EXCERPT: As she neared the double doors of the bus station, she slowed. Help wanted ads, business cards, and what seemed like a hundred missing kid flyers covered a bulletin board next to the door – row after row of innocent smiling faces lined up like faded yearbook photos. She’d always hated those photos: the word MISSING all in caps knocking you between the eyes, the grainy photos taken on happier days before the kids were abducted, when everyone was still blissfully unaware that they’d be stolen from their families some day. The flyers were plastered all over Staten Island, inside the grocery stores and post offices, outside the bowling alleys and movie theaters, on the mailboxes and telephone poles. Something cold and hard tightened in her chest. Would her twin sister’s face be on one of those damn flyers too? And where were all those poor innocent kids? What horrible things had they endured? Were they dead? Still suffering? Crying and terrified, wondering why their parents, the people who had promised to love and protect them forever, hadn’t saved them yet? She couldn’t imagine a worse fate.
ABOUT ‘THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK’: Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.
Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.
Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined…
MY THOUGHTS: I am torn by this book and may revise my rating once I have thought on it some more.
I honestly think a better title may have been ‘The Lost Souls of Willowbrook’.
I worked in a government mental institution in New Zealand in the 1970s and I am happy to report that it was mostly nothing like Willowbrook. There was the occasional ‘old school’ attendant or nurse who could be cruel and uncaring, but mostly we were bright young men and women who had learned respect and were intent on improving the lot of the residents by providing the best care possible. The only ‘locked wards’ were the ones that housed the criminally insane or the extremely violent. Our wards, even the old ones, were bright and clean, the residents well fed and, where possible, their independence nurtured. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ‘home’ to many long term residents, and a welcome refuge for acute admissions.
So Willowbrook came as a bit of a shock to me. After I finished listening to the audiobook I read some of the archived articles and examined the photos. I couldn’t get over the sheer size of Willowbrook, and the design of the building made it eminently unsuitable for housing the disabled, the ‘feeble-minded’. Mr Dewey, what were you thinking? There was obviously a demand, a need for accommodation and care; but just as obviously Willowbrook was not the answer.
Now, onto the book that I am reviewing. While I admire what the author set out to do, it just didn’t resonate for me. I didn’t like the plot and failed to feel anything at all for the characters. I think that I may have enjoyed this more had Sage been a more likeable character.
The language used to describe the conditions Sage encounters in Willowbrook is repetitious. I felt like the author was trying too hard to shock me, and it all felt ‘over-exposed’. And y’all that know me know that I prefer not to be belted about the ears with a piece of 4 x 2 when you’re trying to get your point across. Less is more.
There are numerous holes in the plot (view spoiler)
This should have been an atmospheric and chilling read but, sadly for me, it felt mostly flat.
I: @ellenmariewiseman @kensingtonbooks
T: @EllenMarieWise @KensingtonBooks
#comingofage #historicalfiction #humanrights #mystery #murdermystery
THE AUTHOR: A first-generation German American, Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. Ellen lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and two spoiled Shih-tzus, Izzy and Bella. When she’s not busy writing, she loves spending time with her children and grandchildren.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books for supplying a digital ARC and to RB Media for supplying an audio ARC of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook written by Ellen Marie Wiseman and narrated by Morgan Hallett for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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