Woman 99

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

I have always been fascinated by "insane asylums" and this book added to that. Well written and interesting, not all people committed are "lunatics".
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Oh my! My head is reeling after reading Greer Macallister’s historical fiction thriller wet in the late 1800s. During this time period women had little to say about their lives. This is the story of sister love. Phoebe is sent to an asylum for not doing what her parents want her to do. Her sister Phoebe is determined to save her. The reader can tell that Macallister has done her homework. Steeped in research, this novel portrays the conditions of many asylums during this time period. My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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In late 1800's San Francisco, Charlotte lives with her her family in the affluent Nob Hill area. Charlotte is very close to her sister Phoebe who has a history of mental instability. After one particular incident, Charlotte's parents send Phoebe to an asylum without. Charlotte runs off and finds a way to get herself admitted to the asylum in order to rescue Phoebe. There she learns the atrocities that went on at these institutions. 

This is historic fiction with a bit of excitement of a thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I find it interesting that so many of the issues of mental institutions of those times also go on today.
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How far would you go to save your sister? What if she’s the one who saved your life many times throughout your childhood? Would you risk everything, possibly even your own sanity? This is the dilemma that Charlotte Smith faces when her sister Phoebe is put into an insane asylum, and it is also the basis for Greer Macallister’s third historical fiction novel. If this was a contemporary fiction novel, it might not be so compelling. But this becomes a harrowing tale because the action takes place in the late 19th century, not long after the journalist known as Nellie Bly revealed the horrors of those institutions.

As you can see, I’ve entitled this review “pulling a ‘Nellie Bly’” because that’s essentially what Charlotte does here – she purposely gets herself admitted to the same asylum to which she knows her sister has been committed. Of course, Charlotte isn’t crazy, she just wants to get her sister back at home, even though she knows that Phoebe isn’t mentally stable. But that doesn’t matter to Charlotte. I’d write more about the story, but I’m afraid that this would end up with spoilers, and my readers know how much I hate that.

Instead, I will discuss why I think this book is so powerful, even though it sounds like the answer is obvious. Indeed, it very much is so, but I also should note that there was one thing that didn’t sit completely right with me. This was the ending; now without going into details, I have to say that after the climax (or rather, after one major and one minor climax) I twice when I reached the end of the chapters, I immediately felt that these would have been very good conclusions to the book. In fact, I was so sure of this that I wasn’t expecting to see an additional chapter after either of them. This isn’t to say that what followed detracted from the story; I’m only saying that I felt some parts at the end were a bit unnecessary, and slightly overly tidy for my taste. Also, during the conclusion of the story, I felt that Macallister tried a too hard to keep certain pieces of information out of the narrative. This is difficult to explain without giving too much away, but leave it to suffice that this felt a little forced, and that made the ending somewhat less flowing than it could have done.

That said, these were the only drawbacks of this book, and things I enjoyed in her first two novels, were right here for me to enjoy once again. To be specific, her first novel “The Magician’s Lie” was a type of psychological thriller, which we get shades of here as well. Her second novel, “Girl in Disguise” included quite a few elements to adventure, and we get this here too. In fact, I’d say that this novel is almost a hybrid of the first two – where one could say that we get an adventure story that feels like a psychological thriller. Mind you, the psychological parts here are more clinical than in her first novel, which seems obvious, considering the setting.
In both her two first novels, Macallister proved that she could not only build a twisting story that keeps us guessing, but that she could also create characters that intrigue us, even if some of them are less than savory characters. Of course, Charlotte is the star here, and Macallister chose to tell her story in first person, and rightly so in my opinion. Had this been told in third person, we would never have felt the intimacy that Macallister achieved here, which was essential to this story. 

Furthermore, because we can follow Charlotte’s travails in the asylum through her thoughts, this also ends up being a type of coming-of-age story. By that I mean that Macallister constructs Charlotte so that we witness how she slowly discovers things about herself she never knew, as well as the world around her, including the unusual setting she’s put herself into. This loss of innocence, while still retaining some elements of naivete was beautifully balanced here, and very credibly constructed. Charlotte is truly a realistic, and carefully flawed character that we can sympathize with, even if we’ve never had any similar experiences. Add to this how clearly Macallister also draws all the rest of the varying other characters, and you’ve got a cast of women that would have dozens of Hollywood actress clamoring to play each of them!

