recreate the lives of several Willard State Asylum patients. With limited access to the sealed records, they could only choose a few files. Izzy was asked to assist in gathering as many information as possible in the allotted time. What she discovered would turn her world three hundred and sixty degrees around. When it finally came to a stop at the same point of departure, Izzy was a different young woman. In alternating viewpoints, Izzy and Clara's stories were told, and when the tales finally fused, the light came through and hope brought a wholesome new perspective to the outcome. Provocative, atmospheric and intense. Once again, it will take me many months to forget this novel, if ever. In the meantime I will try to pick up the emotional pieces I am left with. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I remember buying this book last year and knowing that it was going to be one of my reads for 2014, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle. I recently came across it again and I am glad that I jumped in. (There are no spoilers here) Basically this book alternates between two women: one in the late 1920’s and the other in 1995. Clara is a teenager in the 20’s who comes from a prestigious family: her father owned half of the largest bank in Manhattan and her mother was an heiress who had a lot of m I remember buying this book last year and knowing that it was going to be one of my reads for 2014, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle. I recently came across it again and I am glad that I jumped in. (There are no spoilers here) Basically this book alternates between two women: one in the late 1920’s and the other in 1995. Clara is a teenager in the 20’s who comes from a prestigious family: her father owned half of the largest bank in Manhattan and her mother was an heiress who had a lot of money. Because her father controlled her and her brother’s life, in attempts to secure his money, her brother committed suicide. But being a family of power and virtue (and by virtue, I really mean denial), the parents chose to not see what happened as a suicide and once Clara conveys this to them when she has been told that she can no longer see the man she is in love with, she is stigmatized as insane, because again her parents chose to deflect any guilt or wrongdoing from their stances and blame anyone who challenges them. As a result, she is sent to a home for the mentally ill and from there a state run insane asylum-Willard. Izzy, short for Isabelle, has been in foster care since she was a child. She is fortunate enough to live with a family who truly cares for her and her well-being. Somehow they are in charge of digging through some old suitcases at Willard (where Clara stayed) that were left behind. That’s when Izzy comes across the story of Clara and wants to find out more. She seems to be attached to this because her own mother was institutionalized for killing her father. She never knew why and her attachment to Clara, she hopes, will give her some insight and peace of mind. This is an interesting story and I was hooked almost immediately. The author is fantastic at visual writing because I could see the setting and actions so clear in my mind. She set up the scene just enough without going overboard and pulling me out of the story. She is also great at writing dialogue that seemed natural and flowed along without being distracting. The best however, was how she could set up scenes that were so intense that I was on the edge of my seat. But be warned that if you are looking for a warm and fuzzy type of read that you should not expect to find that here. This reads as real life would have been in the late 20’s and early 30’s, women weren’t always treated as well as today and it has the potential to really piss you off. It did me, but I like a book that stirs me up yet makes me appreciate how lucky I am today and respect those who paved the way for our rights on this side of the world. This made me more aware that there are other woman out there in other countries who aren’t as lucky and I can only hope that they too will see change in the near future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Norma

    WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND by ELLEN MARIE WISEMAN was a very good novel which I finished very quickly. The only reason this book didn't get a 5* rating from me was because I found it somewhat predictable. The two story-lines had a very different feel between them which alternated between the past and present. I thought that Izzy's story had a more of a YA feel to it. But maybe the author was trying to portray a more lighter side to Izzy's character over Clara's as hers was much more dramatic and power WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND by ELLEN MARIE WISEMAN was a very good novel which I finished very quickly. The only reason this book didn't get a 5* rating from me was because I found it somewhat predictable. The two story-lines had a very different feel between them which alternated between the past and present. I thought that Izzy's story had a more of a YA feel to it. But maybe the author was trying to portray a more lighter side to Izzy's character over Clara's as hers was much more dramatic and powerful. I really enjoyed Clara's story and found myself wanting to skip Izzy's story and rush ahead to Clara's to find out what was going to happen next. That actually happens to me sometimes when I read novels that have multiple views or character chapters. I find that sometimes one story grabs my attention more than the other. Although, I did like Izzy's as it was just as compelling but with a lighter tone. Clara's disturbing and horrific story saddened & intrigued me! I was pulled right in from the beginning. The inhumane conditions of the insane asylum that Clara was a patient at for so many years were portrayed very well by the author. I thought Ellen Marie Wiseman did a really good job intertwining the two stories together which