Woman 99

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

My attention was kept from page one, until the last page.  What happens in the asylum read true, with moment of fiction to keep the story moving.  I enjoyed this book and the ending was both unexpected and satisfying.  

How sad the history is of these old asylum's.  Women treated for the slightest conditions.  Patients at that time were treated for their problems in ways that seem cruel and unbelievable today.

This would make for a good book club selection. 

Review posted to Goodreads
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This is an incredible story of sacrifice and love that emphasizes the bond between sisters. The story takes place in the late 1800's. The life of an 'insane asylum' inmate during this time period was at times shocking and descritptively depicted in this novel. Charlotte Smith and her sister Phoebe have lived the sheltered and pampered lives as daughters of a well-to-do family. Phoebe has had some problems and their parents don't quite know what to do with her. They have arranged for a betrothal and are planning a wedding for Charlotte and the easy way out for dealing with Phoebe is to commit her. Willing to always be compliant despite her own wants and desires Charlotte can not stand to see this happen to her sister. She bravely sets out to get herself committed and sent to the same establishment. She enters the world of nightmares. There are terrible people who find pleasure or status in abusing others in different ways and they aren't even the inmates. I've read a couple fictionalized accounts of life in an asylum and have also been interested in Dorothea Dix. This book presents information that is heart rending when life is described in one of these cruel places. It is eye-opening to read of the terrible excuses for sending a female family member away because she is an inconvenience or roadblock. There are some special characters in this story along with Phoebe. The suffering Charlotte endures to find and 'save' her sister is so sad and made me angry at times. This type of story certainly can be a reminder of how far we have come in mental health care along with the rights of women. It can also remind us that we have farther to go too. 

I received this book from NetGalley and Sourcebooks and I want to thank them for the interesting read. This review is entirely my own opinion. I found it to be an interesting and emotional story to read.
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Thanks to Netgalley and SourceBooks for this free e-galley in exchange for my honest review.  Unfortunately, I really disliked this book and would not have finished it had I not been hosting a buddy read for it on Instagram.  The first half of the book was so slow and boring that I set this book aside many times throughout the month to read other books instead and had to force myself to keep picking this one back up. I just felt zero connection to any of these characters because none of them were very fleshed out, yet there was so much unnecessary detail given to everything else in the book.  This one was a miss for me.
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I've always been fascinated with the story of Nellie Bly, and so I loved that this story was based on that, and that the main character found her inspiration from Nellie Bly. I loved the characters, the plot, the ending. It was all fantastic. Just a really interesting look at life for women in the late 1800s and the courage that women have.
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5 stars! That is no easy feat. Woman 99 hunted my sleep. After I finished I could not stop thinking about this books and it's characters. Beautifully written, I was drawn into the plight of Charlotte and her sister Phoebe from the very beginning. It was all things tragic and triumphant. A stark look at fate of many women both suffering from mental health issues and those who were not but were sentenced to exile for being merely different or inconvenient. This a must read for lovers of historical fiction and those wanting a peek inside the tragic fate of many women not so long ago.
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I found myself drawn into this book right away. Charlotte is a young woman of marriageable age who lives in the 1880s San Francisco and her life laid out for her — her mother is social climbing, her father is always working, she has fallen in love with someone she can’t marry, and her sister, Phoebe, is “difficult”. When Phoebe gets sent to a notorious asylum, Charlotte decides to follow her in order to free her, even if it means breaking the rules and risking her own happiness.
Macallister clearly did her research on asylums of the time as her descriptions of life there feel authentic and not “over the top”. I also loved the relationships that Charlotte developed. It is clear that she loves her sister and that she has a rosy view of her, but she grows and learns at the asylum, meeting and becoming friends with women she never would have even talked to before her experience there.
I also enjoyed the author’s social commentary on “inconvenient” women and how society tries to deal with them — and how many of the women fight back. But she doesn’t shy away from mental illness, either, recognizing that some people do need help because they simply cannot function in society as it is.
Overall, this was a great read that had pretty much everything — sisters, history, loyalty, suspense, romance, rule breaking, risk taking, and some difficult conversations. Woman 99 approaches an interesting time in history, especially as far as mental health is concerned, and does it in an engaging, very readable way.
Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the review copy of this book.
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First line: Goldengrove devoured my sister every time I closed my eyes.

Summary: 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.

The 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.

