The Life She Was Given
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.

The Life She Was Given Details

TitleThe Life She Was Given
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 25th, 2017
PublisherKensington Publishing Corporation
ISBN1617734497
ISBN-139781617734496
Number of pages356 pages
Rating
GenreHistorical, Fiction

The Life She Was Given Review

  • Ellen Wiseman
    November 18, 2016
    I hope everyone will add this book to their TBR pile! :)
  • Susan Peterson
    March 8, 2017
    Wow, wow, wow! I just finished this riveting, heart-wrenching story, a book unlike anything I've ever read!! My heart was racing from the very first page; my heart was pulled in a million different directions. Blackwood Manor was home to both Lilly and Julia, two young girls who lived there 19 years apart; but although Blackwood Manor was their home, neither of them felt loved or wanted. Lilly was locked away in the attic for most of her young life, until in one earth-shaking moment she exchange Wow, wow, wow! I just finished this riveting, heart-wrenching story, a book unlike anything I've ever read!! My heart was racing from the very first page; my heart was pulled in a million different directions. Blackwood Manor was home to both Lilly and Julia, two young girls who lived there 19 years apart; but although Blackwood Manor was their home, neither of them felt loved or wanted. Lilly was locked away in the attic for most of her young life, until in one earth-shaking moment she exchanges that lonely life for a life that is inherently even more frightening. Julia left home when she was a young teenager, living a hard scrabble existence, until she receives word that her mother has died, leaving Blackwood Manor to her. Upon her return, she begins to unravel the mysteries of her family, discovering family secrets that include a traveling circus, a hidden attic, and a dead sister. The Life She Was Given runs the gamut of emotions; tender and terrifying, heartbreaking and hopeful...Julia and Lilly, victimized and mistreated, overcome their dismal childhoods, becoming resilient and strong. This book, these characters, their stories, are going to live in my head and my heart forever. Brava, Ellen Marie Wiseman, and thank you from the bottom of my shattered heart for letting me read an early copy of this book. It comes out in July, and you will NOT want to miss it!
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  • Maureen
    January 24, 2017
    I've read every novel Ellen Marie Wiseman has written, and although they were all wonderful, none touched me quite like The Life She Was Given. In the 1930's, six year old Lilly had no idea why she spent her life locked in the attic. In the 1950's, nineteen year old Julia knew she had to escape her overly religious mother upon the death of her father. The story of these two girls is woven together with grief and heartache. It has all the beauty of Water for Elephants. The Life She Was Given is a I've read every novel Ellen Marie Wiseman has written, and although they were all wonderful, none touched me quite like The Life She Was Given. In the 1930's, six year old Lilly had no idea why she spent her life locked in the attic. In the 1950's, nineteen year old Julia knew she had to escape her overly religious mother upon the death of her father. The story of these two girls is woven together with grief and heartache. It has all the beauty of Water for Elephants. The Life She Was Given is a fabulous read. It should be on everyone's TBR pile. I was given a digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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  • Courtney
    February 19, 2017
    I always consider it a windfall of epic proportions when I am able to read an ARC by one of my favorite authors. This book was no exception- the latest from Ellen Marie Wiseman did not disappoint!I have been in love with Ellen's work since her first novel, 'The Plum Tree,' and every time I read her latest book I think (and announce) that it's my favorite. Well, in keeping with that tradition, this is my favorite of Ellen's books! But really, it is. And here's a few reasons why: Story line This I always consider it a windfall of epic proportions when I am able to read an ARC by one of my favorite authors. This book was no exception- the latest from Ellen Marie Wiseman did not disappoint!I have been in love with Ellen's work since her first novel, 'The Plum Tree,' and every time I read her latest book I think (and announce) that it's my favorite. Well, in keeping with that tradition, this is my favorite of Ellen's books! But really, it is. And here's a few reasons why: Story line This is a sweeping tale across several decades, beginning in the early 1930s. Half of the book has a 'Flowers in the Attic' vibe; the other half is reminiscent of 'Water for Elephants.' Since both of those books are among my favorites, it's no surprise that I loved the story here. From the beginning, I was hooked and wanted to figure out where the story was going. This, much like 'Water for Elephants,' was hard for me to read because of my love for animals and my extreme hatred for circuses. That said, one can't argue that circuses provide beautiful imagery and set a lovely scene for a quirky story. This one set the backdrop of a mystery, a love story (or two!), and family drama. Great Writing! Ellen's writing here is at its best. One of my favorite passages from the book reads, "Then again, she didn't like small talk either, so she was glad he wasn't commenting on the weather