were well written and provided a satisfying ending. Overall it was a fast-paced, quick, easy, and satisfying read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    What she Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman a bit of a disappointing read for me. Firstly I have to say the Front cover of the paperback was beautiful while the back cover of the book had " Praise for Ellen Marie Wieman's The Plum Tree" and five different detailed short reviews by papers and magazines and I found this strange as I would assume that this would have the blurb of the book I was currently reading and not a different book entirely by the author. I am very interested in books th What she Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman a bit of a disappointing read for me. Firstly I have to say the Front cover of the paperback was beautiful while the back cover of the book had " Praise for Ellen Marie Wieman's The Plum Tree" and five different detailed short reviews by papers and magazines and I found this strange as I would assume that this would have the blurb of the book I was currently reading and not a different book entirely by the author. I am very interested in books that detail life in Public asylums between 1880 and 1950 and two of my favourites have been The Secret Scripture and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. I think the length of time it took me to read this story is really reflected in the low rating that I gave the novel as I found it difficult to keep my interest in the book and just wasn't very enthusiastic about it. What she left behind takes two stories Izzy' s story is set in the present time and Clara's one set in 1929. I found Izzy's story too YA for my liking and I felt its freshness just did not fit alongside the story of Clara's. Many aspects of the story were so contrived and especially the ending. The novel was an ok read for me but not a book that I will be recommending.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darcy

    Ellen Marie Wiseman’s What She Left Behind is a page-turner without much substance; the kind of story that stays with you about as long as it takes to stick it back on the shelf. The story is told through two narrative threads and revolves around two female characters. In the present day, there is Izzy Stone, a child who has lived in foster care since her mother murdered her father when she was seven. Izzy uncovers the story of Clara Cartwright, a young woman whose story begins in the 1930s and Ellen Marie Wiseman’s What She Left Behind is a page-turner without much substance; the kind of story that stays with you about as long as it takes to stick it back on the shelf. The story is told through two narrative threads and revolves around two female characters. In the present day, there is Izzy Stone, a child who has lived in foster care since her mother murdered her father when she was seven. Izzy uncovers the story of Clara Cartwright, a young woman whose story begins in the 1930s and who was wrongfully imprisoned in a mental institution by her monstrous father and uncaring mother. I found Wiseman’s writing style irritating, as she relies on descriptions to drive her story. She clung to similes like literary life preservers, apparently trying to spare her readers (and herself) from drowning in anything too complicated as complex characters and a mature, well-developed plot. No doubt the ghosts of past writing teachers were standing over her as she wrote, whispering, “show, don’t tell,” “show, don’t tell, Ellen!” Everything smelled like bleach, urine and feces and it was clear that Wiseman wanted to EXPOSE all of the horrors that occurred in mental institutions. It’s all here: electroshock therapy, chains, cages, insulin shock therapy, and forced sterilization. The female characters are frequently nauseous and vomiting; though one is pregnant, so we will have to forgive her for that. What aggravated me most about this novel though was the high school life/bullying that Wiseman portrays. I felt like I was watching a teen movie from the late ‘90s, complete with the high-fiving, beer drinking, jocks and the hair-flipping, cigarette smoking “plastics.” I half expected Alicia Silverstone and Freddie Prinze Jr. to make cameo appearances. Yes, high school can be a cruel place and bullying is horrible, but Wiseman’s portrayal was exaggerated and cliché. Overall, I would say that Wiseman spins an entertaining yarn, but her writing lacks subtlety and she needs to learn to sacrifice some of her beloved descriptions in exchange for more psychological and narrative complexity.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Admittedly I read this quickly and it was a page turner. But I found myself checking both Amazon and good reads reviews to make sure I'd indeed downloaded the right kindle book, because this was not a well done book. The characters were unreal, the writing juvenile--the language used is at times preposterous, the similes like something out of a Sweet Valley Twins book--I even now just went back to check genre thinking perhaps it was young adult? I found it listed as literary fiction, and the aut Admittedly I read this quickly and it was a page turner. But I found myself checking both Amazon and good reads reviews to make sure I'd indeed downloaded the right kindle book, because this was not a well done book. The characters were unreal, the writing juvenile--the language used is at times preposterous, the similes like something out of a Sweet Valley Twins book--I even now just went back to check genre thinking perhaps it was young adult? I found it listed as literary fiction, and the author's note cites several sources for authoritative writing. I'm baffled. I don't mean to just whale on a book, but this was astounding. The reviews were good, but I'm not sure how I could be so opposed. Granted, it's hardly easy subject matter, but it was completely obvious who did what, another character is omitted entirely and it's never really explained why this poor heroine is so mistreated by her family (not to mention other bits of plot left by the wayside, like her family's lost fortune, her brothers death or most of her life). It's all chalked up to one monster, which makes things simple, but that seemed to be a hallmark of this book. Simplicity. It really felt like high school creative writing, if one student had been very ambitious and fleshed out a novel. The subject matter interests me and the authors had some ideas, but my goodness. I'be never given two stars. And I would have done just one except I felt research of any kind merits some additional support. I don't get it. Maybe I'm just being hyper critical, but this was not my favorite.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Debbie "DJ"

