House of Silence

Celebrating her engagement should be a joyful occasion for Isabelle Larkin. Her fiancé, Gregory Gallagher, is among Chicago's most attractive, ambitious political hopefuls of 1875. But when Isabelle witnesses Gregory committing a horrific crime, nobody believes her, and she feigns a nervous breakdown and mutism to escape her circumstances. Shortly after being admitted to Bellevue Place, Isabelle befriends none other than Mary Todd Lincoln, a fellow patient, who becomes a co-conspirator in helping Isabelle seek a life free from her overbearing mother.

With House of Silence, Sarah Barthel (Mackenzie's Cross) has crafted an engaging, fast-paced blend of historical fiction and suspense. Barthel gives her reader a glimpse into the conditions surrounding the real-life hospitalization of Mary Todd Lincoln, whose son Robert committed her to Bellevue 10 years after President Lincoln's assassination, due to her reportedly eccentric behavior.

House of Silence reflects the reality of women in an era when social class was paramount, marriages were arranged for mercenary reasons and women like Isabelle and Mary were discredited, their independence and choices silenced. Together, the women rebel against convention by forming a strong bond. Through their friendship, Isabelle begins to find her voice again and in doing so, must decide whether to conform to societal norms and a predetermined fate or use her newfound strength to take control of her life, moving forward on a path of her choosing. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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