or the landscape. Life was too big and too short and too important to talk about the lack of rain or the latest gossip. She wanted to know how people felt about themselves and one another, whether they were happy or sad. She wanted to know what made them feel loved and what hurt them to the core. She wanted to know about their past, how they got where they were, and their relationships with their mothers and fathers and siblings. She wanted to know if she was the only mixed-up person in the world who felt completely and utterly alone." Characters I loved Julia and Lilly - they were both very relatable. They both struck me as empaths as well, based on the way they reacted to the people and animals in their lives, and as a fellow empath I identified strongly with them. I also loved many of the secondary characters (Glory, Cole, Fletcher...) and hated the characters I was supposed to hate. The character development was on point. Two Worlds Collide The story was a wonderful mystery from beginning to end. The weaving of Lilly's tale and Julia's tale was beautiful. And I often wondered where it was all going. And when we arrived at the end, I was at peace. I never really figured it out- I thought I had, and I had pieces right- but it all clicked together in the end. Thank you, Ellen, for allowing me an early read of this wonderful book! Everyone - check it out this July when it hits the bookstore nearest you!
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  • Barbara White
    June 6, 2017
    What a beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming story. Tissues are a must, but you will fall in love with the two female leads: strong, capable women whose actions rise above horrific circumstances over which they have no control. I'm a huge fan of Ellen Marie Wiseman's books, but this might be my favorite. The characters, the historical detail of life in a Depression-era traveling circus, the world of elephants, the darkest of family secrets, and ultimately, the redemption … all make this a What a beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming story. Tissues are a must, but you will fall in love with the two female leads: strong, capable women whose actions rise above horrific circumstances over which they have no control. I'm a huge fan of Ellen Marie Wiseman's books, but this might be my favorite. The characters, the historical detail of life in a Depression-era traveling circus, the world of elephants, the darkest of family secrets, and ultimately, the redemption … all make this a gripping page-turner. I have no doubt THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN will be a hot favorite with book clubs.
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  • Debra
    February 13, 2017
    I just finished THE.BEST.BOOK.EVER !!!!! The Life She Was Given is Ellen Marie Wiseman's fourth novel and in my opinion her best.......and that speaks VOLUMES because I have loved each and every one of the other three books she has written. Ellen writes with details and descriptions that bring the reader to the time and place of her story and make each and every character so real. From the very beginning, my heart was aching for both of the main characters, Lilly the young girl who was hidden in I just finished THE.BEST.BOOK.EVER !!!!! The Life She Was Given is Ellen Marie Wiseman's fourth novel and in my opinion her best.......and that speaks VOLUMES because I have loved each and every one of the other three books she has written. Ellen writes with details and descriptions that bring the reader to the time and place of her story and make each and every character so real. From the very beginning, my heart was aching for both of the main characters, Lilly the young girl who was hidden in the attic by her parents and then sold to the circus and Julia, the teenager who was trying to survive on her own at a very young age. Their stories will have you turning the pages quickly not just to find what direction their lives take, but to find out how their stories might be connected. I was blessed to receive an ARC to read, but you can pre-order this book at all of the major book/ereader outlets. It will be released to the public in July of 2017!!! Put this one on your must read list. I am sure you will not be disappointed!!!! {Oh and having a box of kleenex near by when you read it is a must!}
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  • Jenny Belk
    March 31, 2017
    Easily a five star rating. The author has outdone herself with this one. This book takes you to the circus where lions, tigers and elephants steal the show. Lilly is ten years old and will become a part of the circus, terrified and alone. What horrors she has endured at such a young age. There are deeply rooted family secrets that drastically change her life. What follows is a riveting story of deception and survival that will keep you up late at night turning the pages with your heart in your t Easily a five star rating. The author has outdone herself with this one. This book takes you to the circus where lions, tigers and elephants steal the show. Lilly is ten years old and will become a part of the circus, terrified and alone. What horrors she has endured at such a young age. There are deeply rooted family secrets that drastically change her life. What follows is a riveting story of deception and survival that will keep you up late at night turning the pages with your heart in your throat. It is a story I won't soon forget. I highly recommend it. This is my honest and unsolicited review.
