The Life She Was Given

The Life She Was Given

by Ellen Marie Wiseman


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The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

A GREAT GROUP READS Selection of the Women’s National Book Association and National Reading Group Month 

GOODREADS Best of the Month

From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets—beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617734496
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 07/25/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 31,678
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ellen Marie Wiseman was born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in Northern New York. Ellen lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband, two spoiled Shih‑Tzus, and a rescued yellow lab. She loves to cook, travel, garden, watch movies, and spend time with her children and grandchildren. To date, her books have been translated in 17 languages and territories. For more, visit:

Read an Excerpt



July 1931
Nine-year-old Lilly Blackwood stood in the attic dormer of Blackwood Manor for what felt like the thousandth time, wishing the window would open so she could smell the outdoors. Tomorrow was her birthday and she couldn't think of a better present. Sure, Daddy would bring her a new dress and another book when he came home from Pennsylvania, but it had rained earlier and she wanted to know if the outside air felt different than the inside air. She wondered if raindrops made everything feel soft and cool, the way water did when she took a sponge bath. Or did the outside feel warm and sticky, like the air inside her room? She had asked Momma a hundred times to change the window so it would open, and to take the swirly metal off the outside so it would be easier to see out, but as usual, Momma wouldn't listen. If Momma knew Daddy let her play in another part of the attic when she was at church, Daddy would be in big trouble. Even bigger trouble than for teaching her how to read and for giving her a cat on her third birthday. Lilly sighed, picked up her telescope off the sill, and put it to her eye. At least it was summertime and she didn't have to scrape ice off the glass.

Daddy called this time of day twilight, and the outside looked painted in only two colors — green and blue. The row of pine trees on the other side of the barn, past the fields where the horses played, looked like the felt Lilly used for doll blankets. Shadows were everywhere, growing darker by the minute.

Lilly skimmed the edge of the woods, looking for the deer she saw yesterday. There was the crooked willow tree. There was the rock next to the bush that turned red in the winter. There was the broken log next to the stone fence. There was the — She stopped and swung the telescope back to the fence. Something looked different on the other side of the woods, near the train tracks that cut through the faraway meadow. She took the telescope away from her eye, blinked, then looked through it again and gasped. Air squeaked in her chest, like it always did when she got excited or upset.

A string of blue, red, yellow, and green lights — like the ones Daddy put above her bed at Christmastime — hung above a giant glowing house made out of something that looked like cloth. More lights surrounded other houses that looked like fat, little ghosts. Lilly couldn't make out the words, but there were signs too, with letters lit up by colored bulbs. Flags hung from tall poles, and a line of square yellow lights floated above the railroad tracks. It looked like the windows of a stopped train. A really long one.

Lilly put down the telescope, waited for her lungs to stop whistling, then went over to her bookcase and pulled out her favorite picture book. She flipped through the pages until she found what she was looking for — a colorful drawing of a striped tent surrounded by wagons, horses, elephants, and clowns. She hurried back to the window to compare the shape of the tent in the book to the glowing house on the other side of the trees.

She was right.

It was a circus.

And she could see it.

Normally, the only things outside her window were horses and fields, and Daddy and his helper working on the white fences or yellow horse barn. Sometimes, Momma walked across the grass to the barn, her long blond hair trailing behind her like a veil. Other times, trucks pulled into the barn driveway and Daddy's helper put horses in and out of trailers or unloaded bags and hay bales. Once, two men in baggy clothes — Daddy called them bums — walked up the driveway and Daddy's helper came out of the barn with a shotgun. If Lilly was lucky, deer came out of the woods, or raccoons scurried along the fence toward the feed shed, or a train zoomed along the tracks. And if she put her ear to the window, the chug of the train's engine or the shriek of the whistle came through the glass.

But now there was a circus outside her window. A real, live circus! For the first time in her life, she was seeing something different that wasn't in a picture book. It made her happy, but a little bit mad at herself too. If she hadn't been reading all afternoon, she might have seen the train stop to unload. She could have watched the tents go up and caught sight of the elephants and zebras and clowns. Now it was too dark to see anything but lights.

