Cover Image: Woman 99

Woman 99

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Charlotte Smith decides to do something drastic to rescue her sister Phoebe after she is admitted to a nearby mental institution that their neighbors own.  She gets admitted herself and tries to save her sister, the problem is finding her and figuring out how to get back out.  Turns out, it's not as easy as it is to get in.  

This is such an eloquently written novel that is impossible to put down.  The beginning takes a bit to get into but once the story gets rolling. you won't want to put down the book either.   One of the best parts of this novel was watching Charlotte gain her confidence in herself and learn how to stand up for herself. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the eARC copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
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Greer Macallister did it again. With Woman 99, she wrote another book I couldn’t stop listening to and reading. Macallister has a way with her portrayals of strong, but flawed, women. In Woman 99, she gives us several who fit that mold.

Her chief protagonist is Charlotte Smith, whose family is up-and-coming in 1888 San Francisco’s tony Nob Hill. One of four siblings, Charlotte is admittedly pampered. She attended finishing school, and now her parents want her to marry the son of their much-wealthier neighbors.

But complications ensue, since Charlotte’s sister Phoebe has mental health issues. In keeping with the times, Macallister never names the diagnosis but the descriptions match bipolar disorder. The Smith parents decide that a high-end institution called Goldengrove, located in the Napa Valley, is the best place for Phoebe.

But Charlotte can’t just stand by and watch this happen. So she dives right in—literally jumping into San Francisco Bay—in order to get herself anonymously committed to the same institution. Pretty naïve choice, if you ask me. Charlotte has no particular plan. In fact, she thinks all she’ll have to do is tell the administrators that she’s not insane and Phoebe shouldn’t be there either. And voilà, home they go.

Of course, it’s infinitely more complex than that. And Charlotte must take a deep breath and really figure out her options and allies. Along the way, she meets some admirable women from many stations in life. Some have mental illness, but many are just deemed to be “problems.” She also finds out that the institution’s staff and treatments aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

My conclusions
I enjoyed this just as much as Macallister’s Girl in Disguise. Although the stories were entirely different, Charlotte is a woman who disguises herself as something she’s not. I did my share of eye rolls at her naïveté, but also appreciated her sisterly devotion. Her mother’s social climbing is cringe-worthy, considering she uses her daughters as pawns in the game. Phoebe is self-aware enough to continue her big sister role, but is much more a realist. That’s ironic considering she also has a serious disorder.

As you can see, Macallister balances complexity with the character types of the era. She also takes on the 19th-century practice of “erasing” difficult women by locking them away. Other history books cover the practice of diagnosing women with unfounded mental and physical illness. For example, Unmentionable, which I read earlier this year. But Macallister brings this horrible practice to life with her sympathetic characters and unique plot.

The other book I’m reading this week, called Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, even referenced this behavior. “The dismissal of the victims of misogynistic violence may take epistemic forms: where, typically, they are held to be lying—but alternatively, they may be dismissed as stupid, crazy, or hysterical.” (p. 217) In 1888, those women would end up in a place like Woman 99’s Goldengrove.

The way Macallister and Charlotte resolve the situation is unexpected and well done. The bulk of the book is in the asylum, but the ending has enough focus and neatly ties up the most significant story lines. Like I said, once I hit 50% I was positively itching to see what happened.

Charlotte, Phoebe, and the other women in their world are well worth meeting, if you like historical fiction with relevant feminist themes.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and the author for a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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This was an interesting historical thriller. It was fairly predictable, but the story line kept me turning the pages. The setting was dark and creepy, and the first person voice reminded me of Jane Eyre. I love the growth of the main character. She went from a sheltered rich girl to a strong capable heroine. Highly recommended. 

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley for the purpose of review.
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Great book.  I think I found a favorite new author.  I have already purchased Greer's other titles.  Love it!
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A vivid historical thriller about a woman locked up in an insane asylum in the late 1800s. This story had a vivid background and wonderful writing!
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“Woman 99” by Greer Macallister was a quality read for me. It firmly delivered on its premise and then some!

This was a really intriguing story. With many twists and turns, it gave a real insight into the days when lunatics and the mentally insane were institutionalised. Often they were simply left there for the rest of their lives, dumped by families who didn’t want the responsibility of having to deal with them. 

Dark and disturbing in parts, I really enjoyed this book and I would love to read more by this author. Rating: 5 Stars

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my own request from Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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This book was interesting.  I ended up listening to the audiobook since I wasn’t able to get to the eARC prior to publishing.  The voice actress was good and kept me interesting, but the story overall wasn’t what I was expecting.  
When I first requested this eARC I had expected something along the lines of A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis.  This was not the case.  The only similarities between the two was the setting, an asylum.  This story has Charlotte willingly committed to an asylum to rescue her sister.  This asylum, we learn, has started to become more of a business and less concerned with helping the inmates.  They even provide numbers to them, hence the name, instead of using their real names.  This all women asylum has different sections depending the “diagnosis” – some are not illnesses, which was normal for that era (being an adulteress or a sex worker was cause for commitment; or if the husband wanted to be with another – just send the wife to the asylum to get her out of the way).  We follow Charlotte as she traverses through the different sections, sometimes by being transferred and other times through exploring.
I didn’t feel suspenseful during this story – whether that was because I fully expected the sisters to meet and escape or just because of the writing itself.  I have seen others categorize it as a mystery, but I believe that is simply because Charlotte needs to locate her sister within the asylum and free her.  We meet many characters within the asylum, mostly inmates.  
Some were interesting, but others fell into the background.  I didn’t feel a large connection with any of the characters, even Charlotte.  I didn’t fear for her or learn anything new about the institute.  Maybe the problem was more me since I have a background in psychology and because I had expected something different.  Overall, the book was fine.  If you like historical fiction and curious about past conditions of a women’s asylum then this book may be what you are looking for.  I’m curious to read more from Greer Macallister though.
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Woman 99 is an engaging story based on true events of the abuse patients experienced at mental asylums in the late 1800s. I found that this book was entertaining but some of it didn't seem plausible. If you are looking for a page turner this is definitely it but I had a harder time connecting with the main characters because of the believability factor.

I do appreciate that Macallister took on such an important and challenging part of US History because this helps promote awareness of the awful treatment that went on for more than a century for so many people. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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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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