Izzy is a teenage foster child struggling with loss, abandonment and unwanted change. When her new foster mother offers a challenge involving an old asylum, Izzy joins in with the task of documenting all that was left behind by the former inhabitants. One former patient who lived in the asylum earlier in the century, captures Izzy’s heart and imagination and her efforts to piece together Clara’s life of tragedy leads her on an interesting journey.
Wiseman has done her homework and the haunting atmosphere of the old asylum comes to life with both the past and present characters. I was thoroughly engrossed with the characters and their unique stories and couldn’t wait to see how the plot unfolded.
Though Wiseman uses Clara’s story and not a soapbox to do so, this historical novel reveals the mistakes of the past as something we can and should learn from. What She Left Behind exposes the cruelty that takes place when systems, hierarchies and misplaced ideals take precedence over the individual needs and unique circumstances of human beings. This book reminds us that institutions and caregivers responsible for vulnerable people must always remember their humanity.