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  • Sue
    April 10, 2017
    I'm going to start this review with my summary - this is a fantastic book and you are going to want to read it. I stayed up almost all night (something that I rarely do) because I had to find out how it ended before I could sleep. Ellen Marie Wiseman has done an outstanding job of creating two main characters (and plenty of secondary characters) that will keep readers engaged throughout the book.This novel is set in two time periods. 1931 is the start of a Lilly's story. Lilly has spent her enti I'm going to start this review with my summary - this is a fantastic book and you are going to want to read it. I stayed up almost all night (something that I rarely do) because I had to find out how it ended before I could sleep. Ellen Marie Wiseman has done an outstanding job of creating two main characters (and plenty of secondary characters) that will keep readers engaged throughout the book.This novel is set in two time periods. 1931 is the start of a Lilly's story. Lilly has spent her entire life locked in the attic of her parent's home at Blackwood Manor until, on her 9th birthday, her mother sells her to a traveling circus for the freak show. Despite the brutatility and mistreatment from some of the circus people, Lilly begins to make friends for the first time in her life. The second time period is 1956. 18 year old Julia had run away from her home at Blackwood Manor 3 years before due to her parents strict rules and was living a hard life. She finds out that her mother has died and that the house and horse farm have been left to her. When she goes home, she tries to unravel the secrets that her parents kept hidden for so long.I loved the characters of Lilly and Julia and I loved watching them change from shy and scared to strong and resilient. These are two main characters that I won't soon forget.Thanks to the author for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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  • Cindy
    June 8, 2017
    Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for gifting me with an ARC of The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman. In exchange for the book, I am providing my unbiased opinion. I should have loved this book because I generally like books that feature dual narrations, timelines and circus settings. However, I never fully engaged with either main character. It bothered me that Lilly was so indifferent to her situation and never seemed to display any true emotions. Julia's story was bland an Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for gifting me with an ARC of The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman. In exchange for the book, I am providing my unbiased opinion. I should have loved this book because I generally like books that feature dual narrations, timelines and circus settings. However, I never fully engaged with either main character. It bothered me that Lilly was so indifferent to her situation and never seemed to display any true emotions. Julia's story was bland and although her story was set in the 1950's, I never got the feeling for that decade. Her story felt modern and lacked the details needed to create time and place. This book was a fast read and the pages turned quickly. Although I was not emotionally invested,I was curious to see how the stories would play out and I was pleasantly surprised by an unexpected twist. For me, one of my biggest gripes was the comparison given to Night Circus and Water For Elephants, which had peaked my interest, but ultimately led to my disappointment. If a reader goes into this story with no expectations or literary imaginings, I think they will enjoy this story much more.
