09 May 2021

The Life She Was Given - Book Review


The Life She was Given: A Moving and Emotional Saga of Family and Resilient Women by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Publication date: July 25, 2017
Pages: 304 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Super interesting story
Weaknesses: So sad by the end

I waited to borrow this one from the library after it was recommended to me by a good friend who loves reading like I do, and I saw it with good reviews by several book bloggers I respect. It definitely did not disappoint. 

Lilly Blackwood knows she's a monster - she's been told so all her life by her mother. Her parents keep her safe from the general public that would want to hurt her for being so hideous by hiding her away at all times in the attic. Her mother also reminds her that she wouldn't be so monstrous if god didn't hate her and her sins, and her mother, of course, is a virtuous woman, so the fault must all be with Lilly herself. What else is a nine or ten year old girl to believe, when that's what she's always told? 

But maybe her luck is changing, when her father is away for business (although he's said he may bring her back a birthday surprise) and her mother says they have an exclusive chance to see the circus!

As you'll know from the book's summary, her mother is actually selling her to the circus. And while my sense was that her mother was mentally ill, I think her father was even more evil to let it all continue for so, so long. 

Fast forward a couple decades, and the mentally ill mother and her husband have another child. This time, Julia isn't a monster, but her mother still treats her just as nastily, except for letting her go to school. Julie runs away from the loveless home to strike out on her own. When circumstances bring her back to the enormous gothic family home, she's determined to find what secrets her parents were hiding from her for her whole life.

I enjoyed this book and its emotional journey. The writing style lent it such a gravity that the story felt true. I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars, but definitely be sure you can handle something that does not have much of a happy ending.  

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