I placed The Life She Was Given on hold through my library and forgot, so when the notice popped up on my email I was super excited, a fun little surprise. It also popped up as were preparing for hurricane Micheal so I had plenty of time to read while I listened to the winds outside.
I’m not sure where to start with review. There are so many layers to this story and Ellen Marie Wiseman did a fantastic job peeling back the layers and exposing just enough to keep the reader needing more.
I loved the style and voice change between chapters. Alternating between Lilly and Julia, past and present all the way until the end. The perspective of both voices and experiences gives the reader two takes on a single event.
The book opens in 1931 with Lilly Blackwood looking through a window at what appears to her, to be a circus. As the scene spans out the reader sees that Lilly is locked in an attic at the hands of her parents. But why? Her mother tells her she can’t leave the room or let anyone suspect she existed because she was…a monster. Late one night her mother comes and hurriedly rushed Lilly out of the house and into the dark under the ruse that they were going to the circus. To her surprise it wasn’t a special trip but instead a business deal and Lilly was the product. The remainder of Lilly’s story tells the adventures and hardships she endured while in the circus until she finds love in the form of an elephant and her trainer.
The parallel story happens two decades later and is the story of Julia Blackwood, as she learns that she has inherited her parents estate. She’s a nine-teen year old that left said estate seeking freedom from her overbearing and religiously strict mother and the blame she was given for the death of her father. When Julia returns to the dark estate to claim it as her own she realizes she doesn’t know much about the house and it’s history and she soon discovers she can say the same about her parents. While looking for clues to answer her many questions Julia discovers deep secrets that change the way she sees her self and the life she thought she had.
I felt lost and upset for both girls all the way through the novel. There was more hurt and heartache and lost opportunities for happiness as I turned each page but the story was so beautifully written. I can’t say there was a happy ending with all issues resolved, but there was an OK ending and a hope for happiness in the story continuation that I imagine after the last page.
This was the first novel I read by Ellen Marie Wiseman but I will certainly be reading more.