Cover Image: Woman 99

Woman 99

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Member Reviews

This one just really unsettled me. I know that it will find a great audience, but because of where I am right now it I'm just not a part of that crowd. Thank you!
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Thanks to #NetGalley #Sourcebooks for a free copy of #woman99 by @theladygreer in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

What would you do for your sister?

In this histfic thriller, two sisters living a life of privilege suddenly find themselves in a dire situation. Their parents have committed Charlotte’s older sister to an insane asylum because of her pattern of mood swings and a recent emotional outburst. Charlotte is on a quest to rescue her sister from the insane asylum. Inspired by real life Nellie Bly, Charlotte manages to get herself committed to the asylum by staging a fake suicide attempt. Once inside she experiences troubling events, conducts a desperate search for her sister, decides to seek help from a risky source, attempts a harrowing rescue, and risks her life. 

The historical reality that the story depicts is troubling. First, the inability of the medical profession in 1888 to diagnose, understand, or treat mental illness is staggering to think about when you consider all the women in history who suffered from bi polar, postpartum depression, etc. and were institutionalized because of it. Then, the fact that men could send a woman to an asylum for the remainder of her life for having an affair or voicing an opinion is almost incomprehensible! No medical diagnosis, no consent, no recourse. I can’t imagine living with this threat. Many of the women in the asylum were in this position, and the ones who truly needed to be there because of a real mental illness were not receiving effective treatment. Charlotte is determined to rescue her sister from this situation, care for her, and bring her home to live with the family again. Will she succeed? 

In this engaging page turner, I appreciated the author’s extensive research and enjoyed the vivid details in describing the asylum, treatments, living conditions, and 1888 San Francisco.

I have thoughts about the ending. If I were discussing Woman 99 in a bookclub, these are a few questions I would ask:
* Are you satisfied with the justice or lack of justice that occurred?
*Do you think that the justice or lack of justice that occurred is the most the women could hope for?
*Do you think the justice or lack of justice was acceptable or common in 1888?

Thoughtful themes include family loyalty, women’s rights, determination, courage, a commitment to help others, justice, and love between sisters.

Recommended for fans of gritty histfic, for readers who enjoy cheering for strong, determined, brave women, and for those who want a gripping page turner.

Review posted on blog 3/22/19
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Woman 99 certainly helps one to be reminded how women in America were once merely the property of their father and after that their husband AND how if you did not follow the rules they could do as they chose in so many ways.

Charlotte has always known her sister Phoebe was different than her and those differences soon become too much for the upper crust 1888 San Francisco society they live in.   Phoebe is sent to Goldengrove, an asylum for women...those who truly might need and those who are inconvenience to those who 'own' them.  Charlotte feels she must save her as she feels Phoebe has saved her before.  Charlotte's answer is to get herself admitted and rescue Phoebe.  Under a pretense of lies and trickery, Charlotte gets into Goldengrove only to realize getting Phoebe out will not be so easy.  Charlotte meets many patients and some are there due to circumstance not any mental health issues...a not needed wife, a prostitute, a tempting woman....

McAllister writes of the asylum in such a way you feel like you are there (even in the rooms with padded walls) and your heart breaks to think that these women had NO ONE to fight for them or their freedom if someone insisted they belonged there.
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My third book by this author and I have enjoyed all of them equally.

Woman 99 is set mostly in an asylum for women in San Francisco in the late 1800's. The author has a talent for telling historical fiction as it was, with plenty of real fact spiced with her own fiction. In this book the main character, Charlotte, gets herself committed to the asylum in order to help her sister who is already there. From this we get to see how patients at that time were treated for their problems in ways that seem cruel and unbelievable today.

I enjoyed many of the characters especially some of the women in the asylum and wondered all through the book what the author planned for the delightful Phoebe. She was obviously one of the patients who did in fact need to be in care - just better care than was provided in this particular place! Of course Ms. Macallister had a solution and it was an excellent one. The ending was neat and satisfying. An enjoyable read.
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This is a pretty good story but it really left me wanting more. I had very high hopes because asylum plus 1880’s should have been something special. Macallister didn’t write a believable story and I never felt the time and place.  It was interesting enough and I wanted to see how she got herself out of the asylum so I had to see it through and I’m not mad about the journey I just don’t think I will recommend Woman 99
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Incredibly well-constructed world!  The characters of the mental institution where Charlotte has schemed to enter are given just the right amount of pathos and quirk.  Charlotte's foolish endeavor to attempt the rescue of her sister from an insane asylum from the inside is a plot-line I didn't think I could handle, but it turned into an early 1900s version of Prison Break and I loved it!
Thanks so much NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for sharing this title!
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“Freedom within Goldengrove was not the same as freedom from it”. 

Would you voluntarily risk your freedom for someone you loved, even if it meant risking your life? In Woman 99 that is exactly what was at stake when Charlotte set out to rescue her sister, Phoebe, from Goldengrove Woman’s Asylum. With a plan to have herself committed Charlotte learned first hand how different the world she knew and the world beyond the walls of Goldengrove as Women 99 were, but Charlotte was determined to rescue Phoebe at all costs. 

