The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

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The River's End Bookstore, Signed Copy
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Powell's Books

Published by: Kensington
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Pages: 304
ISBN13: 978-1496715883









New York Times Bestseller
USA Today Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Indie Next Pick
Barnes & Noble Monthly Pick & Bestseller
Costco Buyers Pick
Sarah Gelman Amazon Book Club Pick
Peruse Book Club Pick
A Room of Your Own Book Club Pick
Publishers Lunch Buzz Books Selection


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 Shutter Island in this gripping narrative of social injustice, survival, and a young woman determined to find her sister.

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 . . .

For Book Clubs:

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"Best read with the lights on and the doors locked. A chilling, propulsive novel that blends fact with fiction, and transports you to the infamous WIllowbrook State School on Staten Island in the 1970s. If you’re a fan historical fiction, horror or true crime—or you’re just looking for the next discussion-worthy book club pick, don't miss this shocking mash-up of Girl, Interrupted mixed with American Horror Story..."
–Barnes & Noble Bookstores

“Powerful. Grounded in historical fact, it ends like a fast-paced thriller.”
– Historical Novel Society

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

“Unvarnished, painful and startlingly clear.”

"This was one of the best books I’ve read this year.”
– Cyndi Larsen, Avon Public Library (Avon, CT)

"An intense story that will captivate readers of true crime as well as historical thrillers but be prepared for a long night reading with the lights on.”
– Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library (Austin, TX)

"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)