She put down the book and counted the boards around the window. Sometimes counting made her feel better. One, two, three, four, five. It didn't help. She couldn't stop thinking about what she'd missed. She pressed her ear against the glass. Maybe she could hear the ringleader's cries or the circus music. The only thing she heard was air squeaking in her chest and her heartbeat going fast.

On the windowsill, her cat, Abby, woke up and blinked. Lilly wrapped an arm around the orange tabby and pulled her close, burying her nose in the animal's soft fur. Abby was her best friend and the smartest cat in the world. She could stand on her hind legs to give kisses and lift her front paw to shake. She even jumped up on Lilly's bed and got down when told.

"I bet Momma will go to the circus," Lilly said. "She doesn't have to worry about people being afraid of her."

The cat purred.

What would it be like to see an elephant in person? Lilly wondered. What would it feel like to touch its wrinkly skin and look into its big brown eyes? What about riding a pink and white horse on a carousel? Or walking among other people, eating peanuts and cotton candy? What about watching a real, live lion perform?

As far back as Lilly could remember, there had been times at night after her light was out when she snuggled in her bed, her mind racing with thoughts of leaving her room and going downstairs. She'd read enough books to know there was more than one floor in a house, and she imagined sneaking across the attic, finding a staircase, making her way through the bottom floors of Blackwood Manor, and walking out the front door. She imagined standing with her feet on the earth, taking a deep breath, and for the first time in her life, smelling something besides old wood, cobwebs, and warm dust.

One of her favorite games during Daddy's weekly visits was guessing the different smells on his clothes. Sometimes he smelled like horses and hay, sometimes shoe polish or smoke, sometimes baking bread or — what did he call that stuff that was supposed to be a mix of lemons and cedar trees? Cologne? Whatever it was, it smelled good.

Daddy had told her about the outside world and she had read about it in books, but she had no idea how grass felt between her toes, or how tree bark felt in her hand. She knew what flowers smelled like because Daddy brought her a bouquet every spring, but she wanted to walk through a field of dandelions and daisies, to feel dirt and dew on her bare feet. She wanted to hear birds singing and the sound of the wind. She wanted to feel a breeze and the sun on her skin. She'd read everything she could on plants and animals, and could name them all if given the chance. But besides Abby and the mice she saw running along the baseboard in the winter, she'd never seen a real animal up close.

Her other favorite game was picking a place in her book of maps and reading everything she could about it, then planning a trip while she fell asleep, deciding what she would do and see when she got there. Her favorite place was Africa, where she pictured herself running with the lions and elephants and giraffes. Sometimes she imagined breaking the dormer window, crawling out on the roof, climbing down the side of the house, and sneaking over to the barn to see the horses. Because from everything she had seen and read, they were her favorite animals. Besides cats, of course. Not only were horses strong and beautiful, but they pulled wagons and sleighs and plows. They let people ride on their backs and could find their way home if they got lost. Daddy said Blackwood Manor's horses were too far away from the attic window to tell who was who, so Lilly made up her own names for them — Gypsy, Eagle, Cinnamon, Magic, Chester, Samantha, Molly, and Candy. How she would have loved to get close to them, to touch their manes and ride through the fields on their backs. If only it weren't for those stupid swirly bars outside her window that Momma said were there for her own good. Then she remembered Momma's warning, and as quickly as they started, her dreams turned to nightmares.

"The bars are there to protect you," Momma said. "If someone got in, they'd be afraid of you and they'd try to hurt you."

When Lilly asked why anyone would be afraid of her, Momma said it was because she was a monster, an abomination. Lilly didn't know what an abomination was, but it sounded bad. Her shoulders dropped and she sighed in the stillness of her room. There would be no circus for her. Not now, not ever. There would be no getting out of the attic either. The only way she would see the world was through her books. Daddy said the outside world was not as wonderful as she thought, and Lilly should be happy she had a warm bed and food to eat. A lot of people didn't have a house or a job, and they had to stand in line for bread and soup. He told her a story about banks and money and some kind of crash, but she didn't understand it. And it didn't make her feel better anyway.