FYI: Greer MacAllister’s first book, The Magician’s Lie, is phenomenal! Read it. Please!
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This book is set in an era that I find fascinating, particularly how easily it is for uncooperative women to get shut away in an asylum and subjected to torture masquerading as treatments. I say "uncooperative" because you can get committed simply by being headstrong and embarrassing your family in public. 

Phoebe Smith committed one too many social "errors" and ended up in Goldenglove, a mental asylum for women. Her sister Charlotte plotted and got herself committed, planning to find Phoebe and get them both out. Easier said than done. Once inside, she was Woman 99, having to hide her socialite status and navigate wardens and fellow inmates who may or may not be insane. 

If you've read literature about the mental asylums of the 19th century, particular the investigative works of journalist Nellie Bly, you pretty much know what to expect. It was hard to tell whether the asylum was interested in curing their patients or interested in receiving fees keeping them locked up. It was hard to tell who was really in the grips of mental illness, who was feigning it under an agenda, and who was forced to submit. The mind games and fragile bonds of trust added to the tension, creating a possibility that Charlotte could fail in her mission.

The conclusion stayed on my mind for a long time. This was one of the best books I've read in a while.

ARC courtesy of NetGalley.
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I found the writing of this book to be well-paced. Information was not dumped, or withheld, but gently fed to the reader in a way that kept me hungry but not starved. 

It was an eye opening look at the unjust way women with disorders (or a sexual appetite) were treated until very recently, and I very much appreciate the way these facts were brought to modern attention. The facts, by way of the story, were presented in a way that made me strongly empathize with many of the characters within it, and caused me to wonder what my own bold personality would have done for me if I'd been born in a different century.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and would be happy to lend it to a friend.
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Woman 99 takes place mostly in an asylum for women.  Historically, women could be placed in asylum for any number of reasons or no reason at all.  Scary enough for you?  Greer Macallister weaves the tale of Charlotte Smith and her sister Phoebe.  Phoebe has always had a history of highs and lows but when she goes a bit too maniac--her parents commit her.  Charlotte hatches a plan to "rescue" Phoebe and finds out more about the asylum than she ever imagined.  Although dry in some sections, the stories are intriguing and there are enough questions and turns to keep the reader interested. The characters are strong and flawed, which makes them more relatable.  Overall a well done read---one that will showcase just how far women and women's rights have come (and how much farther they need go).  I devoured it in 2 days.
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The things we do for love especially when someone you know gets sent off to an insane asylum and you know it’s wrong. So you pretend to be insane and get yourself locked up just to find your sister only to find so much more. I love the twists and turns of this book. My heart breaks for anyone who is to be with someone they don’t love or even know for your family. How women were treated in the 1800s versus now is so different. We have come so far! I definitely recommend this book and thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to review this book.
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The horror of mental asylums, many which were open and operational until even the mid-90s, is brought to life with Greer Macallister's novel. 
The story follows Charlotte Smith, a young society woman who has been engaged to a man she doesn't love in an attempt to save her family from financial disaster. But Charlotte's mind is solely occupied with the fate of her sister Phoebe, who has been banished to Goldengrove Asylum, under what Charlotte believes are terrible circumstances.
Resolved to rescue Phoebe, Charlotte abandons her wedding plans and gets herself committed to Goldengrove as a patient, believing that once there, rescuing Phoebe will be a simple matter.
But it isn't. The conditions at the asylum are much harsher than even Charlotte expected, and finding Phoebe has become an impossible task. 
Greer's novel not only exposes the terrible quality of life in mental asylums, but also how women were locked inside when they were either too rebellious, smart or non-compliant for their own good.
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Very well written. I really liked this book and didn't expect the twists and turns near the end. The ending was perhaps a little too neat and happy for my taste considering the heavy subject matter, but I think that will appeal to more readers than not.
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2..5 stars.  This was just ok for me.  The first part of the book was slow but thankfully it picked up.  I also wasn't terribly invested in the characters.  It was interesting to learn the "treatments" these women were subjected to in the 1800s.  I enjoyed McAllister's The Magician's Lie so I would be willing to give her another go.  I just have the feeling this one won't stick with me.  Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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99 Reasons to Read Woman 99… (and here are the first five)
1. If you get a hankering for some suspense and historical fiction all rolled into one- this book is right up your alley. Taking place in an insane asylum in the late 1800’s, this book gives a tasteful and realistic perspective of the atrocities of asylum life during this time period.
2. It’s a “banning together when the going gets tough” type of story. If you love stories about unlikely people coming together in a tough situation and coming out on top, this is the story for you. The camaraderie between the women in the asylum is beautifully depicted, and the development of the characters was so well done.
3. The history of mental institutions is both fascinating and horrifying. The lyrical prose in which Macallister paints a picture of the Golden Grove Asylum deserves applause. The mental institution aspect is so interesting. I wring my hands in frustrating thinking about women who were institutionalized for what would today be classified as depression, anxiety, or even a lustful desire.
4. There is a top notch twist towards the end there that I LOVED!
5. The pacing was quick. If you are looking for something to read over the weekend, and you don’t want to feel bogged down. This is the way to go.
There are at least 94 more reasons for why this book is amazing. If there was one bad point to this story, it’s that Charlotte is dressed in the wrong color dress according to her asylum uniform. So, if that’s my biggest complaint, I’d say it was a great read.
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3.5 stars for this gripping, historical thriller!. This one went way back to the 1880s which I was a bit nervous about (I have no idea why!) but it ended up being such a page turner. Charlotte Smith goes into an insane asylum where her sister was taken and becomes one of the inmates.  It was interesting to read about what "ailments" caused women in the 1880s to be committed and also really interesting to remind myself this was a time when women did not feel empowered in society or at home and definitely not inside an asylum.  The character development was so good - I could imagine myself with the band of ladies inside Goldengrove.  It felt like a very dense read but still had a lot of action to keep it moving.  The ending is what didn't really work for me - a bit unbelievable.  I appreciated the author's notes at the end of the book with more resources for delving into mental health asylums of this time period.   An enlightening read for sure!
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Woman 99 by Greer McCallister

