Book Reviews

ARC Book Review: “The Life She Was Given” by Marie Ellen Wiseman


Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Historical fiction, mystery


(From Goodreads) On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time–and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.


I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinion of the book.

WOW. What did I just read? This is such a great summer read. Here’s why:

The plot was well written, and the writing just immediately pulls you into a time of circuses and chaos. You can really empathize with the stories and lives that Lily and Julia were dealt, and we see their journey to make the best of the situation (and, in ways, make it better).

Animals are so important to both of their lives, so that was nice to see the connection between Lily and Julia; animals are the central point to the entire story, and it all comes full circle at the end. I love it! No loose ends, no leftover questions. Just a nice, easy story.

But is it?

No, because of the emotional roller coaster! The last time I felt all these emotions was with Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult, which was a while ago. I just felt like “The Life She Was Given” was written perfectly; there’s nothing wrong about it. It is a book that you need to read if you’re on the lookout for something different, but still want that emotional response, then this is exactly what you need.






The Life She Was Given releases on July 25th! Don’t forget to pick up your copy at your favourite book store! 

You can find me on TwitterInstagramGoodreads, and 50BookPledge

5 thoughts on “ARC Book Review: “The Life She Was Given” by Marie Ellen Wiseman

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