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What She Left Behind

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  38,562 ratings  ·  4,431 reviews
In this stunning 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
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 27th 2019 by Kensington Publishing Corporation (first published December 31st 2013)
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Cori I guess I am the minority but this was one of my favorite books that I have ever read. I loved the story! I loved that the story made you feel - even…moreI guess I am the minority but this was one of my favorite books that I have ever read. I loved the story! I loved that the story made you feel - even if it was sad and heartbreaking - it made you feel. I love books that make me cry. This is the kind of story that you won't forget since it sticks with you.(less)

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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  38,562 ratings  ·  4,431 reviews

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All the ★★★★★ in the world!

Whew..What. A. Book. Upon finishing this book, I felt exhausted, both emotionally and mentally.. my insides twisted in knots. It was unsettling.. it was terrifying.. and it was a complete masterpiece.

In the early 1930's an individual could be sent to an insane asylum for a myriad of different reasons. In this book, the protagonist, Clara Cartwright is unjustly sent away to a mental institution known as Willard State. The reason? Her father demanded that Clara would m
Susanne  Strong
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
4 Stars.

Imagine being an Eighteen Year-Old Woman named Clara Cartwright with a bright future ahead of you. The world is YOURS. The Year is 1929. You travel abroad with your parents, go to posh clubs, laugh with friends and simply enjoy what life has to offer you. And then, you meet a man. He is tall, dark and handsome and he makes you happy. You fall in love. So what do you do? Why you introduce Bruno to your parents of course! They disapprove and they plan an arranged marriage for you – to some
Debbie Shoulders
What began as an interesting idea morphed into a story so fraught with horrible events that the reader is left with disbelief instead of empathy.

Wiseman interweaves two stories from two different time periods. Nineteen-year-old Clara comes from an upper crust family in 1929. Her love for an Italian immigrant causes her father to place her into a mental health facility. When money becomes a problem Clara finds herself in a state mental institution.

In modern time, seventeen-year-old Izzy becomes p
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
It's 1929 and 18 year old Clara Cartwright has just told her parents she is in love with a man they disapprove of. The result: she is committed to an insane asylum. Fast forward to 1995. Izzy Stone is passed to another foster family as her mom sits in jail for killing Izzy's father. The 2 stories converge when Izzy begins work on a project involving the recovering of items from the condemned asylum. Clara’s truth is revealed when they find her diary in her travelling trunk: The sad life she was ...more
Angela M
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There were several places in this book where I just had to put it down for a while. The brutal treatment that Clara endured at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane and her heart wrenching sadness was just too much to bear. But I was compelled to continue with it. This is one of those books that pulls you in from the beginning and won't let you go even after you've finished reading it.

The alternating narratives of Clara in the 1920’s and 30”s and Izzy in the present day are skillfully blende
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.
Ever since I read The Plum Tree I was thinking about this author and her style of writing. She had a wholesome way of addressing the unthinkable. She finds flowers where nature itself gave up. The sparkle of hope when everyone else turned their back and walked away. For t
I remember buying this book last year and knowing that it was going to be one of my reads for 2014, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle. I recently came across it again and I am glad that I jumped in. (There are no spoilers here)

Basically this book alternates between two women: one in the late 1920’s and the other in 1995. Clara is a teenager in the 20’s who comes from a prestigious family: her father owned half of the largest bank in Manhattan and her mother was an heiress who had a lot of m
Norma * Traveling Sister
WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND by ELLEN MARIE WISEMAN was a very good novel which I finished very quickly. The only reason this book didn't get a 5* rating from me was because I found it somewhat predictable.

The two story-lines had a very different feel between them which alternated between the past and present. I thought that Izzy's story had a more of a YA feel to it. But maybe the author was trying to portray a more lighter side to Izzy's character over Clara's as hers was much more dramatic and power
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What she Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman a bit of a disappointing read for me.

Firstly I have to say the Front cover of the paperback was beautiful What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman while the back cover of the book had " Praise for Ellen Marie Wieman's The Plum Tree" and five different detailed short reviews by papers and magazines and I found this strange as I would assume that this would have the blurb of the book I was currently reading and not a different book entirely by the author.

I am very interested in books that
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ellen Marie Wiseman’s What She Left Behind is a page-turner without much substance; the kind of story that stays with you about as long as it takes to stick it back on the shelf.

