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What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman
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What She Left Behind

by Ellen Marie Wiseman

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5563127,929 (3.61)9
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 cataloguing 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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Oh my goodness, this book. We have much to talk about at book club this week! ( )
  LizBurkhart | Sep 5, 2019 |
This was great and very interesting. I was riveted to the book. Written well and characters very enjoyable as well. ( )
  cfulton20 | Dec 5, 2018 |
This was great and very interesting. I was riveted to the book. Written well and characters very enjoyable as well. ( )
  cfulton20 | Dec 5, 2018 |
I loved this book! Yes, it was hard to read in parts, but it's a true representation of what went on in these asylums at that time. Women were committed for all sorts of minor flaws, none of them indicating mental illness. As for the present-day story line, it was almost like it was there for a break from Clara's struggle! A chance to breathe before you get back to it. I had a hard time putting this book down and looked forward to getting back to it. While I am sure that all manner of sexual attacks took place on those poor women, I appreciated the author not including those in her narrative. The men in charge were bad enough as it was. Wonderful book. ( )
  psherman | Nov 14, 2018 |
Izzy Stone, seventeen years old and in a new foster home again at the start of a new school year, is still struggling with her mother's murder of her father ten years ago. Obviously her mother must be insane; it's the only explanation. But does that mean Izzy might go mad, too? Can she ever dare to marry and have children, or would she be passing along the madness, and putting whoever she loved at risk?

But right now, her new foster parents work at a local museum, and have asked her to help out with sorting and cataloging materials in the now-closed public insane asylum, the Willard. And in a steamer trunk in the attic, they find the journal of Clara Cartwright, committed there by her father in 1929, at the age of eighteen. Clara's "madness" was that she refused an arranged marriage, wanting to marry Italian immigrant Bruno, whom she loved and whom Henry Cartwright regarded as beneath him.

Over the next several weeks, Izzy gets caught up in Clara's story and learning what happened to her, while she struggles with being the new girl again, this time in her senior year, with fears that her mother's madness will affect her, and the horribly practical fear of what will happen when she turns eighteen, and the state will no longer pay her current foster parents, Peg and Harry, to give her a home and take care of her. They're the best foster parents she's had since her grandmother died when she was ten, and "aging out" means homelessness for many orphaned teens, so it's a real fear.

We get Izzy's story and Clara's in alternating chapters. They're both compelling and moving. I'm just about willing to swear I knew some of Izzy's classmates when I was in high school. The Kafkaesque horrors of early 20th century mental institutions is portrayed in its grimness but without undue melodrama, and there's an afterword noting which "therapies" were really in use in the early thirties, and which were earlier or later.

It all wraps up to a satisfying but not over-the-top conclusion.

Recommended.

I bought this book. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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For my husband, Bill—who believes in me always
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Within minutes of setting foot on the grounds of the shuttered Willard State Asylum, 17 year old Isabelle Stone knew it was a mistake.
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