It’s always exciting to discover a new author, and that’s exactly what happened a month ago. I was shelving new and returned books at our small Lodge library when I noticed a book by Ellen Marie Wiseman. The title, What She Left Behind, was similar to the Willard Psychiatric Center suitcase story, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. When the hospital closed in 1995, the workers there discovered hundreds of suitcases abandoned in the attic of one of the buildings. The contents of the suitcases bore witness to the lives of those who were committed to that institution. To learn more about the suitcase project and even read some of the owner’s bios, check the website.
Ms. Wiseman took the event of finding the suitcases and turned it into a fictional tale of how Clara Cartwright’s father institutionalized her because she didn’t obey him. Clara’s story is set in 1929. Woven through the book is Izzy Stone’s story. Izzy is a foster child with an upsetting family background. She is pulled into volunteering for the suitcase project by her foster mother, and it is Izzy who find’s Clara’s suitcase. Izzy is intrigued with what she finds and through the process of learning more about Clara, Izzy learns more about herself and her family.
Ms. Wiseman’s first book is The Plum Tree. When I emailed to tell her how much I enjoyed the book, she replied that she had just submitted her third book to the publisher.