Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin s future like that of every young woman hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiance commit a horrific crime and no one believes her.
Gregory denies all, and Isabelle s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband s assassination.
In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.
Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel’s debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling.”
A wonderful look inside Bellevue Sanitarium in the year 1875. Isabelle is marrying Gregory and love has nothing to do with it. She has been raised as most of the women of the era, to either let her family pick a husband for her, or choose someone who could advance both of your stations in life. Her best friend Lucy, is working on running away and marrying the man she truly loves and while she is happy for Lucy and aids her in her attempt, Isabelle isn’t one to rock the boat.
She is however a smart young lady, and when she sees her supposedly loving fiance’ commit an unspeakable act, she does not stay silent. Unfortunately appearances are everything to Isabelle’s mother and neither she or the authorities believe Isabelle.
So she just shuts up. Not a word. Nothing. And that is how she ends up at Bellevue. A game of who can hold out the longest. Isabelle or her mother. As Isabelle meets more women at Bellevue, she sees how easy it is to just lock up a woman on pretty much any trumped up reason. She fears she may never be released and is alone and scared. Until she gets a neighbor. Mary Lincoln, whose son Robert is trying to have her declared insane.
Together she and Isabelle will come up with a plan to rescue them both.
Mary Todd Lincoln was a resident of Bellevue in that year, so there is some fact mixed in with the fiction. This was a very nice historical fiction read, and I thank the Publisher and Netgalley.
This book will be released December 27, 2016. You can preorder here