What Kelli is Reading: Lost Girls of Willowbrook

My daughter Kelli called me the other day and said, “Mom, I’m reading the best book.”  I told her thanks for the recommendation and to feel free to send me a review of the book.

The book was The Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman.  I’ve read other stories from this author and have loved her so I was certain, this would be a good book.

Kelli writes:
I really liked this book.  I like books that have a historical component and this book definitely did!  It details the story of twin sisters Rosemary and Sage.  From the background provided in the book and the description of some of Rosemary’s characteristics, I believe she may have met the diagnostic criteria for Autism.  When they are younger, her parents divorce, her father leaves, and her mother struggles with some mental health issues and gets remarried.  Rosemary ends up “dying” and Sage is left to deal with her mother’s following death in the care of her stepfather who is not overly interested in her or being a parent to her. 

The book tells the story of Sage and Rosemary and how Sage fights to do the best that she can for Rosemary after finding out that she was a resident at Willowbrook State School. After a little “research” aka a quick google, I learned that Willowbrook State School was an actual place that housed and “cared for” individuals with mental and intellectual disabilities in New York.  The book does not chronicle an actual person that was at the school but highlights many of the struggles encountered by residents there.  My research was heartbreaking when I found out about their experiments that were done on people living there (think Tuskeegee Institute, but with Hepatitis).  It reminds me of the many advancements in the mental health field that have been made (although there are many more improvements that can be made) and reaffirms that compassion and care can go a long way. 

Another thing that I liked about this book was that I had a general idea of how things were going to go, but I didn’t actually know the details until the events happened.  I tend to quickly tire of books that are very predictable. 

Overall, this book was great!  I’m going to be looking into seeing if this author has written any other books and will be adding them to my Hoopla list ASAP!”

Here is what Amazon had to say:
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 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 . . .

Amazon readers gave it 4.3 stars…Kelli said maybe 4.5

I have loved other books by this author so I just might have to check this one out myself.  Has anyone else read it?

3 thoughts on “What Kelli is Reading: Lost Girls of Willowbrook”

  1. I don’t have to read this book. I worked with a few individuals who lived at Willowbrook and was relocated to upstate NY. In most cases, it was not good. Ok, the only good was that they were removed from the facility, and other facilities were closed. Enough said.

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