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." —New York 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
Customer ReviewsSee All
This such a really good book. I used to absolutely hate reading but after reading this book I love reading. GREAT JOB!!!!
Heartbreakingly good story
This is a very unusual novel that is told in dual storylines; one modern and one from many years ago, both focusing on women who are struggling to find lives of their own when they were dealt a crappy hand in life. The story is beautiful, yet tragic. Given the fact that this story does surround patients in a mental institution it is also sad and heartbreaking. There were times I could picture the suitcases of those who were committed but never had an opportunity to leave. I would have loved to have put the parents in the institution as they were obviously the ones who needed mental adjustments. It’s unbelievable how easy it was to have someone committed to an institution. No doubt the context will disturb some individuals and I cannot say that I was not horrified at times so bear this in mind if you select the book. It’s a really great story though and I loved it. I definitely recommend.
What she left behind
I loved this book!! It's one of the few I couldn't put down and didn't want to end. I have experienced mental illness and it is truly the most misunderstood disease there is, even in today's world. It is a very sad disease and I thank God everyday for the medications that are available to us. It takes a very long time to find the right "formula" but, in my case, I have had 6 very good years. Years ago, I would have been institutionalized, no doubt In my mind. So, I can certainly sympathize with Clara.