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24 Engaging The Lost Girls of Willowbrook Book Club Questions

Last Updated on November 11, 2023 by Louisa

It’s that time of the month again when you need to start pulling together book club questions for your next meeting, and if you’re reading The Lost Girls of Willowbrook, well you’re int he right place.

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman is a gripping novel tells the story of a young woman who returns to her hometown to unravel the secrets of her family’s past and the dark history of a nearby psychiatric hospital.

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is packed with themes that will challenge your book club members’ perceptions of family, mental health, and social justice.

From examining the impact of trauma on individuals and communities to exploring the ways in which we can best support those who are struggling, there’s no shortage of topics to explore.

To help kickstart your discussion, I’ve put together a list of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook book club questions that will guide your book club through a thought-provoking and engaging conversation.

So when you’re ready, get a pen and paper and jot these down!

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through any of these links. 

Synopsis of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

the lost girls of willowbrook

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook is a novel about an infamous mental institution called Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, New York, which was exposed as a dumping ground for unwanted children in the 70s.

The story follows Sage Winters who lost her twin sister at the age of 10 to pneumonia, and her mother passes in a car crash at 16.

Her stepfather now bares the responsibility of looking after her, but soon the shocking secret of what really happened to Rosemary comes to light – she’s not dead, she’s incarcerated at Willowbrook.

Hellbent on finding her sister, she sets out on a mission to find her in the notorious school.

Spoiler Alert! 

Please note that the questions below contain spoilers of the book.

Generic Book Club Questions for The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

Let’s break the ice with some generic questions. These book club questions for The Lost Girls of Willowbrook will ensure every member of your group has the chance to say something about the book.

  • What did you think about the book? (obvious, but we have to say it).
  • What were your expectations before reading The Lost Girls of Willowbrook?
  • How did the story make you feel?
  • Which was the most interesting scene in the book, in your opinion?
  • Were there any characters that you felt you can relate to in any way?
  • What are the key principles you have learned from the book? What have you taken away from the story?
  • Did you feel this was a slow-burning novel or a real page-turner?
  • Would you recommend this book to others?
  • What do you think the front cover represents?
  • Let’s talk about the ending. Were you shocked?

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook Discussion Questions

After warming up with some general conversation, it’s time to delve into a more profound and thought-provoking discussion.

Here are some book club discussion questions I recommend bringing up about The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

  • Though the story is fiction, Willowbrook State School was a real place. How did this novel make you feel about the patients who were mistreated there? Do you think this might have happened in other settings?
  • Would you consider this novel more of a thriller or historical fiction novel?
  • The staff mistook Sage for Rosemary and lock her up. The story goes from a quest for answers to a quest for survival. Did you find the storyline believable?
  • Have you read anything else by Ellen Marie Wiseman? How does this novel compare?
  • Let’s talk about Sage. Can you relate to her in any way? Do you think she’s a likable character?
  • What about Sage’s mother and Alan the stepfather? What are your thoughts about the parents and their choices?
  • How do you think you get out of Willowbrook? What’s the end for these children?

Read more: Miracle Creek Book Club Questions

Educated Book Club Questions for The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

There are many deeper and more philosophical elements to the story you can explore. Uncover hidden meanings with these educated book club questions for The Lost Girls of Willowbrook.

  • Did the storyline feel too coincidental to you, or were you surprised by each plot twist?
  • The story was told through the eyes of a teenager, what do you think was the significance of Sage being 16? How would the story have changed if she found out about Rosemary in her adult life?
  • How do you think Rosemary felt before her sister turned up?
  • Why do you think Rosemary was put in Willowbrook?
  • Why was Sage lied to about her sister? Why was she told she was dead and not sent to Willowbrook?
  • Why did her mother never mention to the doctors she was a twin?
  • Were there any parts of the book that seemed exaggerated or unbelievable? What scenes had you shaken the most?

Read more: Giver of Stars Book Club Questions

5 Suggestions for What to Read Next

Now you have a list of The Lost Girls of Willowbrook book club questions for your book club meeting, it’s time to start thinking about what to read next.