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  • Avid
    June 8, 2017
    (This review is based on an advance reading copy I downloaded from NetGalley in May, 2017. Please be advised that the few items quoted below may change in the final published copy, but needed to be included in order for me to leave a meaningful review. Since I only read the first half of the book, I'm not really sure if anything below can be considered a spoiler, but there are some references below to people and events that occur throughout the first half. Read on at the risk of learning that al (This review is based on an advance reading copy I downloaded from NetGalley in May, 2017. Please be advised that the few items quoted below may change in the final published copy, but needed to be included in order for me to leave a meaningful review. Since I only read the first half of the book, I'm not really sure if anything below can be considered a spoiler, but there are some references below to people and events that occur throughout the first half. Read on at the risk of learning that all your assumptions about how the plot develops are actually correct.)I have not read anything so awful in years. I forced myself through the first half, intending to finish regardless, but I just couldn't. The scene with the zebras, followed by the completely predictable and trite love scene in the water, was the last straw. Having satisfactorily finished reading "What She Left Behind", I can only guess that the author turned over writing duties on this one to her 12-year-old nephew. First off, why use a passive voice in the title? Very odd. Secondly, a very heavy reliance on "the questioning mind" construct really turned me off. ("What was it? And why had her father hidden it in his dresser? " Or, "What was she supposed to do now? And what about the horses? Were they okay? Would Claude show up to take care of them? Most of the horses would be fine..., but what about Blue and her baby? Could they take this cold?") I actually have enough intellect to figure out where an author is leading me without needing it to be spelled out for me as part of the narrative. This happened at least every few pages, and was just draining. And the characters - so Glory keeps telling Lilly how "everything will be ok", and she'll protect her from Merrick. Well, as of the halfway point, Glory has done absolutely nothing to protect Lilly. Nothing. Merrick (and the townies) have completely abused Lilly, and Glory has never stopped it. Oh! And Lilly takes a whipping from Merrick with a riding crop where each blow was harder than the last, but IT NEVER BREAKS THE SKIN?!!! Give me a friggin' break! Also, again as of the halfway point, we have yet to be told why Lilly frequently has this inability to breathe (does she have asthma? Does she suffer from panic attacks?), that she can get through just be telling herself to. The same with her counting - is she OCD? ADD? Autistic? Why is she counting things all the time? With no other symptoms of any mental disorder. And Julia - what a complete overnight turnaround for a runaway to just slide into the role of Mistress of the Manor! How fortuitous that she's so comfortable with the horses.Oh! And let's not forget to refer to EVERY SINGLE CIRCUS CHARACTER by his or her first name and description every time they're referenced. (eg: Hester the Monkey Girl and Magnus the World's Ugliest Man). At some point (certainly after the first several months with the circus), it seems that Lilly and others would no longer need the longer appellation in order to know who they're referring to; Hester and Magnus would probably do the trick. I could go on about the many ways in which this book fails, from outsized and over-the-top characters (momma, Merrick) to trite and predictable plot lines (the elephant boy), to 5th-grade sentence structure and development, to overused constructs, and beyond. This was just awful AW. FUL. I will actively steer folks away from this title, if possible. I'm embarrassed for everyone who contributed to the production of this novel.
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  • Kathy
    June 10, 2017
    I struggled quite awhile on how many stars to give this book. It definitely has all the elements that would make for a five star rating- It captured my attention from page one. It kept my interest throughout the whole book. In fact, I read it all in one day and even sat up late at night to see how it ended. I DEEPLY cared about the story and the characters. It is a story I will long remember. Having said all that (no spoilers, tiptoeing here...) I despised, absolutely DESPISED the ending!!! That I struggled quite awhile on how many stars to give this book. It definitely has all the elements that would make for a five star rating- It captured my attention from page one. It kept my interest throughout the whole book. In fact, I read it all in one day and even sat up late at night to see how it ended. I DEEPLY cared about the story and the characters. It is a story I will long remember. Having said all that (no spoilers, tiptoeing here...) I despised, absolutely DESPISED the ending!!! That's all I will say about that. (You should know that all storylines are wrapped up and you are not left hanging.) The book alternates between the story of Lilly in 1931, and Julia, decades later, both tied to Blackwood Manor. I love circus books and this one was no disappointment in that respect. It gave vivid details of life in the circus, from the management to the animals to the performers. It also had Julia's life raising and caring for horses on Blackwood Manor. I loved the horse stories. It had short chapters, which I also love, and action that kept me craving more and more pages. This is one book that made me wish for a chat with the author! I would recommend this book to anyone. You may not like the ending either (or maybe you will??) but you will be glad you read it.
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  • Terryann
    May 16, 2017
    This was not a badly written book, it was just not for me. i couldn't get into the 1950's part of the story at all. i was much more interested in Lilly's part in the 30's. there was almost no action until the end and then there was too much action. AND THEN AN ELEPHANT DIES. i can't handle that, i had to skim almost the entire end of the book because it was traumatizing me. not my thing at all. then, at the end, the romance that was thrown in to give it a 'happy' ending, was just too much. i mea This was not a badly written book, it was just not for me. i couldn't get into the 1950's part of the story at all. i was much more interested in Lilly's part in the 30's. there was almost no action until the end and then there was too much action. AND THEN AN ELEPHANT DIES. i can't handle that, i had to skim almost the entire end of the book because it was traumatizing me. not my thing at all. then, at the end, the romance that was thrown in to give it a 'happy' ending, was just too much. i mean, it was so depressing and suddenly ends with a kiss? i was disappointed to say the least.