When Charlotte's sister Phoebe is sent away to Goldengrove, a Progressive Home for the Curable Insane, Charlotte knows she must rescue her.  So, she figures out a way to be sent there too, unknown to her family and friends.  It takes weeks, and Charlotte learns the depths of the darkness of Goldengrove, where cruelty takes the place of actual treatment, and women with no problems other than being inconvenient for their male family members, are locked away without hope of release.  The women are used as slave labor, and deprived of all worldly comforts, fed the smallest amount possible to keep them alive and granted no freedom.

Charlotte hatches a plan with other sane inmates to escape, and the adventure unfolds, as she attempts to save her sister, and reunite with the man she loves.  In the spirit of Nellie Bly, she finds ways to improve both her own life, and that of those who truly need the services the ideal Goldengrove can provide. 

I received this book from NetGalley.  The book was published March 5, 2019.
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Insane asylums in the early 1900s ads such a topic of interest for me. I loved this! She goes into so much about what it was like and the atmosphere was phenomenal!!
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Charlotte Smith has her life planned out perfectly; that is, until her sister is placed in an insane asylum. Charlotte’s parents willingly committed her sister, Phoebe, to the asylum, and Charlotte knows from the start that something is going on beyond her sister being “mad.” 

Charlotte risks everything and commits herself to the asylum. Not only does she put her life on hold, she has made a huge risk to her safety by doing this. 

The heart of this novel is the historical exploration of these institutions, and in particular, how women were placed there (for any number of reasons, many unrelated to poorly understood at the time mental health), the “treatments,” and the abuses. Also explored is the role of women during the time period. 

On the flipside, this book highlights the sheer will and determination of women even in these difficult roles. It’s clear that Greer Macallister researched these topics well. 

Overall, I loved the messages here, the depiction of the place and time, and portrayal of strong women. 

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
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Woman 99 is the story of two sisters in 1888, effected by mental illness. The lengths one sister will go to, to protect the other…

‘The mind did not discriminate between classes’

Charlotte Smith is the envy of ever San Francisco woman, she comes from wealth and has a fiancé already lined up. However, Charlotte blames herself for her sister Phoebe’s commitment at Goldengrove Asylum. Charlotte hatches a plan to get herself committed to the asylum and in turn free her sister.
Inspired by the writing of Nellie Bly (Ten Days In A MadHouse), she has become consumed with the worry of cruel punishments. 

Upon her arrival at the asylum, Charlotte learns immediately that violence and disobedience will not be tolerated. The patients must obey the staff at all times. After being hosed down in an undignified manner as a ‘shower’ and receiving a warning from woman 125 regarding the drinking water, Charlotte begins to wonder what has she let herself in for…

‘It only takes two things to make a woman insane: the word of a man who stands to benefit and a doctor willing to sell his say-so’

The other fellow patients offer their stories and provide much food for thought. The reasoning for their commitment varies amongst the patients and not all are insane.
The novel is a thought-provoking read about the strength of women through history to overcome adversity, mistreatment and abuse. 5*
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