Cover Image: Woman 99

Woman 99

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This was an excellent historical fiction story. I liked seeing the growth of the main character Charlotte through the story. It was eye opening and heartbreaking to read about early mental illness treatment. Thank you NetGalley for the copy to review.
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I loved Woman 99 so much!! Mixed with historical fiction and suspense. Two of my favorite genres!! I found this family drama to suck me in right away, wanting to discover the mystery. My first by Greer Macallister. Thank you netgalley and Sourcebooks!
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“Though I had leapt into the water of the Bay not intending to die, it easily could have been my fate. Intending a thing had nothing to do with whether it came to pass.”

What an interesting story this turned out to be. I have always been drawn to the history of mental asylums and Greer Macallister has woven a lot of historical detail into this novel, particularly regarding the state of mental asylums, the type of treatments, the powerlessness of women and the ease with which they could be committed to an institution, most often with no options for release. This is one area of history where there is little light, it’s all saturating darkness and misery.

“Her official diagnosis was mania brought on by emotional turmoil. I hadn’t expected to see that. My gut clenched. Me. I was the turmoil.”

When Charlotte Smith’s sister, Phoebe, is committed to a mental asylum by their parents, she is left bereft, desperately missing her sister and also consumed with a misplaced guilt. She decides to deceive her parents and instead of visiting an aunt for six weeks of respite, she travels into the city and then walks off a jetty, plunging herself into the Bay of San Francisco. Her intent is to be committed to the same asylum as her sister so she can tell the staff there that her sister is not crazy and needs to be released into Charlotte’s care and returned home. 

Now, I had some real issues with this premise and as a consequence, it was touch and go for me at the beginning of this novel. I’m going to raise them here, not to be nit-picking, but to highlight that despite these flaws, it really is worth continuing with the novel (I’m serious, I was almost going to stop reading, the plot seemed so full of holes and obvious coincidences). Now, Charlotte could have drowned (which she later acknowledges), and she could have also been committed to a different institution, a state run one (there is mention of these throughout the text, some of which were closer to San Francisco than the one she ended up in). Then there’s the absolute naivety of thinking you can be committed to a mental asylum for attempted suicide and then just announce you are actually well and you’d like to take your sister home please. Thankfully, Charlotte realised the flaws in her plan reasonably early on in her stay at the asylum, which redeemed this aspect of the story for me. Yet, she still remained to a certain degree in a state of denial over the extent of Phoebe’s illness. At the start of the novel, her memories gloss over Phoebe’s behaviours and erratic moods, yet the longer Charlotte remained in the asylum herself, the more realistic her memories became. I liked how the author did this, like a dawning of realisation that may never have come to Charlotte had she not to a certain degree, ‘walked in her sister’s shoes’. Likewise, the folly of her plan rests heavily on Charlotte as the novel progresses, her time within the asylum stretching out, as every plan she concocts to leave gets foiled. Charlotte’s experiences were a real eye opener to the utter powerlessness of women in the 19th century (and in the centuries prior). Property of their parents only to be transferred across as the property of a husband. Tied up with these notions of women as property was the sad fact that not all of the women committed to the asylum were suffering from a mental illness. Many were just inconvenient to a parent or a husband, yet they were subjected to the same experimental and often cruel ‘treatments’ alongside the women who were actually mentally ill.

“I might never get out. It was time to admit it. I had set and sprung my own trap.”

While this novel is firmly historical fiction, it does morph into a thriller of sorts, as conditions within the asylum deteriorate and the women become restless with starvation and endless mistreatment. Disruptions break out and as staff are laid off and the remaining ones are stretched beyond their limits, plans are hatched for escape. When Charlotte makes a horrifying connection between one of the patients and her own outside life, rescuing Phoebe no longer remains her sole focus. So, what began as a little flimsy (for me) morphed into a solid storyline that was highly absorbing, deeply sad, and slightly horrific. All the essential ingredients! Oh, to have been a woman before the 20th century – you wouldn’t go back in time for quids. 

“A woman’s mind is a powerful weapon. She had used hers quite brilliantly.”

Thanks is extended to Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Woman 99 for review.
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This book was good enough to keep me interested from start to finish but without punding heart and sleepless nights.

It explores treatment of women in asylums and reasons they were sent there in XIX century really well and it's huge advantage of this novel.

The next one are good characters, and not only our main protagonist Charlotte, but also her fellow inmates like Nora, Martha or Celine.

I didn't like much the romantic plot, but I rarely care for romances in books. 

Anyway I rooted for Charlotte, her sister and her friends all the hime, hoping the story will end well.