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  • Katie
    April 10, 2017
    I liked the writing and the setting, but the story was too tragic for me to really enjoy reading it.
  • Michele Coleman
    March 28, 2017
    Wiseman once again delivers an emotionally packed character driven novel! I love her detail to her characters and how she pulls you into the story and keeps your interest to the very last page. Lilly has never stepped foot out of Blackwood Manor and dreams of lives in other places on the day the circus comes to town. Little does she know that her longings are about to come true and maybe not in a way that she expects or wishes. Set in times from the great depression to the 1950's The Life She W Wiseman once again delivers an emotionally packed character driven novel! I love her detail to her characters and how she pulls you into the story and keeps your interest to the very last page. Lilly has never stepped foot out of Blackwood Manor and dreams of lives in other places on the day the circus comes to town. Little does she know that her longings are about to come true and maybe not in a way that she expects or wishes. Set in times from the great depression to the 1950's The Life She Was given takes us from the grand Blackwood Manor to the life of a Traveling Circus. You don't want to miss the story of Lilly Blackwood this different and fascinating girl! Wonderful novel and I would of given it 5 stars but I felt she tied up the ending a little too fast and neat.
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  • Megan Brewer
    March 24, 2017
    This book doesn't disappoint!!! I have read and loved all of Ellen Marie Wiseman's books and was so excited when a friend shared an early release of this book with me. The characters will grab your heart from start to end. This is the first book that I have read in a little over 24 hours! I literally couldn't put it down as I wanted to know what was going to happen next to both of the main characters. I highly highly recommend putting The Life She Was Given on your summer or fall reading list. Y This book doesn't disappoint!!! I have read and loved all of Ellen Marie Wiseman's books and was so excited when a friend shared an early release of this book with me. The characters will grab your heart from start to end. This is the first book that I have read in a little over 24 hours! I literally couldn't put it down as I wanted to know what was going to happen next to both of the main characters. I highly highly recommend putting The Life She Was Given on your summer or fall reading list. You won't be disappointed! Please keep writing, Ms. Wiseman!
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  • Nita
    March 13, 2017
    This book trounced all over my heart! What an incredible story written with such beautiful detail. I have said this before but Ellen Marie Wiseman writes about the hard stuff with such grace! This book is beyond five stars!
  • Andrienne
    April 10, 2017
    Filled with inexplicable moments of despair that will burn in your brain, it also offers a glimpse of courage that tempers the heartache.
  • Linda Zagon
    June 12, 2017
    OMG! Ellen Marie Wiseman has written such a thought provoking, emotional and intense novel, "The Life She Was Given". My head is literally spinning! I love the way that the author describes the settings, and tells the story. The genres of this novel are Historical Fiction, and Women's Fiction. Kudos to Ellen Marie Wiseman for the historical research done for this story set around 1931 during the depression. In coal mined towns such as Pennsylvania, work was scarce, and people did what they could OMG! Ellen Marie Wiseman has written such a thought provoking, emotional and intense novel, "The Life She Was Given". My head is literally spinning! I love the way that the author describes the settings, and tells the story. The genres of this novel are Historical Fiction, and Women's Fiction. Kudos to Ellen Marie Wiseman for the historical research done for this story set around 1931 during the depression. In coal mined towns such as Pennsylvania, work was scarce, and people did what they could to survive. Some worked in the Circus. Children and "people" who were different were treated in a terrible way. Some were sent to institutions.There was poverty and desperation.The author describes two young girls who lived at Blackwood Manor at different times.In 1931, Lilly was a young girl locked up in her bedroom in the attic for the difference in her appearance. Lilly winds up being part of the Circus. During these depressive times, there were rules to follow and consequences. Lilly has a way of bonding with animals. It's almost like she is an "Animal Whisperer". The crowds can be dangerous, and the managers of the Circus were ruthless. There was much cruelty and no compassion.Around twenty years later we meet Julia who ran away from her parents at Blackwood Manor. Her parents didn't provide love and emotional support. Julia is almost homeless, when a man looking for her informs her that she has inherited Blackwood Manor. Both of her parents have died, and have left Julia the mansion, the horse farm, and a tremendous amount of money. Julia finds that she has a special way relating and working with the horses. She discovers that her parents had many secrets.The author describes some of the characters as mean, evil, and unlikeable Most of the characters are complex and complicated. I like the way the author describes the themes of family and friends, betrayal and secrets, love and hope.I want to thank Kensington Publishing, Edelweiss and Ellen Marie Wiseman for the Advanced Reading Copy of "The Life She Was Given" by Ellen Marie Wiseman for my honest review.I highly recommend this novel as an amazingly well written and descriptive, intriguing novel. Be warned, have tissues on hand.
