Saturday, July 22, 2017

REVIEW: The Life She Was Given

The Life She Was Given
Author: Ellen Marie Wiseman

Blackwood Manor is a chilling place, hiding family secrets in its locked rooms and forbidden spaces. Lilly and Julia both live in the house, 19 years apart. One shut in the attic as an abomination until she is sold to a passing traveling circus as a freak. And the other growing up with no love from her parents, an ignored outcast until she runs away. Years later, when Julia inherits the manor and surrounding horse farm, she will discover the horrible truth.

I found this story mesmerizing and disturbing at the same time. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop...but I still found it difficult to continue. The life Lilly and Julia face in Blackwood Manor at the hands of horrific parents is bleak. The father is weak and the mother is clearly mental. I found myself wishing I could jump into the story, throttle both of them and take the girls out of their horrible lives. But, the story does end with hope -- good does come out of the bad. So, in the end, there is peace and renewal for one of the girls.

The story does depict child and animal abuse as necessary parts of the story. If that would be too disturbing, then it might be best to pass this book by. For me, the hope at the conclusion of the story made up for all the duress. There is one scene with a circus elephant though that I found particularly disturbing. I refuse to attend circus performances because I feel the animals are abused, and this scene shows the worst sort of abuse that early 1900s circus animals faced. The scene is painful to read, but an important and necessary part of the plot. The abuse of the animals and performers in the circus just brings home the difficult lives that those with defects or differences of any sort faced only decades ago -- and, in many cases, still face today. More horrific though was the abuse and neglect of two girls, years apart, in Blackwood Manor.

The Life She Was Given -- the title has two distinct meanings in this beautiful, yet haunting, tale. This is a book that will keep you thinking and feeling for days after you finish reading.

Ellen Marie Wiseman is the author of several books including Coal River and The Plum Tree. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website:

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington Books via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

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