I would recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and strong female characters.
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I voluntarily requested and read an advance review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley.  I state this up front because it is the main reason why I kept reading despite feeling a total lack of bonding with the main character from the start.  Charlotte was presented as sheltered, pampered, and totally unaware of the realities of life beyond Nob Hill.  Her expectation (based on a true life account of journalist Nellie Bly) that she could infiltrate a mental asylum, find her sister, reveal herself to be sane, and walk out triumphantly with her sister was poorly conceived and unrealistic.
Nevertheless, the author's world building drew me in and kept me reading.  She introduced and fleshed out additional characters who made me care about them and want to see how their stories played out in the plot.
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A story of the bond between sisters that takes one far from their comfortable home in San Francisco to the darkness of an asylum to rescue the other. Woman 99 quickly caught my attention as protagonist Charlotte creates an elaborate plan to rescue her older sister, Phoebe, from Goldengrove Asylum. Once she's inside, Charlotte learns of the conditions that inmates face while also grappling with the reasons as to why women find themselves inside. 

Although it did have a bit of a slow burn in the beginning of the story, I really became swept away in the world that the author creates. But I did have to do so with a bit of disbelief as I found some of the scenarios could have only worked out as they did because this is a work of fiction. Yet, when I came to the author's note, I realized Charlotte's experience actually was inspired by a factual event involving American journalist, Nellie Bly. So I guess truth is more surprising than fiction. 

A book to look out for as it hits bookstores today(March 5th)!
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Charlotte and Phoebe are high society sisters in San Francisco. Phoebe just does not quite fit the mold. She has outbursts and long bouts of depression. Her parents send her to a famous asylum to recover. Charlotte takes it into her own hands to save her. Charlotte pretends to be insane to enter the asylum and find her sister. This, of course, turns into more than she bargained for.

Charlotte is a lot tougher than she looks. She has a determination not many women have. Not sure I could have snuck into an asylum to save anyone. She encounters many different and unique women. Some offer help and some hinder. But, Charlotte is not a quitter and she has to use her intelligence to overcome many obstacles. There were places where I expected her to do something different than she did. So, she kept me guessing.

I fluctuated between 4 and 5 stars. This story starts slow and is a bit wordy. But, as the tale moves along….I could not put it down. The history surrounding the asylum really creates a story which is unstoppable. And boy, the treatments they went through had me spellbound. Give me a story about a hospital, asylum or old house and I am hooked.

I received this novel from Sourcebooks via Netgalley for a honest review.
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I received this from in exchange for a review. 

Charlotte Smith's wealthy parents commit her beloved sister Phoebe to the infamous Goldengrove Asylum. Charlotte knows there's more to the story than madness, she risks everything and follows her sister inside.

Nicely told and well written story of sisterly love, the injustices of the time and redemption. Some great quotable quotes. "A woman's mind is a powerful weapon. She had better use hers brilliantly". Good book. 

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Woman 99 is a fascinating look at mental health "care" in the 1800s. I particularly love the San Francisco Bay area setting, and the careful and authentic historical details. In addition to being a riveting thriller and an endearing story of sisterly love and courage, the texture of time and place is exceptional.
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In this newly-released historical fiction, Macallister tells the story of women who, in the late 1800s in the San Francisco/Bay Area, were involuntarily sent to a mental institution coined as the "cure for the curable insane."  However, we quickly learn that the institution is wrought with abuse, torture, malnourishment and beyond forced upon women who, in many cases, were not mentally ill, but rather "inconvenient."  Having recently read "The Home For Unwanted Girls" (Joanna Goodman), I found it hard not to compare the two.  In this novel, Macallister does a wonderful job describing the environment and how life was at the time, the views of women and the expectations placed upon them. However, like other readers, I found the first half of the novel a bit slow and lacking character development.  We don't find out much about the relationship between the sisters until after Charlotte put her plan in action-that is, to be sent to the mental hospital to rescue/retrieve her sister, who had been sent there by their parents.  The second half of the book gets better and I found myself burning through the pages to find out what happens to the girls--both the sisters and the other patients Charlotte befriends, in a way.  But something about the ending didn't sit well with me. It tied up too neatly.  And I found myself wondering, "Well, how would I have wanted the book to end?" We get all the answers we want, the girls end up fine, romance wins in the end.  I don't know what other ending would have been better, but for some reason it just felt too tidy. 

On balance, it was a good read, clearly well-researched and enjoyable.  But I'm not certain it's one I'll  be recommending to my friends and fellow book club members as a "must-read" in 2019.  Joanna Goodman's "Home for Unwanted Girls" was a much more compelling read and this one pales a bit by comparison.  

A 3.5 star rating for me.  I hope to see more of what this author produces!
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Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

Charlotte Smith is a young woman who has always tried to please her parents. It is 1888 and women really don’t have a lot of rights. She is interested in a young man but when her parents affiance her to his older brother and then her sister is sent to a mental institution and she wants to get her back...well...she takes matters into her own hand and does what she has to to get into the asylum. And, what an eye opener it was. While there she seeks her sister, meets women she realizes are not really insane, sees injustices, makes some friends and then when she is ready to leave realizes it might not be as easy to do so as she thought it would be. 