She gathered Abby in her arms and sat on her iron bed tucked beneath a wallpapered nook with a rounded ceiling. Her bedside lamp cast long shadows across the plank floor, meaning it would be dark soon and it was time to turn off the light. She didn't want to forget again and have Momma teach her another lesson. Momma had warned her a hundred times if anyone saw her light and found her up there they would take her away and she'd never see her or Daddy or Abby again. But one night last week, Lilly started a new book and forgot.

She put the cat on the bed and examined the scars on her fingers. Daddy was right, the lotion made them feel better. But oh, how the flame of Momma's lantern had burned!

"Spare the rod and spoil the child," Momma said.

Lilly wanted to ask if the Bible said anything about sparing the fire, but didn't dare. She was supposed to know what the Bible said.

"I wonder what Momma would do if she found out I read the books from Daddy instead of that boring old Bible?" she asked Abby. The cat rubbed its face on Lilly's arm, then curled into a ball and went back to sleep.

Lilly took the Bible from the nightstand — she didn't dare put it anywhere else — moved the bookmark in a few pages, and set it back down. Momma would check to see how much reading she had done this week and if the bookmark hadn't moved, Lilly would be in big trouble. According to Momma, the Holy Bible and the crucifix on the wall above her bed were the only things she needed to live a happy life.

Everything else in the room came from Daddy — the wicker table set up for a tea party, complete with a lace doily, silver serving tray, and china cups. The matching rocking chair and the teddy bear sitting on the blue padded stool next to her wardrobe. The dollhouse filled with miniature furniture and straight-backed dolls. The model farm animals lined up on a shelf above her bookcase, all facing the same way, as if about to break into song. Three porcelain dolls with lace dresses in a wicker baby pram, one with eyes that opened and closed. And, of course, her bookcase full of books. It seemed, for a while, like Daddy would give her everything — until she read Snow White and asked for a mirror.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when she was certain everyone was asleep and there was nothing but blackness outside her window, she turned on her light and studied her reflection in the glass. All she saw was a blurry, ghost-like mask looking back at her, the swirly metal outside coiling across her skin like snakes. She stared at her white reflection and touched her forehead and nose and cheeks, trying to find a growth or a missing part, but nothing stuck out or caved in. When she asked Daddy what was wrong with her, he said she was beautiful to him and that was all that mattered. But his eyes looked funny when he said it, and she didn't think he was telling the truth. He'd be in big trouble if Momma found out because Momma said lying was a sin.

Good thing Lilly would never tell on Daddy. He was the one who taught her how to read and write, and how to add and subtract numbers. He was the one who decorated the walls of her room with rose- covered wallpaper and brought her new dresses and shoes when she got too big for the old ones. He was the one who brought Abby food and let Lilly in the other part of the attic so she could walk and stretch. One time, he even brought up a wind-up record player and tried to teach her the Charleston and tango, but she got too tired and they had to stop. She loved the music and begged him to leave the record player in her room. But he took it back downstairs because Momma would be mad if she found it.

Momma brought food and necessities, not presents. She came into Lilly's room every morning — except for the times she forgot — with a tray of toast, milk, eggs, sandwiches, apples, and cookies, to be eaten over the rest of the day. She brought Lilly soap and clean towels, and reminded her to pray before every meal. She stood by the door every night with a ring of keys in her hands and waited for Lilly to kneel by her bed to ask the Lord to forgive her sins, and to thank Him for giving her a mother who took such good care of her. Other than that, Momma never came in her room just to talk or have fun. She never said "I love you" like Daddy did. Lilly would never forget her seventh birthday, when her parents argued outside her door.

"You're spoiling her with all those presents," Momma said. "It's sinful how much you give her."

"It's not hurting anyone," Daddy said.

"Nevertheless, we need to stop spending money."

"Books aren't that expensive."

"Maybe not, but what if she starts asking questions? What if she wants to come downstairs or go outside? Are you going to say no?"

