The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

I haven’t read this book yet, but historical fiction is a genre I’m drawn to. How about you?

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. 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 . . .

“Powerful. Grounded in historical fact, it ends like a fast-paced thriller.” – Historical Novel Society

  1. Krista Butters Davis says:

    I have read The Lost Girls of Willowbrook and really enjoyed it. I have a big interest in anything related to psychology, especially insane asylums. This book was very hard to put down and the fastest book I have ever read. So many twists and turns. It also encouraged me to look more into the real Willowbrook facility to see what happened with it. I loved that it was based on a real facility. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

    The next book I would like to read from Ellen Marie Wiseman is The Orphan Collector. It’s based around the arrival of the Spanish flu, and I feel it would be relatable because of some of our most recent events.

    The Life She Was Given also sounds like an amazing read! It’s going to be hard to choose.

  2. Jean Pici says:

    The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

    Is author, Ellen Marie Wiseman, a gifted wordsmith? YES. Does she do impeccable research? YES. However, I found this to be a very disturbing book that gave me a couple of nights of restless sleep. Before writing this review, I did some internet research to determine what was real and what was fiction. And, I am old enough to remember Geraldo Rivera’s explosive TV documentary about Willowbrook.

    I know this book has received many kudos. But the facts were distressful and the fiction depressing. Perhaps I found the subject matter too close to home. I am a senior handicapped individual. I have friends who have mentally challenged children. As I labored through this story, I couldn’t help but wonder often if we would just be “throwaways” were it not for loving families.

    If you are curious about mental illness and the history of its treatments and you have a strong stomach, then this book may be for you. Otherwise move on to something a little less stressful to read. Whether you read it or not, however, I would urge you to Google “Geraldo Rivera Willowbrook”. You will be able to view the original documentary as well as an updated interview with Rivera 50 years later. But be prepared to view man’s inhumanity to man up close and personal. While it has taken many years, this single documentary changed the way the unfortunates with mental disabilities are treated. Thank you, Mr. Rivera.

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