    I really did like this one, but it felt a little YA for me. I need edgy. The alternating stories of present day Izzy, who's mother sits in jail for killing her father, and Clara, committed to an insane asylum in 1929 tied the two together in unexpected ways. Izzy is struggling with the possibility that her own mother was insane, among other things. Clara, who was only 18, was committed by her parents for falling in love with an "inappropriate" man. It was appalling to read of Clara's story. How dr I really did like this one, but it felt a little YA for me. I need edgy. The alternating stories of present day Izzy, who's mother sits in jail for killing her father, and Clara, committed to an insane asylum in 1929 tied the two together in unexpected ways. Izzy is struggling with the possibility that her own mother was insane, among other things. Clara, who was only 18, was committed by her parents for falling in love with an "inappropriate" man. It was appalling to read of Clara's story. How dreadful and hideous conditions of insane asylums were at the time, with women having little recourse against men. My only complaint is that this felt a little 'lite,' with everything tying up too neatly. I do think this was well written, and did a good job exploring the emotions of the characters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dana Ilie

    The novel is set in the present and in the past, which I find fascinating. So this is both contemporary and historical fiction in which the author seamlessly weaves together two plots and a compelling cast of characters amidst a detailed and haunting setting. The two story lines are interconnected in overt and subtle ways throughout the novel. Wiseman writes really beautiful prose—and how I wish there was a more eloquent way to say that, but sometimes simple is best. As I read the book I simply t The novel is set in the present and in the past, which I find fascinating. So this is both contemporary and historical fiction in which the author seamlessly weaves together two plots and a compelling cast of characters amidst a detailed and haunting setting. The two story lines are interconnected in overt and subtle ways throughout the novel. Wiseman writes really beautiful prose—and how I wish there was a more eloquent way to say that, but sometimes simple is best. As I read the book I simply thought, “Wow, this girl can write.” The complex journeys of its main characters, Clara and Izzy. Past or present, in this novel readers see how nurture can both win and lose against nature. Wiseman does an excellent job of conveying the horrifying methods employed to cure the mentally ill. The lack of compassion and sometimes outright brutality of the nurses and doctors are astounding. Though Clara is extremely naïve, and sometimes one- dimensional, her narrative is much more compelling than Izzy’s, whose story reads like a young adult novel at times. Despite this, What She Left Behind is a real page turner and will appeal to all readers of fiction, though the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. I highly recommend this book, it’s gripping and mysterious, and a great read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Gammons

    Heads up, I am fully indulging in spoilers. My experience with this book was bizarre. As others have said, the Clara narrative is much stronger than Izzy. While I appreciated that the author wanted to convey the depravity of early mental health care, the daddy issues in this book are out of control. Basically, any male with power/money was abusive and cruel. And I still can't wrap my head around the completely-out-of-left-wing-father-daughter-molestation reveal. Let me just break it down for you: Heads up, I am fully indulging in spoilers. My experience with this book was bizarre. As others have said, the Clara narrative is much stronger than Izzy. While I appreciated that the author wanted to convey the depravity of early mental health care, the daddy issues in this book are out of control. Basically, any male with power/money was abusive and cruel. And I still can't wrap my head around the completely-out-of-left-wing-father-daughter-molestation reveal. Let me just break it down for you: Izzy's dad molested her as a child (which she obviously "suppressed" in the depths of her subconscious)... and then her mom wouldn't submit her child to a medical examination to save herself from being charged with all out unprovoked murder? Right. And then Izzy develops some kind of bond with The Mean Girl Stephanie over their shared molestation history.... which is just totally dropped and never alluded to again after Izzy's Super Sexy Teen Crush breaks up with Mean Girl? Or, how about the HIGH-SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY class (we all had those, right?) in which the teacher has discussions with his students about why people suddenly become unhinged and murder their spouses. I could park a truck in these plot holes. It felt juvenile and predictable. All in all, I just can't even with this book. The magical foster parents that love and adopt Izzy. The sexy immigrant Italian that defies all odds and goes undercover into the asylum to save his "bella Clare." Clara's stolen daughter that finally finds her biological mother in the nursing home and volunteers to provide full time end of life care to a woman that SHE LITERALLY DID NOT KNOW EXISTED UNTIL EARLIER THAT DAY. Or worst of all, the utterly offensive (and unnecessarily frequent) allusions to Izzy & Beatrice's fears that mental health issues are somehow contagious and likely to manifest themselves at any given moment. I know a lot of people liked this book, but it was a terrible experience for me. If I hadn't been trapped on a 5 hour flight with nothing else to read, I probably would have given up long before the end. The two narratives were awkward and connections between the two were weak. The historical license Wiseman takes with mental health system are out of control. And as far as I am concerned, we would all be better off if Izzy's story was wiped from the face of literature.