top of page
Top of Blog

JDC

MUST

READ

BOOKS

coffee book home window .jpg
  • Judith D Collins

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook


By: Ellen Marie Wiseman

ISBN: 978-1496715883

Publisher: Kensington

Publication Date: 08/30/2022

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)


TOP BOOKS OF 2022 LIST

AUG 2022 AUTHOR INTERVIEW

AUG 2022 MUST-READ BOOKS


Instant New York Times Bestseller!


Perfect for readers of Margaret Atwood and Girl, Interrupted, the evocative new book from the New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Collector blends fact, fiction, and the urban legend of Cropsey in 1970s New York. This is the haunting story of a young woman mistakenly imprisoned at Willowbrook State School, the real-life institution later shuttered for its horrendous abuses.


In her most powerful novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Ellen Marie Wiseman masterfully viscerally evokes the real-life Willowbrook State School, the infamous Staten Island, New York, mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children. Girl, Interrupted meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in this gripping narrative of social injustice, survival, and a young woman determined to find her sister.


In this powerful novel of survival and resilience, New York Times bestselling author Ellen Marie Wiseman takes readers on a gripping, emotional journey as one brave young woman’s search for the truth about her sister leads her to an infamous institution called Willowbrook . . .


Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.

Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.

Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined . . .


Buy the Book


AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!







About the Author

Photo credit: Kimberly Schuldt


Ellen Marie Wiseman is the New York Times bestselling author of the highly acclaimed historical fiction novels The Orphan Collector, What She Left Behind, The Plum Tree, Coal River, The Life She Was Given, and The Lost Girls of Willowbrook.


Born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in northern New York, she’s a first-generation German American who discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in New York State.


Since then, more than one million copies of her books have been sold in the United States. Her novels have been published worldwide, translated into twenty languages, and named to “Best Of” lists by Reading Group Choices, Good Housekeeping, Goodreads, The Historical Novel Society, Great Group Reads, and more.


A mother of two, Ellen lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and dog.

Visit Ellen online at: www.EllenMarieWiseman.com



Connect with Ellen:

Website Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest Book Bub






A Letter from the Author

Dear Reader from Ellen Marie Wiseman - THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK
.pdf
Download PDF • 658KB



NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR ELLEN MARIE WISEMAN

SETS VISCERAL NEW HISTORICAL NOVEL AT THE REAL-LIFE WILLOWBROOK STATE SCHOOL, THE STATE-RUN INSTITUTION EXPOSED IN 1972 FOR ITS ATROCIOUS ABUSES


Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Willowbrook’s final closure and the 50th anniversary of Geraldo Rivera’s groundbreaking exposé,

THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK


by New York Times bestselling author Ellen Marie Wiseman,

on sale August 30, 2022



Known for writing novels based on real historical injustices, New York Times bestselling author Ellen Marie Wiseman is often praised for the compassion, authenticity and depth with which she explores often-forgotten episodes of cruelty or simply ignorance from the not-too-distant past.


Now, in THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK, she unlocks the doors of Willowbrook State School during the early-1970s, a state-run institution for children with disabilities that became known – appallingly long before it was finally shut down – for its horrendous abuses, neglect, overcrowding, and unethical practices. It first gained infamy after an unannounced visit in 1965 from Senator Robert Kennedy. Despite his vivid descriptions of it as “a snake pit” and his horror over the conditions of the children “living in filth and dirt,” the school continued to operate for another 22 years. In 1972, Geraldo Rivera’s Peabody Award-winning exposé, “Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace,” brought widespread mainstream awareness of the institution’s abuses, overcrowding, deplorable conditions, and physical and sexual abuse of residents. Tragically, it wouldn’t be shut down for another 15 years.


