Ellen Marie Wiseman


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January 15, 2014


This month, we're featuring Ellen Marie Wiseman's What She Left Behind
, a novel that merges the past and present into a haunting story about the nature of love and loyalty. 

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp 

What She Left Behind
by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Fiction / 312 pages / Paperback

Kensington Publishing Corp. /
December, 2013


Dear Reader,

I've always been curious about insane asylums, especially the way patients
were treated for mental illness in the past, and how our understanding and treatment has evolved over the years. I've often wondered what it would be like to be committed and kept against my will. When I read about the Willard Suitcase Exhibit, a collection of patient suitcases found in the attic of a shuttered asylum, I was immediately intrigued. That's how I learned about the book, The Lives They Left Behind, by Darby Penney and Peter Stansky. The authors' mission was to examine the contents of the luggage to re-create the lives of patients who checked into the institution but never checked out. After reading it, I knew I wanted to write about finding the suitcases, and what it might have been like being a patient.

What She Left Behind merges the past and present into a story about the nature of love and loyalty -- and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most. It's a novel about the yearning to belong -- and the mysteries that can belie even the most ordinary life. I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you,


About What She Left Behind: 
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.

Reviews of What She Left Behind:    


"Captivating in its complexity, this novel brings together the strengths and suffering of two young women born more than 60 years apart. Told in alternating perspectives, the story reaches a place of immense emotional depth and psychological turmoil, culminating in an unexpected, heartrending ending."

-RT Book Review Top Pick!    


"What She Left Behind screams with authenticity, depth, and understanding of human behavior... The story (equal parts
suspense, mystery, coming-of-age, and first love) sets a high-powered microscope on the inhuman institutions and patriarchy that have plagued our past (and present)..."
-New York Journal of Books


To learn more, visit Ellen Marie Wiseman's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Ellen Marie Wiseman is available to speak to your book club by phone, Skype, or in person.  Contact Ellen to arrange a discussion.

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