The story is told through two narrative threads and revolves around two female characters. In the present day, there is Izzy Stone, a child who has lived in foster care since her mother murdered her father when she was seven. Izzy uncovers the story of Clara Cartwright, a young woman whose story begins in the 1930s and
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Admittedly I read this quickly and it was a page turner. But I found myself checking both Amazon and good reads reviews to make sure I'd indeed downloaded the right kindle book, because this was not a well done book. The characters were unreal, the writing juvenile--the language used is at times preposterous, the similes like something out of a Sweet Valley Twins book--I even now just went back to check genre thinking perhaps it was young adult? I found it listed as literary fiction, and the aut ...more
Dana Ilie
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is set in the present and in the past, which I find fascinating. So this is both contemporary and historical fiction in which the author seamlessly weaves together two plots and a compelling cast of characters amidst a detailed and haunting setting.
The two story lines are interconnected in overt and subtle ways throughout the novel. Wiseman writes really beautiful prose—and how I wish there was a more eloquent way to say that, but sometimes simple is best. As I read the book I simply t
Debbie "DJ"
I really did like this one, but it felt a little YA for me. I need edgy.

The alternating stories of present day Izzy, who's mother sits in jail for killing her father, and Clara, committed to an insane asylum in 1929 tied the two together in unexpected ways. Izzy is struggling with the possibility that her own mother was insane, among other things. Clara, who was only 18, was committed by her parents for falling in love with an "inappropriate" man.

It was appalling to read of Clara's story. How dr
Deborah aka Reading Mom
The premise of the book was good--to familiarize readers with practices in the care of mentally ill patients during the period of 1900 through about 1950 at Willard State Hospital in New York State, especially those institutionalized against their will and for trumped up reasons. There is also a contemporary thread in the form of a second story-line taking place in the year 1995 after the hospital was closed and research had started with the purpose of bringing to light and memorializing the liv ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
4+ stars

Wiseman is one of my favorite authors. Her books are complete. Good plot, great characters, easy to read and hard to put down. I have not read all of her books - yet! - but have thoroughly enjoyed all I have read and definitely plan to read more.

As seems to be the current style, this book moves back and forth between two narrators. Izzy, in the present and Clara from 66 years prior. Among other things, the Willard State Asylum bonds these two young girls. Clara a patient, subjected to
 Li'l Owl
Shocking and Heartbreakingly Sad. Courageously Written and Expertly Narrated!

Willard State Asylum 1995

Within minutes of setting foot on the grounds of the shuttered Willard State Asylum, seventeen-year-old Isabelle Stone knew it was a mistake.....

The wards’ fire escapes were inside wire cages, and the dirty windows were covered with thick bars, the rotting sills oozing a black sludge that ran down the brick walls. Most of the doors and windows had been boarded up from the inside, as if
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, how far we've come. From the days, only about 100 years ago, when daughters belonged to their fathers and then to their husbands. When marriages were, if not arranged, then certainly there was an understanding. When an out-of-wedlock pregnancy put a stain on a family that might never be erased. When, for the most insignificant reasons, a daughter or wife could be sent to the insane asylum, which became a "No Exit" kind of hell.

Where did this happen, you might ask??? Not some backward place w
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my top 5 most depressing books ever. Was it well-written, well-developed and insightful? Yes. Was it incredibly unsettling and depressing? Also, yes.

I feel so much sadness for the people sent to asylums who were unfairly and unjustly treated. While this is a work of fiction, the asylum itself is a factual location, and you can only imagine some of the things that occurred there, which are touched on in this book. It definitely educated me and opened my eyes to the history of the
Jan 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aborted
I read 50 pages then had to put it down. An author has unlimited choices in selecting tone, intensity and pacing. This author chose over-the-top in all possible ways. Not my style.

The writing is an issue, too. There is a letter on page 48 (I think) written from father to daughter explaining that he and his wife have lost money in the stock exchange and "so in order to keep our house and the lifestyle we are accustomed to", they will no longer be able to pay for her private care. No one would say
Apr 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I stuck with this through the first 110 pages. I realized that I was so disinterested that I literally did not care what was going to happen to either Clara or Izzy. Time to bail. Several of my GR friends loved it, so it is unusual that I would feel so much the opposite. Having decided not to finish it, I probably shouldn't comment, but I could not buy into Clara's situation at all--even the cruelest of fathers would not commit his daughter to a state mental ward because she disobeyed him once. ...more
Diane S ☔
Reading these books on the treatment of the mentally ill in the past and the flimsy reason men could use to lock women away, make me terribly angry and sad. Also makes me so very grateful, for the women who fought for women's rights and also that I live now, in this time period. Parts of this book was difficult to read because of the subject.

