What She Left Behind

What She Left Behind

by Ellen Marie Wiseman
4.0 43

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What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

In this stunning new novel, the acclaimed author of The Plum Tree merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty--and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

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 cataloging 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.

Illuminating and provocative, What She Left Behind is a masterful novel about the yearning to belong--and the mysteries that can belie even the most ordinary life.

Praise For Ellen Marie Wiseman's The Plum Tree

"Ellen Marie Wiseman's provocative and realistic images of a small German village are exquisite. The Plum Tree will find good company on the shelves of those who appreciated Skeletons at the Feast, by Chris Bohjalian, Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, and Night, by Elie Wiesel." --NY Journal of Books

"The meticulous hand-crafted detail and emotional intensity of The Plum Tree immersed me in Germany during its darkest hours and the ordeals its citizens had to face. A must-read for WWII Fiction aficionados--and any reader who loves a transporting story." --Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us

"Wiseman eschews the genre's usual military conflicts of daily life during wartime, lending an intimate and compelling poignancy to this intriguing debut." --Publishers Weekly

"Ellen Marie Wiseman weaves a story of intrigue, terror, and love from a perspective not often seen in Holocaust novels." --Jewish Book World

"A haunting and beautiful debut novel." --Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758278463
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 7,114
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Ellen Marie Wiseman was born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in Northern New York. A first generation American, Ellen has traveled frequently to visit her family in Germany, where she fell in love with the country’s history and culture. A mother of two, Ellen lives peacefully on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and three dogs.

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What She Left Behind 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
AngieJG More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Ms. Wiseman's novel very much. I did not know about the insane asylum in New York prior to reading this. I thought it was a great plot that would interest most anyone. There is a parallel story running throughout the book. One is present day (or quite close to it), the other is from the 1920's and several years thereafter. The novelist does an excellent job describing the terrifying setting, and the treatment used on the many patients of Willard. It is a sad story, but one that must be told. A few years ago, a discovery of the patient's luggage/trunks were found on the grounds. The trunks had been sealed for many years. These trunks show up in Ms. Wiseman's novel, and they tell a story of people who never had a chance to live their lives with dignity. The author has opened those trunks to let us peer in to see. Immediately, after reading the novel, I wanted to learn more. You know a book is good when you can't get it out of your mind or you want to learn more. I highly recommend this book. 
BarbaraClaypoleWhite More than 1 year ago
WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND is an exceptional page-turner that moves seamlessly between the past and the present. The historical storyline was hard for me to read at times--I have family members who battle mental illness--but still, I could not put the book down. With every chapter I wanted to know more--more about the characters, about how their stories would entwine, about the real Willard. This novel shines a floodlight on the treatment of women and the mentally ill in the 1930s, but here's the bottom line: It's a thumping good read. I loved Ellen Marie Wiseman's debut, THE PLUM TREE, but I liked her second novel even more. It's dark, it's tragic, it's filled with truths, and it's ultimately uplifting. Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of those rare reads that stays with you long after you read it! I highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was excited to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of Ellen Wiseman's second novel, What She Left Behind (publication December 31st ). I thoroughly enjoyed Ellen's debut novel The Plum Tree, and I knew the setting for her second book was the Finger Lakes region of New York state, where I live. I am happy to report that What She Left Behind is a book that I could not stop reading! I enjoyed the book's structure of dual story lines that coalesce: this style of storytelling has the potential to be difficult to follow, however Wiseman pays close attention to continuity and relationship between the two main characters of Izzy and Clara. These are strong, complex women who are forced to confront many of the same issues, even though their lives occur in different time periods. Several themes play out in each character's story: the idea of a normal life and being denied it, doing what you're told, the strength and love that should exist in a family, and betrayal by a parent. At times, it is a sad story, but more than that it is a real story with believable characters who inform in a deeply emotional way. Its a great book to snuggle up with for a weekend on the couch!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While this book kept me reading, it kept me skimming- the description were over-done and tiresome. There were many contradictions- for example Clara, the 1930s character was supposed to stay home to learn to cook, yet she is from one of the wealthiest families in New York City. Then she is sterilized in the mental institution yet she still gets her period. The student behavior is unrealistic and the teacher interactions are false. This is much more geared for Young Adult readers. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book tells the stories of two young women from different times concurrently. Clara, the daughter of a wealthy banker in the 1920s is sent to a mental institution by her father for falling in love with an Italian immigrant and refusing to marry the son of her father's bussiness partner. Present day Izzy is just starting out in yet another foster home sent to foster care after her mother shot and killed her father 10 years ago. Clara struggles to adjust to life in a place where she doesnt belong, just as Izzy struggles to adjust to a new school, as she is tormented by way her once happy family was shattered. Their stories intersect when Izzy discovers Clara's steamer trunk of belongings at the now abandoned Willard State Aslyum while helping her foster mother with an official project she has undertaken. The reader is given a harrowing look at the asylums of the past, and the lack of rights endured by women of this era. Eventually, the two women's stories come together leading to resolution for them both of the central issues in thier lives. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this wonderful book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book to me and I am so glad she did! I could not put this book down. The writer does such an amazing job making you almost feel like you've been commited right along with Clara. The story is sad and disturbing but on the edge of your seat suspenseful. Great book! I became so emotionally attached to the characters.
PaqiPR More than 1 year ago
Personally, I found the story in the past, Clara's story, disturbing. Having Izzie's modern problems every-other-chapter was a very welcome escape. I found the ending to be contrived, but having given my complaints, I will say that the book was very engaging, and I fully believed the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What She Left Behind is riveting. I was so enthralled that I stayed up late to finish this book. Wiseman puts down an interesting plot, with many unexpected twists, weaving together the lives of two women, Izzy in 1995, and Clara in 1930. She provides unique insights into the failings of our mental health system in the early 20th century. I’m planning to recommend this one to my book club.
Lunalin More than 1 year ago
I was really moved by this book. In my youth, I visited a notoriously evil state facility. This book rings true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really excellent novel.
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I LOVED this story! Was very hard to put down. I highly recommend it!!
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I was fascinated with this novel and didn't want to put it down. I found her writing to be easily read and understood. The story is sad, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. She was able to keep my attention even with 2 stories that take place in different time periods.
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Couldnt put the book down, even as the sun came up!!
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