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deborah aka Reading Mom

    The premise of the book was good--to familiarize readers with practices in the care of mentally ill patients during the period of 1900 through about 1950 at Willard State Hospital in New York State, especially those institutionalized against their will and for trumped up reasons. There is also a contemporary thread in the form of a second story-line taking place in the year 1995 after the hospital was closed and research had started with the purpose of bringing to light and memorializing the liv The premise of the book was good--to familiarize readers with practices in the care of mentally ill patients during the period of 1900 through about 1950 at Willard State Hospital in New York State, especially those institutionalized against their will and for trumped up reasons. There is also a contemporary thread in the form of a second story-line taking place in the year 1995 after the hospital was closed and research had started with the purpose of bringing to light and memorializing the lives of those who had been hospitalized. In my mind, the book just didn't work well. The contemporary portion read more like a young adult novel probing the horrors of high school life as well as the difficulty of being a young person in the foster care system; that portion of the narrative seemed stilted and amateurish. Izzy was a sympathetic protagonist, but in my view, having less of the story revolve around myriad personal problems that were created for her character, I would have preferred to see her cast as less of a main focus and become simply a lovely young girl working as an assistant to her parents in their museum project, in the process of which she becomes compelled to make efforts to right some of the wrongs done to another young woman 60 years previously. Anyone interested in delving into abuses inflicted upon those under the care of mental institutions might be far better off to go to the non-fiction account of these same poor souls found in the book The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny with photographs by Lisa Rinzler; doing so may widen your understanding of the patients of Willard State Hospital in a meaningful way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    4+ stars Wiseman is one of my favorite authors. Her books are complete. Good plot, great characters, easy to read and hard to put down. I have not read all of her books - yet! - but have thoroughly enjoyed all I have read and definitely plan to read more. As seems to be the current style, this book moves back and forth between two narrators. Izzy, in the present and Clara from 66 years prior. Among other things, the Willard State Asylum bonds these two young girls. Clara a patient, subjected to 4+ stars Wiseman is one of my favorite authors. Her books are complete. Good plot, great characters, easy to read and hard to put down. I have not read all of her books - yet! - but have thoroughly enjoyed all I have read and definitely plan to read more. As seems to be the current style, this book moves back and forth between two narrators. Izzy, in the present and Clara from 66 years prior. Among other things, the Willard State Asylum bonds these two young girls. Clara a patient, subjected to all the bizarre and torturous treatments of the perceived mentally ill, and Izzy through her foster parents and a project to expose the lives of long past patients. This book reminded me of The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney. Wiseman in her acknowledgments admitted to basing this fictional book off of Darby's non-fiction book. Having read Darby's book, this one was like an extension of one of the 'suitcases' left at the asylum.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melisa

    This is one of my top 5 most depressing books ever. Was it well-written, well-developed and insightful? Yes. Was it incredibly unsettling and depressing? Also, yes. I feel so much sadness for the people sent to asylums who were unfairly and unjustly treated. While this is a work of fiction, the asylum itself is a factual location, and you can only imagine some of the things that occurred there, which are touched on in this book. It definitely educated me and opened my eyes to the history of the This is one of my top 5 most depressing books ever. Was it well-written, well-developed and insightful? Yes. Was it incredibly unsettling and depressing? Also, yes. I feel so much sadness for the people sent to asylums who were unfairly and unjustly treated. While this is a work of fiction, the asylum itself is a factual location, and you can only imagine some of the things that occurred there, which are touched on in this book. It definitely educated me and opened my eyes to the history of the treatment of mental illness, of much I was unaware. The author drew inspiration from the book The Lives They Left Behind:Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic, and I'm hoping that one day I'll get the courage to read about the real patients of Willard asylum. 4 stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Li'l Owl