As already mentioned, the action in Macallister’s novel is nearly thriller level, and the amount of twists included, presented as obstacles that Charlotte faces and has to figure out how to overcome, made this all the more absorbing. While I already knew that Macallister enjoys throwing in the unexpected to keep her readers on their toes, I believe she surpassed herself with this one, and a few of these had me swearing under my breath (in surprise, not in anger, I assure you!). I’m sure all this will make it a fast read for many, since it does give this novel that “unputdownable” quality.  

All told, Macallister really gave us a truly exciting novel here, with a powerful story and exceptional characters. Yes, I did have a couple niggles about it, and if I’m totally honest, I’d say that I think I liked her second novel a tiny bit better than this one, but that could be because that had the biographical element that I adore so much, and this was purely fiction. Still, this is undeniably a marvelous read, and I’m warmly recommending it with four and a half (well, almost 4.75) stars out of five.
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I loved this book! 4 stars for me. While I can't say I agree with Charlotte's choice to enter the asylum with Phoebe, what won me over with this book was the power of sisterhood (having a close relationship myself with my sister, I can say it's so important to me!), courage, and love. 

I love historical fiction, and I can tell the author did her homework! It was fascinating, yet also devastating, to learn about asylums in the late 1800s and the so called "Revolutionary" treatments they used. I mean seriously, water cure? How is that helping ANYONE!?!?

There were so many amazing characters, but the reason I bumped it down to 4 stars was because there was so much I wanted to know more about! I wanted to know how Martha got the matron into the tranquility box, I wanted to know more about where did Celia go, etc. 

The ending was a little too "tidy" for me, but at the same time it made sense and made it feel like it came full circle. Greer Macallister is definitely on my list for authors I want to read more from!
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Title:  Woman 99
Author:  Greer Macallister
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Charlotte Smith’s family is wealthy, and she is expected to marry well and improve the family’s fortunes. She and her sister are to never do anything to embarrass the family. So, when Charlotte’ sister, Phoebe does embarrass the family with her behavior, she’s sent to the notorious Goldengrove Asylum.

Charlotte knows it’s her fault Phoebe was sent away, but she’s determined to make it right, so she disguises herself as a destitute woman with mental health issues and becomes Woman 99 at the asylum.

It’s not what she expected. Some of the women desperately need the help the asylum could provide—if it weren’t twisted by greed and power—but some of the women are there because they are merely inconvenient to their families. As Charlotte searches for Phoebe in the asylum, she realizes there are deeper wrongs to be righted.

I found Woman 99 engrossing from the first page. I love a good historical, and I thought this one was extremely well-done. Charlotte’s growth through the book is wonderful to see:  from a compliant, agreeable young woman to a strong and forthright woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely worth reading!

Greer Macallister is a USA Today-bestselling author. Woman 99 is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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What a read! In Woman 99, we first meet Charlotte Smith as the pampered daughter of a social-climbing family living in 1890s San Francisco. Daughters are trained from childhood in etiquette and comportment so they can eventually serve their purpose -- helping their families climb higher through an advantageous marriage. Charlotte is proper and well-behaved and subservient to her mother's wishes...
That was what all my education had been leading to. All the lessons and lectures. We were trained into ideal wives. Daughters were assets to be traded, like indigo, like hemp.
... but Charlotte's sister Phoebe, according to their mother, is "unmarriageable", the family disgrace.

While the term may not have been in use at the time, from the descriptions of Phoebe, she's clearly bipolar. She has manic episodes, full of outrageous social behavior and flights of artistic fancy, then periods of dark depression during which she's barely functional. In between the extremes, she has periods of near "normalcy", and no matter what, Charlotte is devoted to her older sister, whom she loves with all her heart.

When Phoebe finally goes too far (and it's not until later that we learn what this episode was about), she's committed to Goldengrove, the Napa Valley asylum owned by the wealthy neighbors of the Smith family. Known as a "Progressive Home for the Curable Insane", Goldengrove is promoted through glossy brochures and the social cachet of the Sidwell family. Still, Charlotte is terrified for Phoebe and her loss of freedom, and is determined to find a way to rescue her.