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  • Darcysmom
    May 21, 2017
    I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. The Life She Was Given is a gorgeous novel! Alternating chapters tell Lilly's and Julia's stories. Lilly was a young girl who hadn't left her attic room until one night when her mother took her to the circus and sold her to the sideshow. Julia is down on her luck when the attorney for her parents estate finds her and she returns to Blackwood Manor, the childhood home she ran away from. Julia discovers that t I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. The Life She Was Given is a gorgeous novel! Alternating chapters tell Lilly's and Julia's stories. Lilly was a young girl who hadn't left her attic room until one night when her mother took her to the circus and sold her to the sideshow. Julia is down on her luck when the attorney for her parents estate finds her and she returns to Blackwood Manor, the childhood home she ran away from. Julia discovers that there are many secrets hiding in the old manor. The most mysterious is the empty attic bedroom.The weaving together of Lilly's and Julia's stories is very skillful. II loved The Life She Was Given - I read it in one sitting.
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  • Kate Zdenek
    May 17, 2017
    I was hooked on this book from the very first pages. It is a fast paced, heart-wrenching tale filled with family secrets and lies. Each chapter alternates between the viewpoint of two sisters and their very different lives. The many twists and turns in the story keep you guessing about the identity and motivation of the characters. There were a couple of chapters that were very harsh and may be triggering to some readers. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to lovers of fa I was hooked on this book from the very first pages. It is a fast paced, heart-wrenching tale filled with family secrets and lies. Each chapter alternates between the viewpoint of two sisters and their very different lives. The many twists and turns in the story keep you guessing about the identity and motivation of the characters. There were a couple of chapters that were very harsh and may be triggering to some readers. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to lovers of family sagas.I received a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. It is being released in July 2017.
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  • Samantha Osborne
    June 18, 2017
    I received this for a honest review I loved this a heart wrenching story. It should be on everyone's TBR pile. it was so great it captured me from the first page I could not put it down.
  • Louise Morris
    May 19, 2017
    Received an early Kindle copy from Net Galley. Highly recommend this book! Keep tissues by you as you read it, though. It is a heartbreaking look at what happened to people who looked different in the early to mid 20th century. Also a heartbreaking look at how animals were treated in circuses. It is a definite must read in my opinion.
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  • Marianne
    May 16, 2017
    Step right this way, folks, into a world of secrets and lies! Take a step back in time to the world of the traveling circus show. Ellen Marie Wiseman weaves a tale that's both heartbreaking and uplifting, full of shocking details and twisting story lines. Follow Lilly and Julia through time to find out what hidden secrets lurk behind the walls of the circus tent and Blackwood Manor. Thank you to the publisher for this advance reader's edition.
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  • Vicki
    May 6, 2017
    Lilly has lived her whole life locked in the attic at Blackwood Manor until the fateful night that her mother takes her out . . . and sells her to a circus freak show. Two decades later nineteen year old Julia returns to Blackwood Manor after the death of her parents. As she adapts to being back in the home that was very cold and unhappy for her, she discovers tantalizing clues to family secrets. But if you think you know where the story is going, guess again. This historical novel will be an ex Lilly has lived her whole life locked in the attic at Blackwood Manor until the fateful night that her mother takes her out . . . and sells her to a circus freak show. Two decades later nineteen year old Julia returns to Blackwood Manor after the death of her parents. As she adapts to being back in the home that was very cold and unhappy for her, she discovers tantalizing clues to family secrets. But if you think you know where the story is going, guess again. This historical novel will be an excellent book group selection, and the story will haunt readers long after they turn the last page.Thanks to the publisher for providing me with this advance reading copy.
