The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

"Historical Fiction" genre card with glasses and book photo
"Mystery" Genre card with dark woods and light in the distance

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow! This book was amazing! It’s an emotional, mysterious, murderous, infuriating, and moving story. Get ready for a rollercoaster of emotions. I need to go back and read all of Ellen Marie Wiseman’s other books now!

Sage has a twin Rosemary, but she has been dead for 6 years. Until Sage finds out that Rosemary didn’t die, but instead, her mother had her placed in Willowbrook State School, and now Rosemary is missing. After her mother passed away, Sage was left all alone with her deadbeat step-father, and now she’s on her own to find out what happened to Rosemary. Except when she gets to Willowbrook, she’s mistaken for Rosemary, and ends up as a patient.

I mean holy moly! WTH people? I cannot imagine being in Sage’s situation. I was so frustrated for her. I kept thinking how would I get out of this, but I wasn’t coming up with any good ideas. This had so many great layers to the story, and it was all woven together to create a fantastic novel!

There’s an overarching rumor of the serial killer which provides a suspenseful overlay to the plot.

There’s the mystery of what happened to Rosemary.

There’s the emotional experiences that Sage lives through as she becomes a patient of Willowbrook.

The entire story was impossible to put down. I was so upset with the treatment of the patients at Willowbrook, and of course, I went down a rabbit hole of research about this Staten Island hell-hole. The thing that was most surprising to me was that this school was running until the 1970’s! The author did an amazing job of showing the horrors of this place while weaving a story into it.

I absolutely recommend this to all historical fiction readers! Don’t miss this one!

Where to Find This Book:

Amazon ~ Kindle ~ Goodreads
LibroFM – Use code lfm137076 to get one month free!

Willowbrook State School is the infamous Staten Island, New York, mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children. A gripping narrative of social injustice, survival, and a young woman determined to find her sister.

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…

Just the Facts:

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Kensington
Pub Date: August 30, 2022

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I was provided a gifted copy of this book for free. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.

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