Two storylines, one in the past and one in the present. Both young woman, going through difficult times, trying to find their ways through life and out of t
Rachel Gammons
Mar 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Heads up, I am fully indulging in spoilers.

My experience with this book was bizarre. As others have said, the Clara narrative is much stronger than Izzy. While I appreciated that the author wanted to convey the depravity of early mental health care, the daddy issues in this book are out of control. Basically, any male with power/money was abusive and cruel. And I still can't wrap my head around the completely-out-of-left-wing-father-daughter-molestation reveal. Let me just break it down for you:
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book thru the Goodreads First Reads giveaways. Absolutely LOVED this book. The story is has two characters, one in the present and one in the past that are struggling to adapt to changes in their lives. The way the author moved from one character to the next is just seamless. The stories flowed very well together. The ending was my favorite part, but I won't reveal why so I don't spoil it for someone else. I wouldn't have normally picked this book to read, but now I am going ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.
This is really a compelling novel of two young women in two different time periods trying to overcome come the horrible circumstances that life has given them.

Izzy is a 17 year old girl whose mother is in prison for killing her father for what appears to be no reason. Izzy is currently living in yet another new foster home and is being bullied at school.
Clara is an 18 year old girl who lives in 1929. She is in love with one man, yet her parents want her to marry another. When she refu
I think this book tried to tackle too many themes self harm, bullying, mental health, abuse. It was just too much at times, hard to sit through and wouldn't recommend this in one sitting. Even though this was fiction it has some historical accuracies, which makes it all the more horrendous. The plot was interesting as well as the main characters but what could have been a fantastic story ended up being abit mediocre, I think some of the topics were added for extra horror but only made the story ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an enjoyable story but a couple of things bothered me. The narrator (audio version) was really annoying, her inflection being overly dramatic and cheerful. Also, the author seems to be obsessed with vomit. Someone in the book was either vomiting, about to vomit, or nauseous constantly! It was probably mentioned 20 times! Other than that, the story held my attention and I eagerly listened as much as I could for the past two days. The setting is based on a real insane asylum in New York, ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-on-kindle
I'm really torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars, would give it a 4 1/2 if I could.

Which means, of course, that I really, really liked it a lot.

In the beginning the book reminded me a lot of Orphan Train and there are a lot of similarities. Both books have two (main) female characters, one whose story takes place in the 1920s and one in modern times. In both books the young woman whose story is taking place now is in foster care and about to age out of the system (turning 18). So it was dif
I really enjoyed this novel, and finished it in two sittings. The two storylines were very different in feel, but I loved both of them. They were fast-paced, and kept me guessing right till the end. It was interesting reading about insane asylums in the early 1900's, and how people and especially woman were treated. And the following fact from the author's notes shows just how shocking things were back then - Nearly half of the 54,000 individuals who entered Willard died there.. I have not read ...more
I plodded through chapter after chapter hoping to find the 4 or 5 star story many reviewers raved about, but 'twas not to be the case for me. What She Left Behind started with a most interesting storyline of two young women whose lives were 70 years apart, unfortunately it was loosely held together with cliche villains and predictability. It's probably just me not being in the "right frame of mind" to read this terribly depressing story either way I could only read 40% until I decided to cut my ...more
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my God! I couldn't think of anything worse that could happen to anyone than what happens in this book to Clara Cartwright. A rich heiress and only daughter of a prominent banker, Clara enjoys her life to the fullest despite the neglect of her mother and the 'strictness' of her father. But behind this veneer of a fun and fulfilling life, fate is steering her towards her doom. She falls in love with an Italian immigrant called Bruno Moretti, and her parents disapprove. When she has an argument ...more
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A first-generation German American, Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. She is a bestselling author whose novels have been translated into eighteen languages. Her debut novel, THE PLUM TREE, is loosely based on her mother’s stories about growing up in Germany during the chaos of WWII. THE PLUM T ...more
“Within minutes of setting foot on the grounds of the shuttered Willard State Asylum, seventeen-year-old Isabelle Stone knew it was a mistake.” 8 likes
“The world was full of broken people, and all the hospitals and institutions and jails could never mend their fractured hearts, wounded minds, and trampled spirits.” 4 likes
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