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  • Erin Donaldson
    April 26, 2017
    Received advanced reader's copy - book due out 7/28/2017Amazing! Flowers in the Attic meets Water for Elephants, the Life She Was Given is a masterful tale of a young girl locked in an attic because she's different then sold into the circus. The story is told bouncing between two narrators, Lilly, the locked in the attic girl, and Julie who after running away from her neglectful mother dies and she inherits the same house she grew up, the same house Lilly was locked away at.Tales of the sideshow Received advanced reader's copy - book due out 7/28/2017Amazing! Flowers in the Attic meets Water for Elephants, the Life She Was Given is a masterful tale of a young girl locked in an attic because she's different then sold into the circus. The story is told bouncing between two narrators, Lilly, the locked in the attic girl, and Julie who after running away from her neglectful mother dies and she inherits the same house she grew up, the same house Lilly was locked away at.Tales of the sideshow freaks of the 1930s circus develop into strong characters while the menagerie of circus animals also become a large part of the story. Abuses among all circus performers run rampant and fighting against them sometimes are futile. The old mansion with secrets and locked rooms and so much to explore fill out Julie's story as she discovers her family's secrets.This story engrossed me from the first chapter. I read it in two days and could not put it down. It would be a great Book Club read due to the many topics approached; child and animal abuse, how people dealt with disabilities and differences in the 1930s, the spectacel of entertainment and it's costs to others,
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  • Good Book Fairy
    May 16, 2017
    My Review: 4 starsThe Life She Was Given completely opened my eyes to circus life in an entirely new way. Although I’ve never been to an actual circus, I’ve read about them in some great novels and seen them portrayed in movies and TV. This book took me into the circus sideshows, which I’m certain I’d never elect to see, so this was the ideal option. As I’m typing this, my husband, who has no idea what I writing about, just shared that today (5/21/17), was the last ever Ringling and Barnum and B My Review: 4 starsThe Life She Was Given completely opened my eyes to circus life in an entirely new way. Although I’ve never been to an actual circus, I’ve read about them in some great novels and seen them portrayed in movies and TV. This book took me into the circus sideshows, which I’m certain I’d never elect to see, so this was the ideal option. As I’m typing this, my husband, who has no idea what I writing about, just shared that today (5/21/17), was the last ever Ringling and Barnum and Bailey Circus ever to perform. Coincidence, or what?With dual storylines that created a good mystery and a gripping plot, this book had a lot going for it. One storyline was about the so-called freaks in the sideshow of a circus, namely Lilly Blackwood. The other was from Julia Blackwood, who’s trying to unfold the secrets she unearths from the home she’d runaway from. This home, Blackwood Manor, actually holds all the pieces of the puzzle. If only it could speak.Of course, the stories were woven together perfectly so that the reader knew they’d eventually connect, but never knew just how they’d mesh together. There were moments of the book that worked perfectly in fiction. I always fall for hidden attics, who lives there and why; it’s a perfect start to a novel. It’s always a treat when animals and characters connect on an almost psychic level, I believe it’s a true phenomenon and love when it’s brought up in fiction. Also religious extremism, secrets, animal abuse, child abuse, romance and friendship were all deftly explored throughout the novel.I’ve enjoyed each of Ms. Wiseman’s novels. She continually creates strong women as characters who fight for what is right. Each novel is entirely different, yet they’ll leave you richer for what you’ve learned in each book. You can check them out here: The Plum Tree, What She Left Behind and Coal River.