    Shocking and Heartbreakingly Sad. Courageously Written and Expertly Narrated! ISABELLE Willard State Asylum 1995 Within minutes of setting foot on the grounds of the shuttered Willard State Asylum, seventeen-year-old Isabelle Stone knew it was a mistake..... The wards’ fire escapes were inside wire cages, and the dirty windows were covered with thick bars, the rotting sills oozing a black sludge that ran down the brick walls. Most of the doors and windows had been boarded up from the inside, as if Shocking and Heartbreakingly Sad. Courageously Written and Expertly Narrated! ISABELLE Willard State Asylum 1995 Within minutes of setting foot on the grounds of the shuttered Willard State Asylum, seventeen-year-old Isabelle Stone knew it was a mistake..... The wards’ fire escapes were inside wire cages, and the dirty windows were covered with thick bars, the rotting sills oozing a black sludge that ran down the brick walls. Most of the doors and windows had been boarded up from the inside, as if the memories of what had happened there should never again see the light of day. Izzy shivered. How many patients had suffered and died in this awful place? CLARA Upper West Side, NYC October 1929 Eighteen-year-old Clara Elizabeth Cartwright stood on the thick Persian rug outside her father’s study, holding her breath and leaning slightly forward , trying to hear her parents’ conversation through the carved oak door. When she was younger, the opulent decor of her parents’ mansion— the paneled hallway, the gleaming wood floors, the framed portraits and gilded mirrors, the silver tea set on the cherry hutch —made her feel like a princess living in a castle. Now, the thick woodwork and heavy damask curtains made her feel like an inmate being kept in a prison. And not just because she hadn’t been allowed to leave in three weeks. The house felt like a museum filled with old furniture and out-of-date decorations, reeking with dated ideas and archaic beliefs. It reminded her of a mausoleum, a final resting place for the dead and dying. And she had no intention on being next. ******** *Audiobook Review* What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman and performed by Tavia Gilbert is a barbaric, devastating, and heartbreaking story that at times I struggled to listen to but I'm very glad I stuck to it in the end. Told in two separate dates and viewpoints. One from eighteen year old, Clara, in 1929, as we relive the events of her confinement in Willard Insane Asylum. The other from seventeen year old, Izzy, now helping her foster mom go through the items left behind at Willard, sixty-six years later for a historical museum. Isabelle "Izzy" At the tender age of seven, Izzy's mother shoots and kills her husband, Izzy's father, in his sleep. Her mother is placed in a psychiatric hospital following the event while it's determined if she is sane enough to stand trial. It's determined that she was in her right mind and sane when she murdered her husband, she is sent to prison, leaving Izzy an orphan to be raised within the system of foster care. Now, ten years later, Izzy finds herself in a caring home with foster parents Peg and Henry. She is starting at a new school, again, as a senior in high school. She becomes the victim of the school's bully, Shannon, and her gang of followers but she is determined to stay out of trouble so she won't be asked to leave her new foster parents but it proves to be a difficult task. Clara In the beginning, the description of Willard State Asylum in the 1920's were inhumane at best but It became clear very quickly that being within the walls of Willard was absolutely barbaric, the "patients" were nothing short of prisoners and victims being held against their will. As the story unfolds I found it increasingly difficult to learn more about Clara and the other "patients" were treated, from filfy conditions to baths in ice water and worse. If the person wasn't insane when they went in..... Honestly, the whole of it shocked me to the bone, making me feel sick. Each time I thought Clara had a glimmer of hope of getting out, my breath to caught in my throat, my heart clattering against my ribs like a trapped bird. This time, surly..... I warn readers that I struggled mightily with the horrors of Clara's story and the heartbreak of Izzy's past. I thought several times that I might not get through this book. HOWEVER, I'm not one to fold and give up on a book easily, despite how emotional or horrific it is. I found that I really wanted to continue listening to it in it's entirety as Ellen Marie Wiseman has written it perfectly to pull you in. Paired with narrator, Tavia Gilbert, whose masterful performance was pleasing to listen to, her voice overflowing with all the right ingredients and emotions enticed me to follow Izzy and Clara to the very end. Tavia Gilbert put me in the heart of Clara and Izzy. Clara's rollercoaster feelings of despair and hope were laid bare, seeping into my very being. I was put in Izzy's shoes as she battles with her past and her fight to get through her last year in high school. Tavia Gilbert is a five star narrator and I will be looking into other audiobooks she's done. I'm very glad I didn't give up on it as it would have been a shame to miss the full story unfold! TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THAT IT WAS ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I stuck with this through the first 110 pages. I realized that I was so disinterested that I literally did not care what was going to happen to either Clara or Izzy. Time to bail. Several of my GR friends loved it, so it is unusual that I would feel so much the opposite. Having decided not to finish it, I probably shouldn't comment, but I could not buy into Clara's situation at all--even the cruelest of fathers would not commit his daughter to a state mental ward because she disobeyed him once. I stuck with this through the first 110 pages. I realized that I was so disinterested that I literally did not care what was going to happen to either Clara or Izzy. Time to bail. Several of my GR friends loved it, so it is unusual that I would feel so much the opposite. Having decided not to finish it, I probably shouldn't comment, but I could not buy into Clara's situation at all--even the cruelest of fathers would not commit his daughter to a state mental ward because she disobeyed him once. And, she described three different settings as smelling of urine and bleach--perhaps her favorite aromas?