Woman 99

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

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her ward, and learns some shocking truths -- the advanced treatment methods that Goldengrove is so well known for have been replaced by cruelty and starvation, and many of the women there are perfectly sane...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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This was a somewhat enjoyable read, but I found the plot a bit unrealistic in parts. The protagonist seems really silly and immature. She plans to get her sister out of a mental asylum by sneaking in as a patient, and then revealing her real name once she has her sister, and they will be happily released together. Like, seriously, this is your plan? There are also other parts that just didn’t add up to me, and some coincidental events that didn’t seem realistic.

I found the beginning dragged, and it didn’t pick up the pace until halfway through. However, the author has obviously done a lot of research into mental asylums from this era, and the insight into this topic was very fascinating. Also, the relationships between the characters did feel genuine, which I always think are the foundations of a good story, so this saved it for me.
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This book’s description immediately resonated with me. I love all things turn of the century, plus I also love reading about early science and medicine.

One day, one of my fellow book blogger friend and I were discussing how much we wanted to read this book. In the end she emailed the publicist for this book and shamelessly begged for an ARC for the both of us.

Which we were so happy to receive! This book was high on my list of TBR and I was eager to get to reading. As soon as it arrived I set aside all my other books just so I could start this one first. Not only if the cover gorgeous and intriguing, but the plot was one that I couldn’t get out of my head no matter how hard I tried.


A vivid historical thriller about a young woman whose quest to free her sister from an infamous insane asylum risks her sanity, her safety and her life

Charlotte Smith’s future is planned to the last detail, and so was her sister’s – until Phoebe became a disruption. When their parents commit Phoebe to a notorious asylum, Charlotte knows there’s more to the story than madness.

Shedding her identity to become an anonymous inmate, “Woman Ninety-Nine,” Charlotte uncovers dangerous secrets. Insanity isn’t the only reason her fellow inmates were put away – and those in power will do anything to keep the truth, or Charlotte, from getting out (summary from Goodreads).


So this is a tough one for me to review. On one hand I absolutely loved it and was eager to sit up and read it late into the night, but on the other hand there were a lot of things that I didn’t think worked for me.

Let’s start with what worked. The setting and plot were exceptional. I loved reading about the asylum and the ‘patients’ that were there. It felt a little along the lines of Orange is the New Black. We get little details and glimpse into their lives and backstory which was captivating. I also thought Charlotte’s character arch and evolution were spot on and interesting.

But then there were some little things that I couldn’t help but be distracted by. One of the things was while there patient backstories were interesting, we only just scratched the surface. Same with the asylum and the treatment and condition of the patients, we got a hint but I think the author stopped at a taste instead of indulging the reader with a deeper examination of the setting.

This setting and the overall story begged to be longer and deeper. I loved the story and premise itself, but there was part of me that was expecting more. The six week time period seemed too rushed to bridge profound change in the characters. Had it been more along the lines of six months, I think that would have done a lot for not just the plot but the principle characters as well.

That said, I still enjoyed the book and found that it was a very worthwhile read and I would easily recommend it to fans of historical fiction and suspense. I just think that the author needed to take the plunge with this one and dive deeper in the plot, we only just scratched the surface.

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: March 5th 2019 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN 1492665339
Free review copy provided by publisher, Source Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: historical fiction, suspense
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Many thanks to SourceBooks and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this novel!

As soon as I saw this cover and read the synopsis of Woman 99, I had to have it. I love "crazy" characters or those who think outside of the box. The idea of a book set in an asylum was something I've never read before but was eager to get into, especially a historical novel which drew from horrifying real-world experiences. I also love the idea of people being wrongly imprisoned and attempting to escape their circumstances. In every way, this novel seemed like everything I was looking for. 

Unfortunately, Woman 99 lacked the depth I was seeking. The characters felt one dimensional and I wasn't able to relate to them on a personal level or feel any emotion toward their struggles. The story felt incredibly long and tedious. I expected much more action and mystery from this book, but it just wasn't there. Important parts of the storyline were glazed over, while mundane details were explained in grand detail. I felt as if this made the story feel endless. Still, I wanted to stick it out because I felt as if I was missing something. There was a sense of foreboding as if an unexpected twist was about to jump off the pages. As I inched toward the ending, I knew that moment wasn't going to come. Things were wrapped up nicely, without loose ends, but the excitement was missing. The main thing I didn't like was that while the characters seemed to believe they solved the main theme of injustice, I felt as if it was swept under the rug for the sake of financial security. The characters were extremely lenient and I found that to be incredibly disappointing.

Thankfully this was not a completely terrible reading experience. I was impressed by the author's ability to make all woman from different walks of life band together in a show of strength. There was an intense theme of sisterhood in this novel that I relished in, not only between the two sisters at the helm of the story but with the majority of the characters, whether they liked one another or not. I liked the idea of adversity bringing the characters together, uniting them towards a common goal.

I also was interested in learning about the different forms of "rehabilitation" asylums practices in the late 1800s and early 1900s throughout the world. The ideas seemed remarkably backward and disturbing. It was wholly appropriate when Charlotte mentioned the asylum itself making the women crazy, not the other way around. 

My hopes for this novel may have been too high, leaving me disappointed by my unmet expectations. I know plenty of other readers loved reading this story, so please, don't let my opinions discourage you from reading if you're interested in Woman 99.
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I'll get right to it!  This was a five star book for me!! ...and I don't give out stars freely.  I was captivated from the first page and could barely put it down! I thought this was a very unique premise and Greer Macallister had me riveted with her vivid descriptions of the treatment of the women at Goldengrove, a Progressive Home for the Curable Insane.  All of the characters were well thought out and every event pertinent to the telling of the story.  This quick paced story had several surprising twists and turns and even a little bit of love!  

In 1888, Charlotte risks everything to rescue her sister, who has been committed to the infamous Goldengrove Asylum by their parents.  Charlotte manages to get herself committed to the asylum under an assumed identity, a la Nellie Bly.  As she looks for her sister she discovers women who have been committed out of convenience and not medical necessity.  She also discovers cruelly imposed treatments and wretched behaviors of the staff.  Will she find her sister?  Will they find a way out?
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4 solid stars Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Published March 5, 2019

Another great story from one of my favorite authors. Macallister has a flare for writing, like the tension in the air when a thunderstorm is brewing. With a practiced pen she brings you right into the story. Reading one of her books is like flowing through well worn grooves, expecting the best and knowing you will get it.

Two, well to do, sisters on the adventure of their lives. One sister committed to an asylum by family, the other entering of her own free will. Similar to the non fiction book Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly, this book gives a lot of detail about the treatment practices in this time period and the non-medical reasons women were institutionalized. Subjected to various forms of confinement, both solitary confinement and confinement to various man-made contraptions these women were always in peril. The asylum, and the treatment therein, made a grueling, but vivid background for this novel.

This book being fiction, some truths are recorded, and some liberties were taken. However in her Author's Notes, Macallister summed up what was true and what she brought to the story.
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WOW what a storyline..... Charlotte's wealthy parents have her sister Phoebe commented into the infamous Goldengrove Asylum. Charlotte knows that there is more to the story and decides to throw away her freedom and privilege and becomes woman 99.
This historical thriller was so good! The concept of woman beginning committed to an insane asylum for the wrong reasons is just jaw dropping. 
I look forward to read more from Greer!
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