Ellen Marie Wiseman – “What She Left Behind”

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Whoops! I’ve been slacking a bit and forgot to post updates for some of the books I’ve read. This one is “What She Left Behind” by Ellen Marie Wiseman. The RCC Book Club read her book “The Life She Was Given” last month, and I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d check out another book by Wiseman. It follows a similar format, alternating chapters between two characters. Izzy, a 90s teen, has moved in with a new foster family. Her mom shot her father years ago, and after the death of her grandmother, she was tossed into the foster system. Clara, a beautiful young woman whose brother had died a few years earlier, falls in love with an immigrant. Clara’s parents had arranged a marriage for her to another man, and to punish Clara for her refusal to cooperate, her father has her tossed into a mental hospital in the 1930s. Decades later, Izzy’s foster mom, a museum worker, brings her to the remnants of an abandoned mental hospital to catalog items that were left behind. One of those items is a large trunk belonging to Clara. Izzy becomes intrigued with Clara’s story, and as the book progresses, we learn just what Clara endures. It turns out Izzy has also experienced her share of issues. I truly enjoyed this book, and although Wiseman takes some liberties with the historical record associated with mental health in the 30s (she addresses these liberties at the conclusion) I found myself increasingly frustrated with Clara’s predicament. Psychology is certainly not my field, but I knew enough to be angered at how the head doctor treated her. I also empathized with Izzy’s fears of her future after aging out of foster care. The emotions brought forth from the story made the book for me, and, like Lilly’s story in “The Life She Was Given” I found myself wanting to know more and more! I wanted to know more about the connection between the characters. Unlike Lilly and Julia, here Izzy and Clara have a different path. Wiseman clearly knows what she’s doing, and I would certainly recommend this book, too! So far, two out of two have been exceptional!

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