Posted in Book Reviews

What She Left Behind: Ellen Marie Wiseman

Isabelle is a seventeen year old with the weight of the world on he shoulders. With her mother incarcerated for killing her father, she’s been shuffled from her Grandma to foster care. Unable to let go of her anger & resentment, she’s found it difficult to relate to any of her foster families or others her own age. The fear of becoming mentally ill like her mother is her biggest fear. Since being placed with her current foster parents, Peg & Harry, she’s been able to relax a bit.

Peg works for a museum & enlists Isabelle to assist her with searching a closed asylum for museum quality items. With a biological mom who’s mentally questionable, Isabelle finds the task gives her anxiety & panic attacks. Her inner turmoil isn’t helped when she must simultaneously start a new school at the beginning of her senior year. There she encounters bullies & tight-knit cliques.

A glimmer of hope appears when she uncovers a steamer trunk from the asylum belonging to a woman named Clara. Included in its contents is a journal that will lead Isabelle to discover secrets of the asylum as well as a great deal of self-discovery. Could the journal of a mental patient really help Isabelle understand mental illness? Clara may be her only hope of obtaining a semblance of normalcy.

Thank God there has been so many advancements in the treatment of mental illness! It’s extraordinary what ‘patients’ had to endure. This novel definitely sheds light on the more inhuman elements of their care.

Isabelle is a great lead, far from perfect, dealing with teenage angst & the trauma of the ‘system’. Clara’s story is heart-wrenching & will move most readers. Our author did a phenomenal job of seamlessly blending both stories. At no time were the elements confusing. That’s no easy task.

At times, the novel became a bit wordy but it was definitely worth the read. I give it a definite 4 out of 5 stars.

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