What She Left Behind

17802747Ten 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-shattered 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.


the review

“The House At Riverton” by Kate Morton. That was the last read to haunt me and it was in the year 2012. The reasons hidden beneath the surface of the tragedy that occurred at Riverton stayed with me and until this day, the heartbreak of reading it for the first time still strikes me at unexpected times. I still find myself thinking of Grace, Hannah, and Emmeline; the ties that bonded them and the calamity that unraveled them. They’re right there with Henry and Clare (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”), Will and Louisa (“Me Before You”), and Jude with her children and Lexi (“Night Road”).

Now Clara and Bruno join them.

Surprisingly, this is not the kind of read you can devour in one sitting. There were many times when I couldn’t stand to know more of Clara’s suffering at Willard and I would abandon her, slow my heartache down, and return to her only to find the intensity of her story grow even deeper.

The knowledge that the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane was an actual place in New York did not help at all. It’s hard to imagine that there was once a time in our world when women could be locked up simply because they were unwilling to fulfill the gender roles expected of them. Anyone locked away, falsely insane or otherwise, were stripped of everything they had, even their dignity. The direction of their lives were in the hands of the doctors, and those doctors also possessed the power to keep anyone at Willard on a whim. The so-called “treatments” performed in asylums of the sort scared the living shit out of me. The fact that those methods were believed to be “healing” were even scarier.

However, Clara retained the notion of hope, despite all the chaos thrust into her life. Watching her fight to prove she had a sound state of mind and did not belong at Willard was an act of valor. Her sense of self flowed through the pages and I kept forgetting she was a fictional character.

Izzy also intrigued me, although less so than Clara’s. Her commitment to piece together Clara’s life was riveting and her backstory added to the complexities of the usual teenage story of moving to a new school at 17 years old. She showed as much strength and bravery as Clara did in her time, though their circumstances were universes apart.

Yes, that’s all I’m giving you.

To say more would be to spoil all.

But I will say this:

Read it and then listen to “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.

You’ll never associate it with the “Twilight” series again.



musical accompaniment

1. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri

“I have died every day waiting for you.

Darling, don’t be afraid,

I have loved you for a thousand years.

I’ll love you for a thousand more.

And all along,

I believed I would find you.

Time has brought your heart to me,

I have loved you for a thousand years.

I’ll love you for a thousand more.” 

– Christina Perri, “A Thousand Years”


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