Charlotte concocts a scheme to get admitted to Goldengrove under an assumed identity, anticipating that she'll quickly find Phoebe, announce who she is and that they're going home, and that will be that. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. Charlotte is unprepared for the emotional and physical trials of being institutionalized, and is horrified to discover that finding Phoebe and getting back out again will not be as simple as she planned. Meanwhile, as Charlotte spends weeks in the asylum, she gets to know the other women of her ward, and learns some shocking truths -- the advanced treatment methods that Goldengrove is so well known for have been replaced by cruelty and starvation, and many of the women there are perfectly sane... just problematic for their families or husbands or society in general.
It had claimed to be a place of healing, but instead, it had been a convenient holding place for inconvenient women, serving only the people outside it, never the ones within.
Woman 99 is powerful, upsetting, and incredibly descriptive, showing us through Charlotte's struggles the restricted roles available to women, the way certain women could be so easily discarded by society, and the shocking lack of value a woman was deemed to have if she dared step outside society's norms. It's not at all surprising to see how terrible the conditions inside Goldengrove are. Treatment of mental health at the time varied widely from physician to physician and asylum to asylum, and while some of the treatment concepts may seem worthwhile, such as outdoor hikes or music, there are also terrible methods such as a "water cure" and restraints and isolation, not to mention rumors of women having their teeth removed because poor dental health was considered linked to madness.

Over the course of the book, I really came to care about Charlotte, and appreciated how much she risks for her sister and the other women she meets inside Goldengrove. Charlotte's initial act of rebellion is spurred on by her love for her sister, but she really has no idea what she's getting herself into or how much danger she'll be in. She gains strength and determination through her ideal, and emerges as a woman who's no longer willing to meekly accept her mother's plans for her future.

I highly recommend Woman 99. It's a terrific, inspiring, moving read. And hey, bonus points for the San Francisco setting!
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Let me start by saying I have two sisters I love dearly and this plot seemed completely realistic to me.

None of my sisters has been sent to an 1888 Asylum but if that were the case, guess who would be pretending to be out of her senses to get admitted ( me of course ) 
I absolutely enjoyed this historical thriller it was not what I was expecting in the bestest of ways! 
I loved the evolution of the main character and also the personality of the other women she got to meet in the way, - sane or not. 
I definitely recommend this book and I'm positive it will be one of my favorites from this year!
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When I came across Woman 99 by Greer McAllister, I was intrigued  and captivated by the book blurb. I am pleased to write that this book far surpassed the promise of it’s book blurb!  This story is well researched, creative, imaginative and very well written.  The author did a great job of  keeping a steady  pace while building the tension so that it kept me fully engaged the entire time I read this book. As for the story, it was an emotional roller coaster and I experienced curiosity, disbelief,  indignation, anger, shock, hope and so much more. 

Woman 99  grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. It left me with much to contemplate and I can honestly say I am better for reading it.  For me,  there is no higher praise I can give an author or a book. Thank you, Ms. McAllister. 

I received this book for free. A favorable review was not required and  all  views expressed are my own.  Thank you to Ms. McAllister, Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I haven’t read anything like this book in a while. It was such a nice, refreshing change.

I didn’t love the ending, but I loved the journey. It was a fast paced, interesting journey into the lives of these women and I loved every bit of it (until the end !)
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Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: Set in 1888, Charlotte Smith and her sister Phoebe had a privileged upbringing in Nob Hill, San Francisco. Phoebe starts to show some unusual behaviors and her parents send her to the Goldengrove Asylum. Charlotte believes Phoebe doesn’t belong there and that it was her fault she got sent there. She develops a plan to rescue her sister from the asylum.

This book started slow for me but it picked up about half way through and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the end. I think it was beautifully written, the descriptions of the asylum were great (I felt like I was in there while reading it). I really enjoyed how it went back in time to tell the story of what happened before Charlotte made it to Goldengrove, while she was at the asylum.

I didn’t know much about mental institutions in the 1880s so it was impressive to read about this. I can tell the author did extensive research on the topic and did an excellent job a describing it. It was heartbreaking to read about the treatment of women in that era and specially mentally unstable women in the asylum. I enjoyed learning about all the women Charlotte met while in the asylum, the bond they created and thought the book was fascinating.

This book is about sisterly bond, love, strength, determination, and the power of female courage.

Thank you to Source Books Landmark and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:

“But as we set back to our task, I saw something new in how we worked. I looked at the women around me, women who would likely never even speak to one another on the streets of San Francisco, moving in concert to accomplish our shared task. We might not be powerful but we were not powerless.”
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I am a huge fan of Greer McAllister, and this novel did not disappoint. This novel
Is about two sisters who find themselves getting locked in a mental institutions and experience many horrors. I found this novel very compelling and fast-paced! I also love the suspense in the novel. Overall, I recommend this for fans of David Blixt’s What Good Girls Are For.
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This novel was a wonderful, harrowing read from start to finish. It was truly a testament to the bond between sisters, and between women who aren’t joined by blood – the sisterhood created through a shared experience.