At first, Daddy didn't say anything and Lilly's heart lifted. Maybe he would take her outside after all. Then he cleared his throat and said, "What else is she supposed to do in there? The least we can do is try to give her a normal birthday. It's not her fault she —"

Momma gasped. "It's not her fault? Then whose is it? Mine?"

"That's not what I was going to say," Daddy said. "It's not anyone's fault. Sometimes these things just happen."

"Well, if you had listened to me from the beginning, we wouldn't ..." She made a funny noise, like her words got stuck in her throat.

"She's still our daughter, Cora. Other than that one thing, she's perfectly normal."

"There's nothing normal about what's on the other side of that door," Momma said, her voice cracking.

"That's not true," Daddy said. "I talked to Dr. Hillman and he said —" "Oh, dear Lord ... tell me you didn't! How could you betray me like that?" Momma was crying now.

"There, there, my darling. I didn't tell anyone. I was just asking Dr. Hillman if he had ever seen ..."

Momma's sobs drowned out his words and her footsteps hurried across the attic.

"Darling, wait!" Daddy said.

The next day, Lilly quit praying before every meal, but she had not told Momma that. Since then, she had disobeyed her mother in a hundred little ways. Momma said it was wicked to look at her naked body and made Lilly close her eyes during her weekly sponge bath until she was old enough to wash herself. Now Lilly looked down at her milk-colored arms and legs when she bathed, examining her thin white torso and pink nipples. She felt ashamed afterward, but she wasn't being bad on purpose. She just wanted to know what made her a monster. The only thing she knew for sure was that her parents looked different than she did. Momma had curly blond hair and rosy skin; Daddy had a black mustache, black hair, and tan skin; but her skin was powder-white, her long, straight hair the color and texture of spider webs. It was like God forgot to give her a color. Is that what made her a monster? Or was it something else?

Now, hoping she'd be able to see more of the circus tomorrow, she changed into her nightclothes, climbed into bed, and switched off the light. Then she realized Momma hadn't come up to make sure she said her prayers.

Lilly curled up next to Abby and pulled her close. "She's probably at the circus," she said, closing her eyes.


Excerpted from "The Life She Was Given"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Ellen Marie Wiseman.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Also by,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
CHAPTER 1 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 2 - Julia,
CHAPTER 3 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 4 - Julia,
CHAPTER 5 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 6 - Julia,
CHAPTER 7 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 8 - Julia,
CHAPTER 9 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 10 - Julia,
CHAPTER 11 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 12 - Julia,
CHAPTER 13 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 14 - Julia,
CHAPTER 15 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 16 - Julia,
CHAPTER 17 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 18 - Julia,
CHAPTER 19 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 20 - Julia,
CHAPTER 21 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 22 - Julia,
CHAPTER 23 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 24 - Julia,
CHAPTER 25 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 26 - Julia,
CHAPTER 27 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 28 - Julia,
CHAPTER 29 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 30 - Julia,
CHAPTER 31 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 32 - Julia,
CHAPTER 33 - Lilly,
CHAPTER 34 - Julia,
Author's Note,
Teaser chapter,
Discussion Questions,

