The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND By Ellen Marie Wiseman

Publisher:  Kensington
Release Date:  December 31, 2013
Pages:  336
Genre:  Historical Fiction/Women's Fiction

Book Description:  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 a 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.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
What an incredible story! What She Left Behind is a stunning and heart-wrenching story told in vivid detail. You will become entangled in sadness from beginning to end. The author does a beautiful job blending together two story-lines – Clara’s past, beginning in 1929, and Izzy’s quest in the present day. These two characters are wonderfully portrayed.

Izzy – For the first time since she was a child, 17-year-old Izzy had foster parents who cared. Her mother was doing time in prison for shooting her father and she was still living that nightmare. Izzy’s new foster mom, Peg, asked her to help at Willard, an old insane asylum, going through old suitcases to help safeguard anything that might be worth keeping before the buildings were condemned. They were uncovering buried secrets, handling personal belongings of long-dead, mentally ill people. Izzy becomes connected to Clara, a former patient at Willard, and her horrible story.

Clara was going to be trapped in an arranged marriage to a man she didn’t love. She wanted to share her life with Bruno and for the first time in her life she felt loved and cherished. Clara’s heartless father plots against her, lying about her sanity. She eventually ends up in Willard Asylum because she was in love with a man her father didn’t approve of. If you weren’t insane when you entered Willard you certainly became insane with the torture they endured.

And the story unfolds as Clara, with her fractured heart and wounded spirit, fights to be released from Willard. And the duel storyline between Clara and Izzy becomes tied together to reveal an informative read, but a very disturbing topic.

Superlative novel! This book I've added to my all time favorites. My rating is 5+ stars.

About the Author:  Ellen Marie Wiseman's debut novel, The Plum Tree, was released by Kensington Publishing on December 25th, 2012. Set in Nazi Germany, The Plum Tree is an epic story of human resilience and enduring hope that follows a young German woman through WWII as she struggles to survive poverty and Allied bombs, finds the courage to outwit SS officers, and risks everything trying to save the love of her life, a Jewish man. Find Ellen on Facebook at: or like The Plum Tree at: Fan Page: