Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review - The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets—beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

My Thoughts
I am so in love with this book, it is a top novel of 2017 for sure.
There are so many themes - sad, furious, happy, and in love just to name a few.  There were so many times through out that I caught myself second guessing what was happening, what happened in the past and who each character was.  It had me enthralled all the way to the very last page, and saddened with the fact that I would not have anymore to read.

Lilly's story has so many depths to it - sad, terrifying, devastating, scary, electric, loving and tragic.  She was beautiful on the inside and out.  She lived a very horrifying life that I'm not sure I would have been able to survive as she did.  How could her parents do that to her?  I can't imagine ever thinking those thoughts a day in my life NO MATTER WHAT.  I love the fact that there was a glimpse of happiness for her to experience even if it was fleeting.
The Barlow Brother's Circus was not only her nightmare, the happiest time in her life and her demise in the end!

Julia's life mirrored her mother's life in many ways, although different in the grand scheme.  I feel for her -  finding out the truths and realities of her family and what they kept from her till the very end. 

This story will have you feeling so many emotions on so many different levels and will teach you about the horrifying realities of circuses and the treatment of animals as well as how people were treated that were different from the rest of the "real" world.

Put this book on your TBR pile and pre-order your copy TODAY!

Drink Selection
In comparison with this amazing read, I will pair it with a warm glass (or two) of Bourbon. 
5 wine glasses all the way!  I can't sing enough praises for this novel.  Amazing!  Tragic! Top pick of 2017!

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