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The Life She Was Given 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once I started I couldn't put it down until I discovered where Lilly and Julia's story ended. Great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are sensitive to reading a story that describes child abuse and animal abuse, this is NOT the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great storyline and character development. I liked that the author switched back and forth between the past and present heroines. Lots of interesting detail of life in a traveling circus during the depression era. Touched so many topics such as child abuse, animal cruelty, mental illness, exploration of humanity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this story until I got to the last few chapters and I bawled my eyes out. I was hoping for a much different ending and I was horrified at the animal abuse.
gaele More than 1 year ago
Blackwood Manor is the center point of the action for this dual-timeline story: set in both the 1930’’s and the 1950’s, the manor, the attic room and the struggle to find one’s place in the world all combine to build a story that is rich in gothic feel and surprising moments. Alternating points of view come with each chapter: we start with Lily’s story. Born an albino after her mother’s many miscarriages in the 1930’s: she was a prisoner in her own home: shut into a tiny attic room with no visitors save her mother. Purportedly to ‘keep her safe’, Lily’s mother is extreme and prone to words like monster and abomination when speaking with her, but juxtapose that with her fanaticism and religious fervor, and perhaps a touch of guilt or self-recrimination for bringing such a ‘different’ child into the world. To rid herself of the curse and burden, at ten, Lily is sold to a traveling circus to become a headliner in the freak show. Fast forward twenty-ish years to meet Julia, now 18 and working in a restaurant after having left home years earlier. She’s never quite felt as if she was loved or fit in, and things are tough, including her falling in with an abusive man. She’s living hand to mouth, never certain that food will be on the table, or the rent will be paid when she is handed a chance at a way out. A private investigator found her to deliver some news: her mother is dead and Julia is now the owner of Blackwood Manor, her family home. The story winds between these two – showing their own struggles with finding a place in the world to feel safe and loved, and their own issues with abusive or neglected pasts. Each new revelation from the girls brings a moment of pause: truly horrible situations yet they survived, and always looked for another day, another moment, a reason to hope. But the story quickly adds a third character, that of the manor house itself. Abandoned and aging, Julia’s discovery of a mystery and secret within its walls, the dank and removed attic room and her need to expose all of the darkness to the light and hopefully move forward keep the story engaging and intriguing, with a series of questions situations and answers that drop like petals from a flower. There is a feel (and I say feel in the most general sense) that a reader will want to connect this to another title and say it’s like This or That – but those connections are the most basic (circuses, attics) and here is where I think Wiseman excels: her writing is evocative and laden with emotion. The prose flows smoothly, allowing each moment of discovery to stand on its own and be explored: from the character’s viewpoint and as a reader. You want to savor these moments as you are placing the pieces of the puzzle together: never quite certain just how moments will relate until the last pages. As an introduction to Wiseman’s work, this was a great one, and the ending here couldn’t have been more perfect. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Excellent work! A story difficult to put down. The author exposed many realities of past practices found more than abusive by our society today. Unfortunately, many still occur undetected in our society.
Anonymous 5 months ago
What an amazing book. The cover was intriguing as well as the title so I dove in and gave it a try. I was not disappointed. This book has just the right amount of everything. It captured my attention from the first chapter and never let go. The character Lily through cruelty and tragedy becomes a strong vital woman. Her ancestor who shares the other half of the story also shares the same strength of character. Bouncing between present day and the past; the author gives us a look into the life of circus people and the life of a special little girl.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Great read until the end....very depressing and disturbing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely page turner loved all the characters specially Lilly my heart went out to her. It was sad but beautifully written. Going to read more books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lilly , after 10 years of being kept locked in the attic at Blackwood Manor is sold by her mother to a traveling circus. The next voice we hear from is Julia who after leaving the family home of Blackwood Manor three years before learns that she has has inherited it. What is the connection between Lilly and Julia?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Really wel l written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a well written story but extremely depressing. I was left so empty and sad that i actually felt down in the dumps for a while agter finishing it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by this author and I plan on reading everything else she has written. The things that happen to Lilly and Julia are hard to digest and had me sobbing at times but the story is beautifully written and left me with a sense of peace at the end. Resilient women who will win your heart and mind.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
