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What She Left Behind Paperback – December 31, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 3,906 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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 

"She's done it again. At this time last year, Ms. Wiseman's first novel The Plum Tree was released. It was excellent and received deservedly wonderful reviews. It is rare that a writer's follow up work is as good as their first. Such a rarity has been accomplished with What She Left Behind. 
What She Left Behind screams with authenticity, depth, and understanding of human behavior and what can and has, been done to others to maintain control and image for some, while negating and hiding the lives of others."--NY Journal of Books

About the Author

Ellen Marie Wiseman is the author of the novels The Plum Tree and What She Left Behind. Born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in northern New York, Ellen now lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband, two spoiled shih-tzus, and a rescued yellow Lab. Visit her at ellenmariewiseman.com.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington; 1st edition (December 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0758278454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758278456
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,906 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Another fabulous novel by Ellen Marie Wiseman! Once again, I was lucky enough to read an ARC and this is her second novel (the first is The Plum Tree- a must read if you have not already).

This book bounces between the 1930's and the 1990's with parallel story lines that have you convinced early on that you have this story all figured out. I'll save you the time and energy- you're wrong, you don't have it figured out. This story is suspenseful, heartbreaking, and beautiful all at the same time, but what it is not is predictable.

Izzy and Clara are the two central characters around which a story of mental illness, loss, love, and redemption is formed. Wiseman takes us between the 30's and the 90's seamlessly and has a gift for suspense- I was left hanging at the end of many chapters and found myself scrambling to get through to find out what happened.

Neither Izzy's nor Clara's stories are exactly what they seem, and the ending held some surprises. I loved that we got to know both characters (and some other wonderful secondary characters who shine in later chapters more than in earlier chapters- but I won't give away spoilers here!), because I feel that made the ending that much more rewarding.

A wonderful sophomore effort - I can't wait until it arrives on my Kindle on December 31 so I can read it all over again! Please check this one out- you won't be disappointed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I confess I am submitting this review after having read only a few chapters of the book. But I was so put off by the stiff, cliche-ridden writing that I simply could not continue. When I got to Bruno's "smoldering eyes" I had to force myself to read on, and after several more pages of this sort of writing I gave up. I realize my view of the book is quite out of sync with most of the other reviews here, and I appreciate that other readers found a lot to admire, but I cannot share their enthusiasm. A good plot, for me, is not enough to overcome poor writing. What I did learn from this experience is not only to rely on reader reviews of a book I am thinking of buying, but also to take advantage of the offer to receive a free sample of the book in my Kindle when possible, or to read those pages accessible online before making a final purchase.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I honestly did not care what happened - it was the most overwrought melodrama with the most ridiculous and simplistic dialog for the 1920s "victim". It was almost likeable in the modern day story with Izzy, but it still read very YA fiction. If that's what it is, so be it (if so, I didn't realize it when I bought it and can't recall who recommended it - probably a magazine & I should know better) but I would not want my young adults or teenagers to read crap like this - there are so many wonderful and beautifully written books out there.

My 88 YO mom likes romantic/suspenseful historical fiction but this wouldn't even make her cut.
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Format: Paperback
At seventeen, Izzy Stone has seen more than her share of family tragedy. One of her most horrific memories is seeing her mother, drugged into insensibility, in a psychiatric hospital. Even worse – Izzy’s mother was there because she had shot her husband to death when their daughter was only ten. Izzy would like nothing more than to live a ‘normal’ life, but floating from one foster home to the next has left her feeling adrift in the world, and bullying at her new school just makes it worse.

The Willard State Asylum for the insane, now closed, stands near Izzy’s new foster home. It will soon be demolished, and when Izzy’s foster parents are tapped to document the patients’ lives from what they left behind – suitcases, photographs, and diaries – they ask Izzy to help. The diary of Clara Cartwright, an eighteen-year old girl committed by her parents in 1930, for little more than willfulness, provides Izzy with a heartrending window into her own mother’s struggles, and ultimately transforms the girl’s life.

Ellen Marie Wiseman has followed her best-selling debut novel, The Plum Tree, with another amazing tale of human resilience, What She Left Behind. Ms. Wiseman brings both her characters and the Willard psychiatric hospital to vivid life, sometimes uncomfortably so, and both Izzy and Ms. Wisemans’ readers come to question the nature of mental illness. Lest anyone think that the committal of Clara Cartwright for defying her parents is unbelievable, my grandmother-in-law was locked up in a mental institution in the 1930s merely for defying her husband. Horrific, but she survived, and her ordeal provided me with hope for Clara as well. I highly recommend What She Left Behind, and wonder what treat Ellen Wiseman has in store for us next!
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Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
I thought the premise of this book was wonderful. Somewhere around the third chapter though, I was really struggling with the juvenile writing and went back to see if it was a YA novel. Sadly, it's not; it's just poorly written. The cliches were killing me. Argh! I quit reading after chapter four. Sooo disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
I was excited to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of Ellen Wiseman's second novel, What She Left Behind (publication December 31st ). I thoroughly enjoyed Ellen's debut novel The Plum Tree, and I knew the setting for her second book was the Finger Lakes region of New York state, where I live. I am happy to report that What She Left Behind is a book that I could not stop reading! I enjoyed the book's structure of dual story lines that coalesce: this style of storytelling has the potential to be difficult to follow, however Wiseman pays close attention to continuity and relationship between the two main characters of Izzy and Clara. These are strong, complex women who are forced to confront many of the same issues, even though their lives occur in different time periods. Several themes play out in each character's story: the idea of a normal life and being denied it, doing what you're told, the strength and love that should exist in a family, and betrayal by a parent. At times, it is a sad story, but more than that it is a real story with believable characters who inform in a deeply emotional way. Its a great book to snuggle up with for a weekend on the couch!
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