First line: This is not a book about mental health, but about how it can be used as a weapon.
Summary: Elizabeth Packard, a wife and mother of six, has displeased her husband with her differing views on religion and politics. According to the laws of the land he is within his rights to commit her to an insane asylum. And this is exactly what he does. However, Elizabeth will not go quietly. For three years she lives inside the walls of the institution, writing her story and about the abuses of the staff and the superintendent. Finally, when she is released her problems are not over. There is still a battle to be won and no one is going to silence her until it is finished.
My Thoughts: If you are looking for a non-fiction book that reads like fiction then this is it. The story is very easy to follow, the flow is consistent throughout and the plot is compelling. Elizabeth’s story is probably more common than anybody realizes. A husband, father, or brother has become disgruntled with a woman and sends them away. It is sad and fascinating all at the same time.
I listened and read this at the same time. Both were very enjoyable ways to consume this book. The reader did a great job and kept my attention while I was doing other things as I listened.
I did get a little frustrated at times with Elizabeth. Even though she knew that certain men were the ones that put her in the asylum she continued to try and persuade them to change their minds. I liked to see that she was smart enough to manipulate the situations she was in or make the best of her times in the asylum. She kept her wits about her which many other women would not be able to do.
With her limited resources she improved the lives of many of the women trapped in the asylum with her. And when she left she did not forget the ones that were still imprisoned. She was an intelligent woman who knew how to get her points heard. Because of her campaigning she brought about changes for married women and patients in the asylums.
First line: Goldengrove devoured my sister every time I closed my eyes.
Charlotte Smith is the daughter of a wealthy San Francisco business
man. She is engaged to a respectable man. Her manners and comportment
are perfect. However, her sister Phoebe has fits of depression or
energy. Her parents do not know what to do with her. Their only hope is
to send her to a respected asylum for women called Goldengrove.
Charlotte loves her sister and is determined to get her out of the
asylum. She devises a plan to be admitted to the asylum in order to find
and rescue her sister. When Charlotte arrives at Goldengrove she
realizes that her plan may not be as easy as she originally thought.
My Thoughts: The story took a little while to gather momentum. The first several chapters were devoted to giving a little backstory but once Charlotte enters the asylum everything picks up. Quoting one of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads, “…the chick in this book is cray cray!!” Why do you think that walking an insane asylum is going to be easy. She figures that she can just waltz out with her sister once she finds her. Even though her main goal is to find her sister, she learns a lot about the struggles that women have to face out in the world. She was raised very sheltered and wealthy where these hardships are not shared. I loved seeing her growth.
Most of the story is told through Charlotte’s
thoughts rather than interactions and conversation. This style makes the
reading a little slower but as a reader you can tell that the author
did a lot of research in order to fill out her novel. Everything down to
the specific treatments to the activity at docks in San Francisco.
other women at the asylum though were hands down my favorite part. Each
of them had a story to tell even though we get it in bits and pieces.
Hearing how easily a wife, daughter or sister can be discarded is so
sad. If you wanted to do or be anything other than what was expected you
were clearly “insane”. It makes me want to scream at the injustice that
they faced. And the women that were truly disturbed did not get the
help they needed. Be ready for a look into a cruel world but it will
also give you the feels for how much Charlotte and Phoebe truly care for
each other. I hope that I would do something this crazy for my sister
if the time ever came around.