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Fixed on Fiction

What She Left Behind

For our July gathering, Fixed on Fiction met to discuss What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman-

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.

-Summary courtesy of Goodreads.


What She Left Behind received mixed reviews among our group with four thumbs up votes, one so-so, and three thumbs down votes. Here are some of the initial thoughts readers shared while explaining their votes:

  • I was bothered by Bruno being committed, but it was interesting. I’m sure a lot of this was realistic. It felt like Girl, Interrupted.
  • Thumbs up, although some parts were not believable. Izzy’s story felt like a Teen novel- it was unnecessary.
  • I enjoyed the parallels between historical and present day…it kept me engaged and kept me thinking.
  • This was so-so for me. Ultimately, it was hard to read because of the terrible things that were happening.
  • I thought this was an accurate description of a state institution when times were tough (financially). It made me think about bullying and human cruelty.
  • This was depressing all the way through and the writing was juvenile. Clara’s story was the American Girl version of what happened in an asylum. I hated the Izzy sections. Shannon’s abuse was way over the top and not believable.
  • This reminded me of Brain on Fire. How many people have that same disease but are (wrongly) in a mental institution?

These are just a few of the comments made during our meeting, please feel free to share additional thoughts on What She Left Behind in the comments section below.


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