Girl, Interrupted by way of “Cropsey,” Ellen Marie Wiseman’s 6th and most powerful novel to date blends fact and fiction, as a young woman desperate to find her missing twin sister is mistakenly imprisoned at the notorious Willowbrook State School. It is a harrowing yet ultimately hopeful story of social injustice and survival – published 50 years after Geraldo’s groundbreaking exposé and on the 35th anniversary of Willowbrook’s long-overdue closure.



People still search the woods for the remains of lost children…

#TheLostGirlsOfWillowbrook

Press Release - THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman
.pdf
Download PDF • 539KB



Advance Praise


Industry Praise - THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK
.pdf
Download PDF • 195KB
“Powerful. Grounded in historical fact, it ends like a fast-paced thriller.” — Historical Novel Society

An Indie Next Pick | Peruse Book Club Pick | A Room of Your Own Book Club Pick | A Publishers Lunch Buzz Books Selection

“Ellen Marie Wiseman’s powerful new novel will bring awareness to a whole new audience…Wiseman doesn’t shy away from the truth about conditions at Willowbrook, and some of the descriptions are harrowing to read. The mystery of her twin’s disappearance and Sage’s determination to find the truth keep the pages turning, particularly in the latter stages of the book. Grounded in historical fact, it ends like a fast-paced thriller. A comprehensive author’s note at the end is well worth the read.”

—Historical Novel Society


“A portrait of Willowbrook State School that is unvarnished, painful and startlingly clear…Bringing the unquiet ghosts of Willowbrook to life is what this book does best, and if it didn’t do anything else, it would be worth your time…credit to Ellen Marie Wiseman for bringing Willowbrook back to the national consciousness.”

—Bookreporter.com


“A heartbreaking yet insightful read, this novel will open one's eyes to the evil in this world.” —New York Journal of Books

"Without a doubt, this is one of the most riveting, psychologically thrilling, historical fiction books I've read!"

- Virginia DeNucci, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore (Steamboat Springs, CO)


“Thank goodness for historians like Ellen Marie Wiseman who refuse to let the horrors inflicted on the disabled be relegated to the forgotten attic of time. The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is historical fiction blended with a riveting mystery that makes for a "must-read" of 2022.”

– Pamela Klinger-Horn, Valley Bookseller (Stillwater, MN)


“Uniquely plotted, this is a fascinating inner-look inside a place we have only heard about through urban legends and grainy news reels...Compulsively readable and incredibly intriguing to research on the side as you read.”

– Kerr Clemm, Anderson’s Bookshop (Chicago, IL)


“In a story so gripping you'll be unable to pull your eyes from the page, the author tells us a tale based on the unbelievable reality that was Willowbrook in New York a half-century ago. This is a bone-chilling narrative written by a master storyteller. Characters step from the page fully formed. The dialogue is superbly crafted, and the outcome is... well, you'll have to read that for yourself. I love this story!”

– Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA)







Q&A Elevator Ride with

New York Times Bestselling Author Ellen Marie Wiseman

"Behind the Book and the Author" | #AuthorElevatorSeries


Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.

INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW


Welcome, Ellen!

We are super excited and honored to have you join us today for our featured August #AuthorElevatorSeries ride and your 6th novel and most powerful to date —THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK. Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Willowbrook’s final closure and the 50th anniversary of Geraldo Rivera’s groundbreaking exposé, THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK



Q. ANNIVERSARY TIE-IN: Before we get into the book, tell us more about this tie-in with the anniversary of the closing of the school, the Geraldo expose, and how you came to pen this moving story.



ELLEN: Believe it or not, while writing THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK I had no idea that the 35th anniversary of Willowbrook’s closure and the 50th anniversary of Geraldo’s expose were coming up in the near future. It was just a very lucky coincidence that the book was released the same year. As far as how I came to write this story, I was first drawn to Willowbrook by the rumors and urban legends surrounding it, some of which turned out to be true and made it into the novel in ways that even surprised me. Parents used to warn kids they’d end up there if they didn’t behave, and it was a documentary about the legend of Cropsey, a serial killer who lived in the tunnels below the buildings, that inspired the fictional part of the book.