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Oh, how far we've come. From the days, only about 100 years ago, when daughters belonged to their fathers and then to their husbands. When marriages were, if not arranged, then certainly there was an understanding. When an out-of-wedlock pregnancy put a stain on a family that might never be erased. When, for the most insignificant reasons, a daughter or wife could be sent to the insane asylum, which became a "No Exit" kind of hell. Where did this happen, you might ask??? Not some backward place w Oh, how far we've come. From the days, only about 100 years ago, when daughters belonged to their fathers and then to their husbands. When marriages were, if not arranged, then certainly there was an understanding. When an out-of-wedlock pregnancy put a stain on a family that might never be erased. When, for the most insignificant reasons, a daughter or wife could be sent to the insane asylum, which became a "No Exit" kind of hell. Where did this happen, you might ask??? Not some backward place where modernization had yet to appear. But,right here in the United States! This, then, is the premise of this extraordinary novel by Ellen Marie Wiseman. Clara has a boyfriend, but not one of her father's choosing. When she brings Bruno home for dinner, the die is cast. Her father grounds her, forbids her to see Bruno, and, when Clara resists and argues, the police are called and she is taken to The Long Island Home for Nervous Invalids and later is transferred to the Willard Asylum. Clara's improbable and horrible story is contrasted with a present-day tale of Izzy, a foster child in her Senior year of a new high school, whose mother is in prison charged with murdering Izzy's father. The uniting thread in the story is a trunk full of letters from Clara to Bruno, addressed, but never posted, and uncovered when Willard Asylum is set to be razed. This is, absolutely, a story you'll not soon forget! I read this ARC courtesy of Kensington Books.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I read 50 pages then had to put it down. An author has unlimited choices in selecting tone, intensity and pacing. This author chose over-the-top in all possible ways. Not my style. The writing is an issue, too. There is a letter on page 48 (I think) written from father to daughter explaining that he and his wife have lost money in the stock exchange and "so in order to keep our house and the lifestyle we are accustomed to", they will no longer be able to pay for her private care. No one would say I read 50 pages then had to put it down. An author has unlimited choices in selecting tone, intensity and pacing. This author chose over-the-top in all possible ways. Not my style. The writing is an issue, too. There is a letter on page 48 (I think) written from father to daughter explaining that he and his wife have lost money in the stock exchange and "so in order to keep our house and the lifestyle we are accustomed to", they will no longer be able to pay for her private care. No one would say those words - especially a man as shallow as he is portrayed. Those words reflect the author's viewpoint, not the character's. My husband opened the book to the end and read aloud a passage that put melodrama to shame. I can't do it. I'm on to a different book. I think I'll try the non-fiction, The Lives They Lived instead.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Reading these books on the treatment of the mentally ill in the past and the flimsy reason men could use to lock women away, make me terribly angry and sad. Also makes me so very grateful, for the women who fought for women's rights and also that I live now, in this time period. Parts of this book was difficult to read because of the subject. Two storylines, one in the past and one in the present. Both young woman, going through difficult times, trying to find their ways through life and out of t Reading these books on the treatment of the mentally ill in the past and the flimsy reason men could use to lock women away, make me terribly angry and sad. Also makes me so very grateful, for the women who fought for women's rights and also that I live now, in this time period. Parts of this book was difficult to read because of the subject. Two storylines, one in the past and one in the present. Both young woman, going through difficult times, trying to find their ways through life and out of their difficulties. The treatment of the mentally ill was horrifying, how people could treat other people like that. People that should have been helpful and compassionate, doctors, nurses, husbands and parents. If I rated this book on how it tugged on my heart strings, my rating would have been higher. The book did make me want to continue reading, I wanted to know what happens to them, how things were resolved. At times though I felt like the plot changes between the two stories were handled awkwardly, the same with some of the dialogue. All in all this was an interesting look at the past treatment of those thought to be mentally ill, and a heartfelt story of two young women who have more in common than they know.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I won a copy of this book thru the Goodreads First Reads giveaways. Absolutely LOVED this book. The story is has two characters, one in the present and one in the past that are struggling to adapt to changes in their lives. The way the author moved from one character to the next is just seamless. The stories flowed very well together. The ending was my favorite part, but I won't reveal why so I don't spoil it for someone else. I wouldn't have normally picked this book to read, but now I am going I won a copy of this book thru the Goodreads First Reads giveaways. Absolutely LOVED this book. The story is has two characters, one in the present and one in the past that are struggling to adapt to changes in their lives. The way the author moved from one character to the next is just seamless. The stories flowed very well together. The ending was my favorite part, but I won't reveal why so I don't spoil it for someone else. I wouldn't have normally picked this book to read, but now I am going to have to pick up the author's other books since this one was so good!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl James