Let me just start out by saying how much I loved all the layers to this story. The anticipation of Charlotte’s journey left me feeling as if I was experiencing it myself. What I admired most about Charlotte was her resilience, strength and determination to rescue her sister despite the obstacles she faced. Sister was serious. 

As a fan of all things historical fiction I was shocked to learn about the harsh therapies and practices asserted on women in mental health institutions during the 1800’s. The offenses that placed women in these institutions and the cruel practices that were believed to cure in this era was alarming. I spent some time after I finished reading to learn more about Nellie Bly who went undercover in 1887 in Blackwell’s Island and her account of the treatment and conditions of asylum’s during that time and the practices are incomprehensible. Such a great read. I would highly recommend you pick up a copy. 

I want to say a special thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the ARC copy.
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What a great read. I had previously picked up a Greer McAllister book and sadly DNFd it. I’m so glad I saw this one to the end. 

Set in San Francisco at the turn of the century this book is full of historical insight, mystery and at times had me at the edge of my seat. 

I am one not to give away too much of a plot for those who like to go into books not knowing much. The things that will stay with me are character related and not plot related. The bond between the two sisters in this book and the love they have for one another. The friendships that were formed in the conditions that were present in the book. Also the topic of mental

Thank you so much to net galley and source books for allowing me the privilege to read and review this arc copy
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Inspired by the true story “Ten Days in a Mad-House” by Nellie Bly.  Woman 99 is the number that is given to Charlotte Smith upon entering the Goldengrove asylum of her own free will in order to break out her sister Phoebe, placed there by their parents. Although there are numerous flashbacks, the bulk of the story takes place inside the asylum.The dehumanizing conditions and pathetic methods of ‘healing’ are hard to read but patients’ ingenuity, camaraderie and survival mechanisms are believable and well-written for the most part. A bit far-fetched as far as Charlotte being able to gain access into forbidden areas/hallways/wards in the asylum with so few roadblocks.
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I got this as a read now on Netgalley. I thought I would enjoy a little historical fiction to break up my normal thriller addiction, this one fell flat for me. The writing was just ok.
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Greer Macallister does it again! Her third novel, Woman 99 is about sisters that would do anything for each other and will! I would classify this as a historical thriller that takes place in the 1880s. I am an asylum junkie and get love reading about them. This book does not disappoint.  Pheobe is put in the asylum and her sister Charlotte is so desperate to get her out that she poses as an insane person to get in. 

I LOVED everything about this book, the characters, the plot, the time period, the setting.
I cannot recommend this book enough!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Source books for an opportunity to review an advance copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

WOMAN 99 is the story of Charlotte, the youngest daughter of an affluent family living in San Francisco in the late 1880s. When Charlotte's parents commit her older sister, Phoebe, to Goldengrove, an insane asylum for women, Charlotte decides that she will fake her way in and rescue her. Billed as a historical thriller, the story takes us through Charlotte's experience as a sane woman playing the part of a patient while trying to locate her sister and break out of the hospital.

What I loved:

I'm fascinated with history and enjoyed reading about what it was like to be a patient in an American mental asylum. This was an extremely well-researched book! 

I really liked learning about the inner workings of these hospitals and the treatments such as ice baths, the removal of teeth, padded rooms, etc. It was also interesting to learn about the patients/inmates and why there were there. Some women had chronic illnesses (everything from advanced stages of neurosyphilis, to epilepsy, to alcoholism and drug addiction), while others were simply deemed social outcasts (women with postpartum depression, women who had had affairs or "inappropriate" relationships, etc.)

I enjoyed the twist about 3/4 regarding the identity of one of the women Charlotte befriended.

I also liked the sisterly bond between Charlotte and Phoebe - it was very sweet and refreshing to see the affection they had for each other and the great lengths they would go to support one another.

What I didn't like:

For me, this was not a thriller and I felt like the pace was too slow.  I also felt like Charlotte's choice to fake her way into a mental asylum was not very believable. 

While it didn't suit my taste, I do believe this would be a great book for someone who has an interest in the time period and the history of mental health. It's clear that while we have come along way from the days of institutionalizing individuals and throwing away the key, our society still does not have a functioning mental health system.
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This is a very interesting and rather fascinating historical fiction, set in the America of the end of the 18th century, and precisely inside an asylum for women.
Goldengrove was supposed to be a model asylum, where "insane" women were sent there to be "healed" or at least to be "protected" from themselves. But the Goldengrove Charlotte has seen was anything but a model place. 
Without the knowledge of her family, Charlotte followed her sister inside the asylum as an inmate to find her and bring her back home. In the weeks she spent in the asylum, she came to know the "madwomen" in there, their stories and struggles and she found out facts about them and the institution that didn't figure in the public image known of it. 

The story was compelling, and it was really interesting to get to know Charlotte and the other women, how they behaved and the way the asylum changed them in so many different ways.
It was a touching story, and it shed a different light on the position of women within society in that particular period of time, or at least, the "right" position they were supposed to occupy and the prices they paid for daring to think otherwise.
I would definitely recommend it.
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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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