What She Left Behind

What She Left Behind

Book - 2014
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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
Publisher: New York : Kensington, c2014.
ISBN: 9780758278456
Branch Call Number: WISEM
Characteristics: viii, 328 p. ; 21 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

A story of two-narrators, Clara in the 1930s and Izzy in the 1990s, and the consequences of their parents trying to shield and protect them from what is happening around them.


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AL_MARCIA Sep 14, 2017

A compelling story about a woman sent to an insane asylum in 1929 and a teenage girl in foster care in 1996. Their stories are beautifully woven together.

JCLCatherineG Sep 06, 2017

Depressing, intense and grim! If you're in the mood for that kind of book, this one is perfect. This story made me appreciate all the rights and freedoms that I sometimes take for granted.

AL_SHELL Nov 06, 2016

A riveting novel or two spirited characters who's life situations cross over time. These are believable women from two different era's whose lives intersect in an unusual way. A hard one to put down!

m
maipenrai
Aug 19, 2016

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s
scdepatr
Aug 08, 2016

This was not the most riveting book I've ever read, but it was definitely one of the more emotion stirring books I've read. Sometimes I was so angry I wasn't sure I wanted to continue reading. It's just unthinkable that something like that could happen. I like reading two "stories" in parallel. I experienced this the first time with Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True. I find myself so absorbed in the current character's story that I feel disappointed when we switch to the next, but then I have the same feeling when switching again. Parts were a bit predictable but not all of them.

f
finn75
Oct 26, 2015

An absorbing read. Makes you so angry at how the mentally ill and women were treated.

l
LadyJaneBrais
Sep 22, 2015

The story concept was great, but the novel was very light weight. I thought it was a junior or young adult selection after reading a few chapters, due to the lack of sophistication in the writing, and the lack of any in-depth background material. I would have liked to see this story written by someone with more passion.

a
Avid_reader15
Sep 02, 2015

My second Ellen Marie Wiseman book. I had just finished "The Plum Tree" which was informative and somber. This book too follows in the same tone.
I like historical fiction and more than likely there is nothing good to be said about being locked up in an asylum during that time period. That Clara's story would impact Izzy's story became obvious early on. But it became tedious for me to read and left me feeling tired and heavy.

I did a simple Google search on the Willard Asylum and immediately came upon lots of images. Some were of suitcases, filled with the patient's belongings. Stuffed in an attic and never returned to them. From there launched this story.

What I learned from this book was how horrific treatment could be for the mentally ill (or in some cases sane people locked away for other reasons). That in itself is sobering. But after reading two of her books, I'm ready for a break. Her style is similar in both books. Interesting but not mesmerizing. Heavy and grim. Even with a "happy ever after" ending, I just finished with a sense of relief I was done.

r
readsalot80
Jul 17, 2014

I liked this book about two young women separated by decades who learn to survive the circumstances of their lives. This would be an interesting book for a book club.

m
muffin0321
Jun 14, 2014

Could not put this book down - read it in two days time. Brought forth many emotions - anger, frustration, sympathy, I didn't laugh but certainly had tears. Any book that brings forth emotions from me certainly rates a 5 star rating. Authors other book "the plum tree' was as equally enjoyed. A must read.

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r
readsalot80
Jul 17, 2014

This is the story of present day Izzy who is living with foster parents after her mother kills her father. It is also the story of Clara whose trunk is left behind at the asylum where she was placed for falling in love with the wrong man and getting pregnant. Both women survive becoming even stronger for their experiences.

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