    I have always had an interest in human historical and current behavior and this story gave me everything that I needed. Without giving away the details of the story just know that some people are mean and ruthless to the thousandth degree. Historically innocent people suffered at the hands of heartless people. Its just really sad when those people are your own family members. So you're a young thriving teenager who fell in love and became pregnant. You and the baby's father want to be together b I have always had an interest in human historical and current behavior and this story gave me everything that I needed. Without giving away the details of the story just know that some people are mean and ruthless to the thousandth degree. Historically innocent people suffered at the hands of heartless people. Its just really sad when those people are your own family members. So you're a young thriving teenager who fell in love and became pregnant. You and the baby's father want to be together but your rich father and mother wants you to marry someone else. You refuse to marry this person and the next thing you know you are locked away for the best part of your life. This book was amazingly written and even though its fiction it is based on facts of what happens in an insane asylum in the 18th century. Some of the treatments and medications may be upgraded in today's society but the torture is still there, workers are just better at hiding it. I continue to ask myself, how do people sleep at night? The audio was incredible, very clear and decisive. Kudos to the author for writing about a subject that continues to be swept underneath the carpet💕

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I think this book tried to tackle too many themes self harm, bullying, mental health, abuse. It was just too much at times, hard to sit through and wouldn't recommend this in one sitting. Even though this was fiction it has some historical accuracies, which makes it all the more horrendous. The plot was interesting as well as the main characters but what could have been a fantastic story ended up being abit mediocre, I think some of the topics were added for extra horror but only made the story I think this book tried to tackle too many themes self harm, bullying, mental health, abuse. It was just too much at times, hard to sit through and wouldn't recommend this in one sitting. Even though this was fiction it has some historical accuracies, which makes it all the more horrendous. The plot was interesting as well as the main characters but what could have been a fantastic story ended up being abit mediocre, I think some of the topics were added for extra horror but only made the story seem forced and exaggerated instead of authentic.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    4.5 stars. This is really a compelling novel of two young women in two different time periods trying to overcome come the horrible circumstances that life has given them. Izzy is a 17 year old girl whose mother is in prison for killing her father for what appears to be no reason. Izzy is currently living in yet another new foster home and is being bullied at school. Clara is an 18 year old girl who lives in 1929. She is in love with one man, yet her parents want her to marry another. When she refu 4.5 stars. This is really a compelling novel of two young women in two different time periods trying to overcome come the horrible circumstances that life has given them. Izzy is a 17 year old girl whose mother is in prison for killing her father for what appears to be no reason. Izzy is currently living in yet another new foster home and is being bullied at school. Clara is an 18 year old girl who lives in 1929. She is in love with one man, yet her parents want her to marry another. When she refuses, they have her committed to an insane asylum. When her father loses his fortune in the crash, she is transferred to Willard, a state run asylum. The two stories converge when Izzy's foster mother, Peg starts working on a museum project looking into the records at Willard and find Clara's steamer trunk filled with her belongings and her journal. The characters are all fascinating, even the nasty ones. Clara and Izzy are so well portrayed, that you have compassion for both of them. Each has to go through her own struggles, though Clara's are infinitely worse than Izzy's. In some ways you may even feel a modicum of compassion for Shannon, given her history. But not too much, since she never redeems herself. The sense of place at Willard is beyond realistic. It is too creepy. How patients were treated was barbaric, and just not knowing better is no excuse. It was inhumane in every level and beyond human decency. There was no excuse for putting people in cages. None. It was a state hospital with no state oversight. And women especially could be committed for practically no reason and just left there for the rest of their lives. As could immigrants, or the unemployed or anyone really. Shameful. The ending might be a little too pat for some, but it's very satisfying. Some parts are difficult to read but the book is worth the effort. A definite recommend!