“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.”
I am rating The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman 5 stars because it’s been a while since I have been completely moved by a story. It is the heartbreaking story of a little girl who was never given a chance and had the worst luck in life.
I was hooked into the story line from the start. The story had dual point of views that I felt easily transitioned from one to the other. The reader is taken through Lilly’s life as she struggles with everything thrown at her and you keep reading, waiting for her to get her happy ending. At the same time Julie doesn’t really know where she stands in life and learns her family has more than a few secrets hidden in thier past.
This book shows the ugly side of circus life in the 1930s. The violence and animal abuse are gut wrenching to read and very descriptive. The animals were as important as some of the main characters and I fell in love with them all.
Overall this book hurt my soul. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and I am ever so glad that I read it.