Q. Give us your BEST Elevator Pitch for THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK.


ELLEN: Fact, fiction, and urban legend blend in this haunting story about a young woman mistakenly imprisoned at Willowbrook State School, the real-life institution later shuttered for its horrendous abuses.



Q. WILLOWBROOK: Share with us a little about the institution state school.



ELLEN: Willowbrook State School was basically a warehouse for adults and children with mental or physical disabilities who were put there by parents who either didn’t want them or didn’t know how to care for them. Most parents were encouraged by certain doctors to relinquish their disabled children “for the sake of the family.” Of course there was a lot of shame surrounding disabilities back then too, and children were often hidden away in Willowbrook and other similar places. But sometimes, healthy children were also dumped there, either dropped off by parents or sent there by the foster care system. Some were left in public places with signs that said “Take Me to Willowbrook.”


Far from being a school, Willowbrook housed over 6,000 despite having a maximum capacity of 4,000, and became the largest state-run mental institution of its kind in the U.S. It was grossly understaffed, underfunded, rundown, overcrowded, and overrun with disease, violence, neglect, theft, alcohol and drug use, and other forms of crime.


Of course not all of the staff and doctors were uncaring. There were reports of employees using their own money to buy necessary items for the residents, including clothes, soap, and deodorant. Some doctors risked everything trying to change the situation. Sadly, anyone else who tried to improve conditions at Willowbrook fought an impossible mission. Dr. William Bronston wrote that other doctors organized against him and he was moved to another building as punishment for requesting painkillers, soap, sheets, surgery thread (instead of upholstery thread) for suturing, and non-rotten food for the residents under his care.



Q. RESEARCH: Any fascinating research for the novel, or anything you learned along the way?


ELLEN: The research for this novel was utterly heartbreaking, but the more I learned about the institution itself, the more I realized that “life” inside was far more complex than I imagined. And the more my sympathy for those who lived and worked there grew. Out of public sight and completely closed off, it provided the ideal breeding ground for human abuse and became an underground city with its own hierarchy and society, where employees could buy and sell everything from drugs to jewelry to meat. It also became a hideout for researchers to carry out controversial medical experiments; all of which were funded by the Defense Department.



Q. GERALDO RIVERA EXPOSE: For readers who may not be aware, can you share with us briefly about the award-winning 1972 documentary, Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace which aired on national TV.


ELLEN: On January 6th, 1972, inside a small Staten Island diner, Dr. Mike Wilkins, a former physician from Willowbrook State School, met secretly with a reporter. After describing the horrible conditions he had been fired for trying to improve at the state-run institution, he handed the reporter a key to one of the buildings. That reporter was Geraldo Rivera. With that clandestine key, Rivera would lead a film crew unannounced into Building #6 at Willowbrook, where they would capture the appalling abuses, filth, and overcrowding inflicted upon its residents.

After Rivera uncovered the deplorable conditions a class-action lawsuit was filed against the State of New York by the parents of 5,000 residents of Willowbrook in federal court. In 1975, the Willowbrook Consent Decree was signed, committing New York State to improve community placement for the now designated “Willowbrook Class.” The cornerstone of the consent decree was that the state “would be required to spend two million dollars to create two-hundred places for Willowbrook transferees in hostels, halfway houses, group houses, and sheltered workshops.” In 1983, the state of New York announced plans to close Willowbrook.


By the end of March 1986, the number of residents housed there had dwindled to 250, and the last residents left the grounds on September 17, 1987. During the writing of this book, I talked to several people who currently work, or have worked, with members of the Willowbrook Class. And sadly it’s clear that the former residents’ neglect and mistreatment had a profound and lasting effect on their lives. For many, the abuse still continues in smaller group homes and institutions, as reported in a February 2020 investigation by The New York Times.



Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: How did you come to write about teen twins (Sage/Rosemary) for the story? Twin novels are immensely popular now.