This is an intriguing story with twists and turns while giving an insight into the dark days of institutionalization of “lunatics”. Once inside they had no rights or recourse and often they were dumped there by family or society who didn’t understand them or want to deal with them any more. I sometimes wish that the person giving the treatment could experience it first hand but...that is not likely going to happen. 

Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read another book by this author? Yes

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the ARC  - this is my honest review. 

4.5 Stars
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Excellent historical fiction from Greer Macallister. 

Two society born sisters, Phoebe and Charlotte, neither who are happy, despite having everything they could ever want - aside from freedom. Charlotte is engaged to be married to a man she doesn't love. Phoebe is outspoken and what is now known as bi-polar. Their parents put Phoebe away in a mental institution, and Charlotte is determined to free her. 

Taking a cue from Nelly Bly, Charlotte 'sneaks' into the asylum, but is heartbroken by what she finds. Many of the residents are not 'mad', they just don't 'fit' in their families or in 'society'. Either way, Charlotte's quest to get in was much easier than getting her, and Phoebe, out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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As hard as I tried, I just could not get into this book. I felt that it bounced back and forth between Charlotte bring being the asylum looking for Phoebe and remembrances of times with Phoebe too quickly for me to grasp what was happening.
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Greer MacAllister does it again!  With each book, I love them more and more.  Woman 99 takes us back in time with family drama with 2 sisters, one being admitted to an asylum and the other wants to help free her. The family dynamic is so intriguing.  The research the author has done and realism and depth in the characters are top-notch which makes this book a un-put-down-able read.  You truly feel what the women are going through and as a fan of this author, historical fiction and anything asylum I found it perfect!  
This author is an instant buy or pre-order.  Her book Girl in Disguise (2017) is super fantastic and Woman 99 impresses me all the same.  This author ROCKS!  5 stars.  A highly recommended read.
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Charlotte Smith decides to get herself admitted to an asylum so she can free the older sister that stood up for her throughout her life and quite possibly could be there because of Charlotte's own doings.  With an unfiltered view of an asylum of the time, this book had a few difficult parts that made me thank goodness for the time and place that I live in!

I love when a historical fiction book makes me do some looking to find out where the truth and the fiction are.  I was so intrigued by this asylum's make up and the different wards and how things were organized, I truly wondered if such a place existed and how a doctor came to decide to organize these women this way.

The main character in this book mentions Nellie Bly a few times and this has prompted me to want to do some research and read a few books about her, have any of you read anything that centers around Nellie Bly and her story?  I am inspired to go pick up something fiction or non fiction to get a little more of Nellie Bly's story.

In the end, I enjoyed this book, but didn't love it as much as some other historical fictions reads that I have read recently.
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Sisters Charlotte and Phoebe Smith lead a life of privilege in San Francisco, but no amount of wealth can make up for the bouts of mania that Phoebe starts to experience, and which she is unable to hide from polite society. Despite her mother's best attempts to find her a husband, she proves to be unmarriageable so attention turns to Charlotte, who has developed feelings for a local young man of means. Unfortunately, in a desperate attempt to save the family name and fortune, her parents arrange a match with his brother, and when Phoebe finds out about her sisters proposed fate she tries to stand up for her. Her parents are so worried by her actions and distress that they arrange for her to be admitted to Goldengrove, an asylum where women defined as mad by the standards of 1888 society are locked away and forced to endure distressing "treatments". Worried about her sister, and inspired by the antics of journalist Nellie Bly , Charlotte decides to infiltrate the asylum as a patient, and rescue her sister, but once inside, navigating such an unfamiliar world proves to be something of a challenge, and Charlotte must join forces with other patients from backgrounds she has never encountered to overcome the dangers and bring her sister home. 
It is clear that the author has done a lot of research into the way women were treated in asylums across the US and around the world in the 1800s, conditions and treatments were barbaric, with the women reduced to mere numbers , as evoked in the title of the book and often locked away out of sight for the most frivolous or tenuous of reasons. The harshness of treatments like the water cure  make for tough reading at times, this book does not shy away from the brutality that the women endured, but far stronger is the recognition of the power and importance of female friendship when it comes to women empowering and standing up for one another. Despite a slow beginning, the book soon picks up pace, and really hits its stride when Charlotte executes her plan to get into the asylum. From that point on, the tension ratchets up , and as a reader I found myself on tenterhooks as I followed her increasingly desperate attempts to find and free her beloved sister.  While the ending may seem somewhat predictable, it is none the less satisfying, and there are enough twists and turns along the way to keep the reader on edge. 
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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If you're going to read this, you have to suspend disbelief quite a bit. Charlotte basically tricks her way into an insane asylum in order to save her sister Phoebe, who admittedly is probably bipolar but who does not deserve the treatment one finds in a 19th century asylum. Who does? Charlotte and many other characters are a bit to modern to be convincing as 19th century women, but still, the story is a good one. The power of sisterhood (with both actual sisters and just other women in general) features prominently, as the women take risks to help each other and help themselves to break free of the inhumane treatment subjected on them by a system run by men who find them inconvenient - whether they are mentally ill or not. I believe a lot of the detail of asylum life is probably accurate, or at least tallies with other historical novels I've read with the setting. As if the concept isn't surprising enough, there were further plot twists that really ramped up the drama. Overall it felt incredibly cinematic, and I could easily see it being adapted for the big screen... or maybe a mini-series à la Alias Grace. Again, suspension of disbelief is definitely required, especially as things end (of course) way conveniently-ever-after, but still, it is a compelling read. I liked it quite a lot. I know I give everything 3 stars, so we can call this a high 3.
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A novel based on historical fact that reads almost like a dystopian novel.  Greer Macallister’s novel “Woman 99” is both a disturbing look at the lives of women in history through mental institutions and the lives of women – period.

