What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman
What She Left Behind was our October Book Club book, and my friend that chose it said she chose it in part for the creepy vibe. Insane Asylums are definitely in the creepy realm, and this book brought them into a whole new horrifying light. Even though the topic wasn’t feel good, this book catapulted into my top 3 book club reads! Nice pick Crissa ;).
Excerpt from Amazon (which also voted this book among Editor’s Favorite Books of the year).
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.
The “treatment” of mental illness
Loss (death, imprisonment, etc).
Hope and survival
Eugenics (this one gets deep)
The role of women in the 20’s and 30’s
Should we dig up history (documents are now still sealed in NY), meaning would you want to know of the atrocious treatment of your relatives? Or are those things better left in the dark since there is nothing we can do to change it?
What we think we would have done in a similar situation.
Why do some people remain silent during crimes?
Which character would we like to meet if we could now?
We spent a lot of time flabbergasted at the conditions of the asylums, and all the ways that people could end up there who were not insane. Someone brought up the good point that the regulations in place now are there because of our history, and even though we complain about all the red tape, the regulations really are there to protect us.
Abortion/Eugenics. Touchy subject, but we went there and all came out as friends! 🙂
The behavior of a wife or daughter in earlier days.
We all unanimously detested the “villain” and spent some time on our disdain.
It might seem strange that I liked a book so much that was about inhumane treatment. There were definitely parts that were hard to digest, but I loved this book. I loved it because I couldn’t put it down, loved the way it was written, loved the characters, loved the way the 2 points of view were separate but congruent, and loved that it made me appreciate the time we live in. Honestly with so much darkness in our everyday lives, it’s good to take a step back and realize how truly blessed we are. Very sad that it is a part of our history however :(.
As normal the food, snacks, and company were divine!
Angie grants 5 out of 5 Halos to this book!