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  • Barb
    March 13, 2017
    THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN by, Ellen Marie WisemanI was given an advance copy to read and review. I have read all of Ellen Marie Wiseman's past novels and quite frankly, I have loved every one of them. She is an excellent writer, who incorporates topics and issues in her books that captivate her audience.No spoilers.THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN does not disappoint. This book alternates chapters between two characters, two story lines that have you on the end of your seat until the very last page. It is an THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN by, Ellen Marie WisemanI was given an advance copy to read and review. I have read all of Ellen Marie Wiseman's past novels and quite frankly, I have loved every one of them. She is an excellent writer, who incorporates topics and issues in her books that captivate her audience.No spoilers.THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN does not disappoint. This book alternates chapters between two characters, two story lines that have you on the end of your seat until the very last page. It is an emotional read, concerning a young girl who was abusively mistreated because she was different. Her mother sold her to the circus life at a young age, and the story is how Lilly rises above it all to try to have a happy life. The other story line is about a family member who is trying to figure out her life after acquiring the ownership of Blackwood Manor, the home of her strict, unhappy childhood. I have to say that the brilliant story-telling, genius character development, and intense social issues in the 1930's make this for a top notch read. You will want to weep, fight for, and root for the main characters as they conquer adversity. Lilly and Julia are the main characters in the book, and you will come to know and love them like I did. There is so much to say about this book and it will also make for a great BOOK CLUB selection. Oh, the topics the group will be wanting to discuss.I thank you Ellen Marie Wiseman for writing such a brilliant novel of controversial life issues. Your insight into circus life, animal cruelty, and child abuse make this story one that all will want to read. It is definitely a page turner that readers will not be able to put down.I loved it, and would give it a 20/10...it is that well written
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  • Bethany Clark
    March 14, 2017
    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, elec 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!
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  • Venessa
    February 26, 2017
    The reader is thrown into the story with a striking first chapter set in 1931, the Depression era at Blackwood Manor in rural America. The Circus has come ‘to town’ but Lilly Blackwood can only watch from her small barred window of the attic where her parents keep her locked up and away from their neighbours. Lilly has never been outside, never smelt fresh cut grass, never felt the sun on her skin, and all because her mother has told her she is an ‘abomination’ and would scare their neighbours a The reader is thrown into the story with a striking first chapter set in 1931, the Depression era at Blackwood Manor in rural America. The Circus has come ‘to town’ but Lilly Blackwood can only watch from her small barred window of the attic where her parents keep her locked up and away from their neighbours. Lilly has never been outside, never smelt fresh cut grass, never felt the sun on her skin, and all because her mother has told her she is an ‘abomination’ and would scare their neighbours and anyone who saw her. Lilly’s only company is her beloved cat Abby whom she dotes on and curls up with every night.Ellen Marie Wiseman has written a powerful story, with vivid colours, smells and sounds that traverse the Depression era of the 1930s and the innovation and liberation of the 1950s. Feeling the emotions of Lilly and Julie our story’s dual protagonists, the reader rides the roller coaster of love, loss, friendship, family and beauty. These two characters are perfectly captured in their dialogue and thoughts, and the reader is enraptured and held captive by their journeys – the mystery of how they intertwine through old photos and circus posters, the emergence of a will and the revelation of the past for Julia when the door to the attic is finally found.I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was 'un-putdownable'. I highly recommend this for lovers of circus stories, mysteries and storied about overcoming adversity. I will be reading more by this author very soon!
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  • Barbara
    February 10, 2017
    In The Life She Was Given, author Ellen Marie Wiseman continues to do what she does best, which is to write compelling characters placed in extraordinary circumstances. Ellen's commitment to researching the time period where her story takes place, combined with the sincerity of her characters' emotions, together transport the reader into believable places. What I really enjoyed about this novel is the author's use of dual time lines interwoven into one story (a technique used very effectively in In The Life She Was Given, author Ellen Marie Wiseman continues to do what she does best, which is to write compelling characters placed in extraordinary circumstances. Ellen's commitment to researching the time period where her story takes place, combined with the sincerity of her characters' emotions, together transport the reader into believable places. What I really enjoyed about this novel is the author's use of dual time lines interwoven into one story (a technique used very effectively in the author's second book What She Left Behind, which I also recommend). The main character Lily's circumstances are unusual and at times disturbing, while her reactions and emotional responses to those circumstances are authentic and relatable. I appreciated the descriptive detail brought to bear on "circus life" in the early 1900s, especially in light of the closing of the last big traveling circus in the U.S., Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey. Another good read Ellen!I was given a digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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