About the Book
Book Title: Soul’s Prisoner
Author: Cara Luecht
Genre: Historical fiction with some suspense and romance
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Chicago, Winter, 1891
Rachel is in danger. She’s seen too much.
She creeps along the cement walls through the dank underbelly of the asylum. She’d never planned to leave her quiet farm life, never thought she’d find a place in the city, never imagined she’d be in the kind of danger that would have her cowering in Dunning’s cold, labyrinthine basement.
Jenny has finally found her place. After a childhood of abuse, she has friends, a real job, and her only wish is to give her adopted son the kind of life she never had.
A life of stability, without the risk and uncertainty of a father.
But when Jeremy, Rachel’s brother, stumbles into their warehouse, asking for help to find his missing sister, Jenny’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble.
5 Stars – heart wrenching, but a very well written story
First, my heart goes out to the author, Cara Luecht. The stuff you must have had to read to research about Dunning Asylum must have been painful, it hurt reading the story. To know it’s based on reality, just breaks my heart. I am especially sensitive to anything having to do with people who are disabled and incapacitated, due to having had a disabled brother and dealing with and helping my elderly, stroke-ridden father and now my elderly mother. To think people like these would have just been stuck in a place like Dunning makes me want to cry.
My slightest and only complaint is that there were a lot of people to get to know. But they were very interesting characters. The little group of friends that this centers around couldn’t be more motley. From a super, rich heiress, who just wanted to paint and when she did she painted the future of people she never knew, but possibly would know. To a prostitute and her deceased friend’s illegitimate son, rescued off the streets, given an honorable job and drawn into the circle of friends with forgiveness and grace. I got a little nervous about “meeting” all these people wondering if I’ll keep them all straight, but as the story went on, I managed.
The flow of the story was great, pacing was perfect. After getting past all the introductions to everyone, it became a real page turner. In hind sight, the introductions were all very much a part of the story and I don’t feel they were misplaced or unnecessary.
I give extra Kudos for being able to write romantic and loving scenes without electricity and butterflies (my favorite pet peeve in books 😊 ).
Some stuff was predictable, but honestly, there aren’t many options for how some things happened and it was so well written that it wasn’t a let down when the things I suspected came to pass.
I would definitely put it in my list of masterpieces that I have read over the past years.
DISCLAIMER: I received this book as a gift. No compensation was received. The opinions I express are provided without obligation.
Click HERE to purchase a copy. It is well worth the time to read.
About the Author
Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Guest Post from Cara Luecht
The Setting for Soul’s Prisoner: Dunning Asylum for the Insane
Dunning Asylum for the Insane was built in the 1850s and housed psychiatric patients until the early 1900s. It has since been demolished, and a small park currently stands as the only remaining testament to the people who lived and died on the grounds.
The original plot of land also included a poor farm and a cemetery. A railroad used to connect the grounds to Minneapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee. It was nicknamed the “Crazy Train”—a phrase that still survives in our language today. Those buried in the cemetery include Civil War Veterans, victims of the Chicago fire of 1871, orphans, paupers, and the residents of the asylum for the insane. Most estimates agree that nearly forty thousand people were buried on the grounds.
There is no doubt that mental illness is hard on families, but in the 1800s, having a family member who struggled with mental illness was an embarrassment. With little understanding of mental health in general, and even less compassion for those who suffered, examples of this tragic response to the threat of mental illness can be seen in the numerous inmates who were there simply due to addiction or depression. There are even cases where women were committed because their families were humiliated by their giving birth outside the bonds of marriage. Often times, challenges with mental health were synonymous with the notion of moral failure or vice. Because of this, even many charities looked the other way when corruption or abuse was exposed. Reporters sometimes wrote about the horrors of the institutions, but once the sensational story was out, and the initial outrage worn away, few worried about the people who suffered on a daily basis. And because of the moral implication of mental illness, families commonly turned over their suffering members to the county, and later simply explained to friends that the person had died.
And that is exactly what the mentally ill would do in the institution. Live there until they died, forgotten.
And that’s how the story played out at Dunning, until late in the 1900s when developers began to dig the roads and foundations for a new neighborhood on the grounds of what was once the Asylum. At that time, Dunning, and the people who had resided there, were still within living memory, so when bones were unearthed, it was no mystery how they ended up on that patch of land. What had slipped from memory was the magnitude of the collective stories of suffering and hardship.
For this novel, the people and events are fictitious. However, when examining old news stories from an institution known for corruption, it is not hard to imagine situations like the ones in the novel. The details that are true are the nearly one thousand inmates, no hot water, little to no heat in the winter, bad food, and the general feeling of living ghosts, intentionally forgotten, and doomed to never leave the grounds.
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