ELLEN: I chose to make the main character a young woman who is mistakenly locked up in Willowbrook when she goes to there to search for her missing twin because I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of someone who didn’t belong in the institution. I believe it’s a more intimate perspective than from someone on the outside looking in.



Q. ADAPTATION: For fun, do you have any cast of stars in mind for any of your leading roles for movie or TV series?



ELLEN: Elle Fanning as Sage and Rosemary, Darren Criss as Eddie.



Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working or what is next in ten words or less or less?



ELLEN: Eugenics in America, which had a more profound effect on our lives than most people realize.



Q. Is there anything else you would like to add that we have not covered today?


ELLEN: Yes, I hope THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK inspires you with Sage’s ability to turn heartbreak into a force for good and entertains you with her determination in the face of danger. But most importantly, I hope you are disturbed by the cruel reality of Willowbrook and institutions of its sort. I hope you’ll be stirred by how people lived, worked, suffered, and eventually triumphed with the closure of Willowbrook. What happened there should serve as a reminder to us all that we need to be more protective of the most vulnerable among us, and that every human being has the right to learn and grow, and above all, to be treated with kindness, respect, and empathy.





"Behind the Author"

Get to know the Author.

A fun Elevator Ride with Ellen Marie Wiseman!



CURRENT STATE? New York


ZODIAC SIGN? Taurus


FAVORITE THING ABOUT WHERE YOU RESIDE? I live on a beautiful, peaceful peninsula surrounded by Lake Ontario.


FAVORITE BEAUTY TIP OR PRODUCT? (Hair, makeup, skincare, etc.)

Thrive cosmetics. The products are great and for every item purchased, a donation is made to programs that support women.


FAVORITE KITCHEN/COOKING/HOME/GARDEN PRODUCT OR TIP?

Vego garden beds


FAVORITE HOBBY? Boating on the lake


YOUR FAVORITE LIFE LESSON QUOTE?

We may not have it all together but together we have it all


IF YOU WERE STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR ALONE WITH ONE CELEBRITY, AUTHOR, OR CHARACTER— WHO WOULD IT BE? (Male or Female)

Meryl Streep


YOUR SECRET TALENT?

I can whistle REALLY loud, like “people need to cover their ears” loud.


FAVORITE TV SERIES? (Or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.?

Poldark


MOST MEMORABLE PLACE YOU HAVE TRAVELED?

My mother’s hometown in Germany is one of my favorite places on earth. She came to America alone at 20 years old, so I grew up visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Baden-Württemberg, which looks like a fairy-tale to me.


WHEN YOU RECEIVE A SPARK OF INSPIRATION FOR A BOOK:

Make a few quick notes on a pad or device


YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?

On our deck overlooking the lake.


HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?

Six, working on number seven.


YOU WOULDN'T BE CAUGHT DEAD, WHERE?

Jumping from an airplane


NAME SOMETHING YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE VERY GOOD AT?

Cooking


WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE (OR LOVE STORY)?

The Exorcist


WHAT WOULD YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER SAY ABOUT YOU BEING AN AUTHOR, IF ASKED?

They’d say they’re proud of me but I’m still their Mom and they’ll always pick on me.


INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?

A little bit of both


YOUR GO-TO RECIPE FOR A NIGHT IN?

Chicken Fajitas or Boboli pizza with fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, and basil from my garden


NAME A TRAIT YOU INHERITED FROM YOUR DAD OR MOM? (Good or bad) I’m hardworking like my Mom.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT? (Excluding computer, tablet, phone)

My family


YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A PARENT?

Grandchildren!


THE BEST THING ABOUT A PANDEMIC? (OR WORST)

The best thing was that life slowed down


DESCRIBE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES.

Red leather boots


A FAVORITE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE?

The River’s End in Oswego, NY and The Little Bookstore in Clayton, NY


THE LAST BOOK YOU RAVED ABOUT?