It is by no means an easy read; there are descriptions of violence and the treatments the women were forced to accept are absolutely vile to imagine, horrors such as frozen hose downs and being forced to sit, in silence, on benches for hours on end.

It’s horrifying to think a lot of the novel is based around fact as women’s asylums in the 1800s truly used these methods. Another alarming truth that is incorporated into the story is that a lot of the women weren’t mad (and those that were would today be considered to have understandable mental illnesses such as post-natal depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder and so on), but were put into asylums to be kept quiet while their high society families brushed indiscretions like affairs and wishing to go to school under the carpet.

I had found friends here, among those who society and family alike had labelled and dismissed as madwomen.

Our narrator is Charlotte, a meek young lady in San Francisco society who worships her older sister and becomes increasingly worried about her deteriorating mental health. After her sister is sent to the asylum and Charlotte is pushed into an arranged engagement by her mother, she finds a strength she never knew she had and decides to emulate Nellie Bly by getting committed to the asylum herself as a ‘madwoman’ to try save Phoebe.

Charlotte was a very impressive narrator – it was fascinating to watch her struggle with her sanity as the conditions of the asylum truly did threaten to make her mad. I particularly enjoyed how each night, to ward off the bad dreams of the darkness, she would play a memory in her head; not only did it give insight into her past and character, but later as she became overwhelmed by her treatment, the memories would twist into horrible nightmares. For example, when she reminisces about her beau, she can’t help but imagine his face horribly burnt and scarred as her recollections become marred with her harrowing experience in the asylum.

It had not occurred to me until I was inside the asylum myself that the same fierce, heedless spirit that had landed Phoebe here was the fierce, heedless spirit I’d loved in her when we were young.

Charlotte’s fellow patients at the asylum are a fascinating collection of women. All coming from different backgrounds, their relationships with Charlotte and amongst each other were wonderfully crafted. The best example of this was when boisterous new girl Martha starts a fight with resident bully Bess – after Martha is pulled away to be punished, returning to the sleeping quarters with a bruised and bloodied face, Bess is the first to welcome her back with a handshake. The idea that these women find kindred spirits, some for the first time ever, in the asylum is a beautifully ironic thing.

Last night, I’d lamented how along I was, but that was foolish. Women stood to my left and right, all facing the sun together with me. Inside the fence below there were dozens, scores of women. Some were mad, and some weren’t. Some, mad or no, could be helpful to me.

Overall, this was an engaging novel with plenty of twists and turns, some I found obvious and others that genuinely took me by surprise. My favourite element has to be the women and the complicated, tentative and deep friendships they develop. The only reason this isn’t 5 stars is because I felt everything wrapped up a little too neatly at the end and the romantic subplot, while endearing, felt very underdeveloped. Very small things in an otherwise gorgeous read!
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Sisters Phoebe and Charlotte Smith are accustomed to the daily obligations of their high society San Francisco lives in 1888, but when an unwelcome marriage proposal for Charlotte causes Phoebe to lash out, she is sent to Goldengrove Asylum. Blaming herself for Phoebe's banishment, Charlotte decides to have herself committed, too--just like Nelly Bly, whose own undercover investigation both sisters had read about the previous year. 

While Charlotte is aware that what awaits her will be difficult, she is unaware of the specific injustices she and her fellow inmates will face. She learns that many inmates are there because they are an inconvenience to their families or don't adhere to rules of society, not because they are necessarily in need of mental health. 

Our modern knowledge of basic mental health makes some of the practices that occur in Goldengrove absolutely abhorrent by today's standards but it was intriguing to step inside the setting and imagine how the women not only bore the treatments but built alliances and friendships. 

This book is a solid 3 stars--a few unbelievable storyline points but an overall enjoyable read. I did have higher hopes for this since I loved her 2 previous novels, The Magician's Lie and Girl in Disguise.
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I'm going to start this right off by saying the chick in this book is cray-cray!! I don't care what the synopsis says about Charlotte voluntarily entering a loony bin solely to find here sister - just THAT alone, makes you batty in my book! I don't have a sister, but I have best friends I consider sisters... and nope!! Sorry guys. You're on your own. Enjoy the crazy pills cause my tush is sitting right here til you get out on your own!