This story was so much more than I expected. Told from the perspectives of Lilly in the 1930s and Julia in the 1950s. Lilly Blackwood, an albino girl, was sold to the circus by her mother during the depression. Lilly did not know why her mother did not love her and why her father did nothing to help. She was told she was horrendous looking and if she was out in public, people would do terrible things to her. Her part of the story describes her life in the circus. It was not all smiles and laughs. She was purchased from her mother by the owner of the Side Show and he treated her terribly. She was beaten, ridiculed and almost raped. Julia Blackwood, born almost 2 decades later, was also treated poorly by her mother until she could no longer stand it and ran away from home. Her father had already died and her mother blamed her for it. When she finally gets word that her mother has died, she returns to Blackwood Manor with mixed feelings. Once there, she realized that she needs to find out what went wrong with her family. She begins to explore and uncover secrets. There are many themes in this book. The first is the idea of freaks, albinism was treated very differently in the past. We now have much more tolerance for people born with defects, however it is not as good as it should be. The theme of animal cruelty also resonates throughout Lilly's section when she is talking about the circus. There is also some religious fanaticism and both child abuse and abuse of women. Sections of the book require a strong stomach. This is the first book I have read by this author and I was not disappointed. The characters were well developed and the scenes were descriptive, but not overly so. There are many parts of this book based on real situations, which makes it even more thought provoking. Overall, this was a great read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, reading about circuses, family drama etc. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
DeborahMO More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking, beautifully told story. Unlike any other book I have read. I read it on my Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the storyline Heatbreaking parts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hated the ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK, OMG! Lilly was born an albino in the early 1930s during the depression to a family that was fairly well off during that time, the family owned Blackwood Manor and horse farm. Lilly’s mother kept her locked up in the attic until Lilly was ten years old before selling her to the Circus where she became a member of the “freak show”. All the time Lilly was locked up in the attic, hidden away from the outside world, her mother told her she was a monster and an abomination. Her mother was a religious fanatic and kept Bibles in Lilly’s tiny attic room and made her pray and read scripture devoutly. It’s hard to say if her mother was always this way with religion, or if she became that way after Lily was born, it doesn’t really say in the book, i’m guessing maybe after the birth of Lily, because, after having eight miscarriages, her mother vowed to sell her soul to the devil for a baby, and after Lilly was born with her condition, her mother believed it was because of the deal she made with the devil. Through the happenings of Lilly’s tragic and sad life it would seem like Lilly was absolutely a cursed child no doubt. In the second chapter we meet Julia an eighteen year old girl in the 1950s. She is a struggling, barely getting by waitress in a little diner, she is not sure if she is going to have a meal that night or be able to pay her rent for the apartment she and her abusive boyfriend are living in. A private investigator shows up to the diner one night with a letter, informing Julia that she has inherited her childhood home, the home that she ran away from two years prior, is now hers. Her mother has passed and left the Blackwood Manor to her. Arriving at the creepy and possibly haunted manor, she discovers a disturbing secret that she is determined to get to the bottom of. From here bombshell after bombshell is dropped, right to the very last page. A few times I actually gasped and whispered “oh my gosh.” I enjoyed this book immensely, this story has stuck in my mind, it really had an impact on me. The author really did a wonderful job with her research of that time period, and took some actual true events from history and weaved them into this unique skin crawling story. Knowing that a lot of the story was inspired by actual events makes this story that much more gripping. I saved this book to read at the end of my day, which for me is when I save the best books to read, it is the quietest and the time when everyone is unwinding themselves or already in bed. This is my me time. Unfortunately, this is when i’m in my bed, before going to sleep. Unfortunate because this book was too good to put down and two nights in a row I stayed up all night reading. This is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't had time to read in years. This book reminded me why I love to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading I wondered if I would enjoy the book. The story was being “told” of Lilly, her life in the attic, her thoughts as she looked forward to her tenth birthday. When her mother swept in, took her to the circus and sold her it was heartbreaking and from that point on her life, though in some ways better, wasn’t filled with happiness and light. From that introduction to Lilly I was then introduced to Julia. Again, I had trouble relating to her and her situation but picked up that both Lilly and Julia were raised by and called the same woman mother. And, Mother did not treat either of her daughters well. In fact, she was abusive and a horrible person with a husband that was rather weak and unlikable, too. Lilly’s story begins in 1931 and unfolds in chapters that alternate with those of Julia’s that begins in 1956. The two women’s life stories eventually interconnect with a twist that I am not sure I was expecting. And, I felt sad for both of them in more ways than one. Some of the words that came to mind while reading include: * Thought provoking * Informative * Sad * Dark * Twisted * Unsettling * Disturbing Did I like the story in the end? Yes Would I recommend it? Yes – BUT I will caution you that this is not a romance though there is a bit of romance AND the life in the circus is not a happy story for the animals or the people. SO, if you are interested in a book that may make you think and wonder and be grateful you are who you are as you explore the lives of two women you will be glad you are not then…definitely pick up this riveting read and settle in for a while because the book is definitely worth reading. 4-5 Stars