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    I really enjoyed this book and enjoyed both women's story lines. Clara's story was so heartbreaking and sad. It is horrible to think that there was a time when father's (and husband's) could get rid of their daughters (and wives) by having them committed. The conditions people were forced to live in once committed are heartbreaking. Izzy's story is also riveting. The stories come together as Izzy helps go through a long closed asylum with her foster parents she finds some letters. Letters that b I really enjoyed this book and enjoyed both women's story lines. Clara's story was so heartbreaking and sad. It is horrible to think that there was a time when father's (and husband's) could get rid of their daughters (and wives) by having them committed. The conditions people were forced to live in once committed are heartbreaking. Izzy's story is also riveting. The stories come together as Izzy helps go through a long closed asylum with her foster parents she finds some letters. Letters that begin to tell Clara's story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Retired Reader

    This was an enjoyable story but a couple of things bothered me. The narrator (audio version) was really annoying, her inflection being overly dramatic and cheerful. Also, the author seems to be obsessed with vomit. Someone in the book was either vomiting, about to vomit, or nauseous constantly! It was probably mentioned 20 times! Other than that, the story held my attention and I eagerly listened as much as I could for the past two days. The setting is based on a real insane asylum in New York, This was an enjoyable story but a couple of things bothered me. The narrator (audio version) was really annoying, her inflection being overly dramatic and cheerful. Also, the author seems to be obsessed with vomit. Someone in the book was either vomiting, about to vomit, or nauseous constantly! It was probably mentioned 20 times! Other than that, the story held my attention and I eagerly listened as much as I could for the past two days. The setting is based on a real insane asylum in New York, in both the past and present time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I'm really torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars, would give it a 4 1/2 if I could. Which means, of course, that I really, really liked it a lot. In the beginning the book reminded me a lot of Orphan Train and there are a lot of similarities. Both books have two (main) female characters, one whose story takes place in the 1920s and one in modern times. In both books the young woman whose story is taking place now is in foster care and about to age out of the system (turning 18). So it was dif I'm really torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars, would give it a 4 1/2 if I could. Which means, of course, that I really, really liked it a lot. In the beginning the book reminded me a lot of Orphan Train and there are a lot of similarities. Both books have two (main) female characters, one whose story takes place in the 1920s and one in modern times. In both books the young woman whose story is taking place now is in foster care and about to age out of the system (turning 18). So it was difficult to stop comparing the books and just read this one and appreciate it for it's own merits. Like Orphan Train, this book is really well written and transitions between the two young women's stories seamlessly and ties their two stories together in a way which makes sense. Both of their stories, Clara's in particular, are quite moving and compelling. I actually learned a lot about the mental health system during that early time period and wish I could say I was shocked at the descriptions of how patients were treated during that time, but I was not. Very distressing though to read about how inhumanely people were treated - both people suffering from mental illness and people who were confined in state hospitals just to get them out of the way. Such a terrible history we have in this country of how people suffering from mental illness were treated - tortured, chained, beaten, given ice baths, etc etc. Really horrible. This was a really interesting setting for the author to chose to center her book around and I am glad that she did. But like reading books that took place in Nazi Germany, what doesn't surprise is still completely abhorrent to read about. This book moved me - I was saddened at times and came away better informed. A very good book that I highly recommend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    I really enjoyed this novel, and finished it in two sittings. The two storylines were very different in feel, but I loved both of them. They were fast-paced, and kept me guessing right till the end. It was interesting reading about insane asylums in the early 1900's, and how people and especially woman were treated. And the following fact from the author's notes shows just how shocking things were back then - Nearly half of the 54,000 individuals who entered Willard died there.. I have not read I really enjoyed this novel, and finished it in two sittings. The two storylines were very different in feel, but I loved both of them. They were fast-paced, and kept me guessing right till the end. It was interesting reading about insane asylums in the early 1900's, and how people and especially woman were treated. And the following fact from the author's notes shows just how shocking things were back then - Nearly half of the 54,000 individuals who entered Willard died there.. I have not read the author's previous book,The Plum Tree, but will add it now. The story: Merging the past and present, WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND follows a young museum worker as she discovers a decades old journal inside a shuttered state asylum and is compelled to piece together the journal owner's fate—with shocking and unexpected results.

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