This story is definitely one that simmers to a boil, with intrigue at every turn.

Phoebe Smith has been institutionalized in an asylum for women.  Her sister Charlotte, feeling she’s in there at her fault, feigns a breakdown to get in and break her out.  She is simply “Woman 99” in the asylum of Goldengrove.  As she searches for her sister, what she finds is a disturbing trend of women being thrown into the institution for being simply “inconvenient”.  Meeting several women, their stories of injustices, changes Charlotte.  But can she find her sister in this warped maze?  And will they get out alive?

Somewhere in the shadows, though, is another woman whose connection to them both is quite a twist and sends the story into overdrive in its final chapters.

Really well told.  In the beginning you’re left wondering where everything is going but soon enough Macallister starts a story that’s as good as any dystopian fiction there is, only this is all too real.
The lives of women is at the forefront of the story, from the way society deems them almost nothing more than property, to women discovering themselves in ways regular society would never let them.  There’s a lot of shaded areas of what women want and need, and main character Charlotte goes on a journey that leads her to see all these paths a woman’s life can take and how to be accepting of them even if the choices wouldn’t match her own.

Great historical read and for the romantics there’s a storyline with Charlotte and her hopeful beau Henry that’s hopeful and full of heart in an otherwise well-done but frightening tale.  Worth the read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for early access to this title due March 5th, 2019.
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One sister is sent to an asylum and the other follows to get her out. Noble cause; however, the story felt rather improbable. Sure Nellie Bly did the same thing, but she had people on the outside who knew where she was. Ms. Bly was also a lot more street smart and not as naive and pampered as the main character, Charlotte, is in this book. And once Charlotte is able to get herself committed, the story begins to drag. I realize Ms. Macallister wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the horrors of an asylum, but it was presented in short horrific bursts well padded by dreary day to day events and cliche characters like the prostitute with the heart of gold. It was all a bit too much polish to make the story feel authentic, as I expect from historical fiction.
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I read Woman 99 as a part of a Bookstagram buddy read, but it was also on my own TBR-list. The story is set in 1888 in and around San Francisco and focuses on Charlotte Smith, who gets herself committed to an insane asylum in order to rescue her sister from there. The book is a mix of historical fiction and thriller, which is a quite uncommon and unique mix.

The beginning of Woman 99 is very descriptive. A picture is painted of both the life of the sisters Charlotte and Phoebe Smith at home as well as life at the asylum, Goldengrove. Charlotte describes the conditions of the asylum as she encounters them. So it’s mostly observed from a distance and from a newcomer’s perspective. This is very interesting as you get to know more and more throughout the book. I especially found the descriptions of life within the asylum very interesting. Even though Goldengrove never actually existed, most of the things that occurred there do have their roots in actual late 1900s history, so I loved learning about that. Throughout the story many of Charlotte’s memories were interjected in the story. I was always disappointed when they came along. Although knitting together the family’s past was interesting, some parts were quite long-winded.

My favourite part about this book was the diverse and fascinating group of characters that was introduced throughout the book. Every person was different and had their own unique quirks and characteristics, and they were all very easy to relate to in some way. It almost felt a little like ‘Orange Is the New Black’. Some people were truly insane, whereas others were just an inconvenience to their families. Learning all their backstories was the best part of this book, and it once again taught me never to judge people too quickly. 

I enjoyed this book immensely, and would definitely recommend it to people who love a thrilling story in an unusual setting and an interesting period of time. Get to know the people and make yourself a part of their stories!
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