The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe


WHAT WERE YOU DOING AT MIDNIGHT LAST EVENING?

Answering emails


TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT YOUR READERS MAY NOT KNOW.

When I was nineteen I was robbed at gunpoint while working at a state park tollbooth. It was terrifying.


WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

Truth and empathy


WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF A BOOK?

Plot


WHAT ARE EARLIER JOBS YOU HAD BEFORE BECOMING AN AUTHOR?

Mowing lawns, waitress, state park tollbooth attendant, retail manager, bookkeeper


WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE?

PLOTTER


WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON TODAY?

A novel about eugenics in America, which affected life in this country a lot more than people realize.


WINE, MIXED DRINK, BEER OR OTHER?

Crown & Coke with a slice of lime


FIRST JOB?

Babysitting


FIRST CAR?

Ford Fairmont


PET PEEVE?

Liars and fake people


COFFEE OR TEA?

Tea


WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE?

Out on our boat or at the drive-ins


BEST PART OF BEING AN AUTHOR?

Meeting readers! My last book, THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR, came out in 2020 so needless to say, all of my events were cancelled. I can’t wait to go on tour and see my readers in person again!


GO OUT OR A QUIET EVENING AT HOME?

Depends on my mood


YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A CHILD?

I loved to ride horses, ice skate, snowmobile, fish, go boating, and catch pollywogs & crayfish.


FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?

The Little House


IF YOU COULD RE-LIVE YOUR LIFE IN A DIFFERENT TIME, WHAT TIME PERIOD OR DECADE?

1950’s


IF YOUR FOOD IS BAD AT A RESTAURANT, DO YOU SAY SOMETHING?

No


IF YOU COULD BE ONE OF YOUR CHARACTERS FOR A DAY, (FROM YOUR BOOKS) WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?

Lilly Blackstone from THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN when she was riding Pepper the elephant in a farm pond


DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE USING ONE WORD?

Chaotic


HAVE YOU EVER CRIED AT A MOVIE?

Yes, many times. I even cry when cartoon animals get hurt.

TRAVELER OR HOMEBODY?

Can I be both?


ONE OF THE EVILEST CHARACTERS FROM YOUR BOOK?

Bernice Groves aka THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR


ONE THING YOU HAVE LEARNED SINCE YOUR DEBUT NOVEL?

Writing doesn’t get any easier.


THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE FOR BOOK RESEARCH?

I visited a shuttered state asylum and went inside a coalmine and a haunted jail.

IF YOU WERE NOT A WRITER, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL CAREER?

Marine Biologist


WHAT’S THE WEIRDEST THING ABOUT YOU?

I’m not afraid of spiders, snakes, or rats. I save snapping turtles from the road no matter how big and scary they are, I’ve broken up a fight between a stallion and a gelding, and I’ve returned a loose bull to our neighbor, who thought I was crazy when he saw me bringing that big ole’ bull down the road.


BOOKS YOU LOVED AS A KID THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER? Salem’s Lot by Stephen King


IF YOU COULD HAVE A TV SERIES OR MOVIE ADAPTED BASED ON ONE OF YOUR BOOKS, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?

THE PLUM TREE. I’d loved to see my family’s stories about living through WWII in Germany brought to life on the big screen.

****


THANK YOU, ELLEN for spending time with us today!


ELLEN: Thank you for having me!


Readers: Check out my glowing 5-star review (Top Books of 2022) and advance praise. Be sure and pick up a copy of THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK, post your review on your favorite social media platform, and check out any upcoming events with Ellen. I look forward hearing your thoughts. You can check out Ellen’s complete book list here. I hope you enjoy this one as much I did.




#TheLostGirlsofWillowbrook




My Review


A fan of the author, known for writing novels based on actual historical and social injustices—NYT bestselling author Ellen Marie Wiseman returns with her sixth and most powerful novel to date —THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK.


Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Willowbrook's final closure and the 50th anniversary of Geraldo Rivera's groundbreaking exposé, THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK (Staten Island, NY) — the author MASTERFULLY infuses fact and fiction as a young woman desperate to find her missing twin sister is mistakenly imprisoned at the horrific Willowbrook State School.


In the present, Sage Winters, age sixteen, overhears her stepfather and one of his loser friends talking about a lost girl at Willowbrook. That girl is Rosemary, her twin sister. What the heck?


Rosemary died of pneumonia six years ago. What is she doing at a place called Willowbrook? She MUST find her! Her sister was always a little different, but she had no clue her sister was alive.


With their mother deceased and a no-care stepfather, she is determined to go to Willowbrook to find her sister. Her stepfather does not seem to care one way or another. What do they mean she is missing? Have they lost her?


Sage sets off to Willowbrook, alone to the institution, knowing nothing about the place, she takes a bus without informing anyone where she is going. Her stepfather is cold and uncaring, and her friends are unreliable.


Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, she goes in secret. Once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, what she learns will change her life in ways she never imagined.


Behind the idyllic grounds, Sage has no clue about the horrors behind the closed doors.


When arriving, they mistake her for her twin sister Rosemary and lock her in this prison of a hospital. She falls asleep on the way there, and her wallet and ID are stolen.


Frantic, they do NOT believe her, thinking she is Rosemary, nor do they care. She has no control. They begin drugging her, and she sees the horror and torture that her sister has experienced all these years. She watches and observes and tries to find out all she can. There are tunnels and wards, all nasty and dirty. The people are monsters, the conditions are unsanitary, and the staff mistreats patients worse than animals.


Sage must find out everything she can about this place and find her sister. They will not allow her to leave to call anyone. How will she ever escape? Can she trust anyone?



CAPTIVATING AND ENGROSSING!


The suspense and fear are riveting, and the story reads almost like a psychological suspense thriller which will appeal to fans of the thriller serial killer genre and historical fiction fans. METICULOUSLY RESEARCHED, Wiseman's writing is top-notch!

The author dives deep into the staff's crazed minds and the monsters supposed to care for the vulnerable and disabled. I was drawn in from the first page to the last and read in two sittings.


Harrowing yet hopeful, a story of social injustice and survival. It is estimated that 12,000 patients died between 1950 and 1980 due to neglect, violence, lack of nutrition, and medical mismanagement or experimental drugs. Still, today, they have not found all the children.


There was a lot of stigma attached and ignorance surrounding people with mental disabilities back in the day, and often it is still relevant today. People hide away children but were not getting the care they needed, and quite the opposite.


INCLUDED in the book is a beautiful wrap-up from Sage (turned social worker) and her excellent work, a poignant Author's Note/Letter, and a Reading Group Guide. An ideal selection for book clubs and further discussions.


I recall all this happening back in the day and remember watching Geraldo and the brave whistleblower who brought this to light. It was shocking and horrifying. The documentary brought awareness about the abuse, overcrowding, deplorable conditions, and sexual abuse of the residents. However, it was still not shut down for many years later.


I was excited when I found out Ellen was writing this! No one could have told it better with this special anniversary tie-in. THANK YOU for bringing this to light once again. We hope this anniversary edition will draw awareness to this population and inspire and motivate others to continue the great work of those with disabilities.


If you enjoyed Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted, the 2009 documentary, Cropsey, and/or T. Greenwood's Keeping Lucy, you must read THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK.


Highly recommend. A Top Book of 2022!


INTERVIEW: Stay tuned for my #AuthorElevatorSeries Interview with Ellen, where we go behind the scenes of the book and this multi-talented author!


Thank you to #KensingtonBooks and #NetGalley for an ARC to read, enjoy, and review.



@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Aug 30, 2022

My Rating; 5 Stars + ✨✨✨✨✨

Aug 2022 Must-Read Books

Top Books of 2022





Revisiting Willowbrook 50 years later with reporter Geraldo Rivera