Tuesday, May 16, 2017

  Book Review: What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

What She Left Behind

By Ellen Marie Wiseman

Kindle, paperback
337 pages

Kensington Publishing Corporation

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman easily ranks as one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is a dual plotted fiction about two young women, Clara Elizabeth Cartwright and Isabelle Stone.  

Clara is eighteen when the story begins in 1929. Her father is a rich, powerful banker and a spiteful man. When Clara disobeys him and rejects his arranged marriage because she is in love with a poor, Italian immigrant, her father is furious and sends her to a genteel home for nervous invalids. When her father loses everything in the stock market crash, he sends her to Willard State Asylum, a very crude institution to say the least. For Clara, who was not mentally ill when she arrived there, it was a challenge for her to retain her sanity in those conditions and knowing what her parents did to her for just disobeying. Clara tries to tell the doctor that she is sane, but he fails to believe her.

In 1995, Isabelle (Izzy) Stone and her foster mother, Peg, stumble upon Clara’s steamer trunk at the now closed Willard when the state for a short time, allowed Peg’s museum into the closed asylum to photograph and review old records. Izzy is intrigued when they find Clara’s diary and reads it, which sets Izzy on a journey of her own to find out more about Clara’s life hoping it will help Izzy understand her own mother who is in prison for killing Izzy’s father. Izzy wants to understand what would drive someone to do such a horrendous crime.

Destiny places Izzy on a life-changing path when she delves deep into the mystery of Clara’s life at Willard. Moreover, in the end, finds out something startling about herself, her mother, and Clara.

Clara's life was an excellent story and I could not put the book down until I seen what happened to her. At the end, Wiseman cleverly revealed how Izzy and Clara’s destiny overlapped. The story also showed an interesting parallel between life today for the youth and the strict upbringing that children were forced to endear in the early twentieth century and earlier.

Ellen Marie Wiseman’s next book, The Life She Was Given, will release July 25, 2017.    

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