So, that's where this story finds us - in the super creepy Goldengrove Asylum. I picture the Overlook Hotel from The Shining with it's very own Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and it is not anywhere I would ever voluntarily visit! And that is where Charlotte's sister Phoebe has been sent because she stood up to their parents to defend her sister. Charlotte feels like it's all her fault, and is determined to get her sister out and  and back home where she belongs. So she fakes a bit of crazy and soon becomes 'Woman 99.'

I've read in other publications some of the insane things that women were committed for in the 19th Century - including: laziness, superstition, political excitement, masturbation and (gasp!) novel reading??? But Charlotte soon comes to find that a huge number of her roomies in the loony are, in fact, quite sane.

It's thriller at heart but the history is rich and vivid. Although it started a bit slow for me - the pace slowly grew and anticipation built at just the speed you'd want it to. I loved the vibrant descriptions of a less-than-vibrant setting and the suspense and mystery took me for a wild ride that twisted and turned with heartache and desperation. The treatment (or lack of) of these women was abhorrent and made me cringe - but the strength and resiliency was uplifting. 

A really unique and thrilling trip into a time and place of irrational fears, harrowing madness, and the strength of the human spirit to deal with it all
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I loved this book not only because of the asylum feature of it, but the historical aspect of it all. Even though this is a story of fiction, the aspects of asylum life throughout this story were very real during those days. I really liked that Charlotte was doing this out of love, but not love for a man, instead the love of her sister. The twists throughout this book kept me on my toes and made it so that I didn't want to put it down. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. I can't wait to see what else this author puts out, I'll be first in line to read!
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Although the first half of the book seemed slow at times, the second half more than made up for it. A compelling look at the mistreatment of society’s “problem women” in the early part of the last century.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an early copy of this book.
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Woman 99 takes place in the late 1800's and you will find how different life was back then.  Women had no rights and were expected to follow the rules the family set up for them..including whom and when they were to marry.  Also back then medicine was so immature.  Women who were "love-sick" or suffered epilepsy were considered mentally ill and placed in asylums that were not run by kind people.  This books centers on 2 sisters and their strength and love for each other.  It will show how women fought for their rights and how some of them conquered.  This story is a story of courage and love and ingenuity.  Quick read and very entertaining while also educating us on how far women have come in society....
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This is a very good book about two sisters who love each other unconditionally.. The older one, Phoebe, has some problems but will do anything for her younger sister, Charlotte. Charlotte is very much smitten with Henry Sidwell and is hoping that they may get married. But her parents have a different plan. She’s to marry his older brother, George. Phoebe goes to bat for her sister and love but ends up being sent away to a mental institution for her “fits”. 

This story takes place in the late 1800s and tells how things were for women back then. The women in the institutions were there for so many wrong reasons. So many had no problems but were just in the way. Husbands who wanted to get rid of them. Parents who didn’t have time to deal with them. Prostitutes, women who had seizures. Some did need help of course but didn’t always get it correctly. In this book you learn about some of the horrible things that people did to these women just for money. They didn’t care about the mental health of any of them. There was a couple of people who did care but overall it was about power and money.

It was very hard living back then and over the years things have gotten better for sure. But to think of what can and did happen in mental institutions makes me cringe. I throughly enjoyed reading this book. Parts made me so angry and parts made me cry those big ugly cries that you hate for anyone to see. Parts were so sweet and loving but overall it was very sad what these women went through. But it was wonderful to read the love between a young lady for her older sister. What she was willing to go through to bring her back.  

This is a story of true love. Love between sisters. Also a love story between one man and one woman who want to do what is right.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for a copy in exchange for my complete honest review.

I gave it 5 stars for likable characters. Originality. Depth. Love. Caring. Even fear and meanness. It was one hell of a ride for sure. Thank you Greer Macallister for writing such a book. It blew me away.
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What a great premise: a look at how mentally healthy but "inconvenient" women in the 19th century were shunted into mental institutions alongside those truly in need of mental healthcare, and how misguided and often uncaring such so-called care was. The parts of "Woman 99" that focused on the day-to-day of asylum life were well drawn and fascinating. The primary reason I can't give this book a higher rating is that it relied so heavily on coincidence to move the plot along; a secondary reason is the ridiculousness, imo, of the driving premise. Why would Charlotte need to go undercover as a mentally ill woman to save her sister from being committed to the asylum? How would posing as a "madwoman," to use the terminology of the time, allow her to get her sister, Phoebe, out any more effectively than straightforwardly visiting the asylum?
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