Here are some suggestions!

1. Daisy Darker – Alice Feeney

daisy darker

Daisy Darker was born into a dysfunctional family. With her grandmother’s 80th birthday coming up, the family is forced to come together in her crumbling gothic house on Tidal Island.

But when the tide comes in, the family is cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours. What could go wrong? Only some family secrets come out.

To make matters more complicated, Nana is found dead at the stroke of midnight. An hour later, another family member follows…

Trapped on an island with a murderer who seems to be picking off each member one by one, the Darkers must confront their past and present problems before it’s too late.

2. The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary by Penner Sarah

The Lost Apothecary is a gripping tale of secrets, vengeance, and sisterhood set in eighteenth-century London.

An apothecary shop serves an esoteric clientele with rumors circulating of a mysterious woman who is peddling deadly poisons to women seeking defense from their oppressive husbands or partners.

All soon comes undone when her newest customer – a twelve-year-old – commits a fatal blunder that carries its effects through the ages.

On her tenth wedding anniversary alone in present-day London, Caroline Parcellwell discovers details on unsolved murders connected to the apothecary, which take her on an unexpected quest of discovery.

Her life will never be the same after she makes a startling discovery that not everyone will get out alive.

3. Lessons in Chemistry – Bonnie Garmus

lessons in chemistry by bonnie garmus

Elizabeth Zott is a Chemist and not considered your average woman. Set in the early 60s, Elizabeth works with an all-male team at Hastings Research Institute, who take a sexist view on gender roles.

But one man is different. Calvin Evans is a lonely and intelligent Nobel–prize nominated scientist who has fallen in love with Elizabeth’s mind.

But love and science are unpredictable, and Elizabeth ends up a single mother and the star of a beloved cooking show in America, Supper at Six.

Elizabeth’s approach to cooking takes on a scientific approach, which becomes revolutionary.

As her following grows, it turns out Elizabeth Zott isn’t just inspiring women to cook, but changing the status quo.  

Read more: The Vanishing Half Book Club Questions

4. The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

the great alone by kristin hannah

Set in Alaska in 1974, the story follows Ernt Allbright who returns home from a traumatic experience in Vietnam as a changed man.

With no job prospects, Ernt decides to move his wife and daughter north, to take refuge off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Cora agrees without hesitation, while Leni doesn’t have much choice but to go along.

They soon find themselves amidst an independent community of strong individuals whose hospitality makes up for their shortages in resources.

As winter comes and Ernt’s mental health begins to deteriorate near their little cabin under 18 hours of night cover, they realize the danger is not only found outside but also within their own home.

5. Haven – Emma Donoghue

haven by emma donoghue

Haven is a heartwarming story of adventure and survival by the author of Room. It follows three men who set off from Ireland to seek an island to build a sanctuary.

The party consists of their leader, a priest and scholar Artt, and two monks, Trian and Cormac.

Piled into a small boat, with only faith to guide them, the men set out on a journey of travel and exploration.

The novel is set in the 7th century, and is a tale of following one’s dream, even if the journey is perilous. The three men journey down the river Shannon before drifting out into the Atlantic.

They find a steep, bare island with only birds as inhabitants, and decide to claim it for God. How do they survive this baron land? And how could three men build a monastery?

Final Word on The Lost Girls of Willowbrook Book Club Questions

I hope these The Lost Girls of Willowbrook book club questions have given you some great ideas for your next discussion.

This novel is a gripping and emotionally charged story of family, secrets, and the power of love.

As you dive into these questions with your book club, be prepared for some fascinating conversations about the complexities of relationships, the impact of trauma, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

This book raises important questions about social justice, mental health, and the ways in which we can support those who are struggling.

Remember, the best book club conversations are the ones where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions. So don’t be afraid to challenge each other or to think outside the box when it comes to answering these questions.

If you have any comments or questions about these discussion questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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About Louisa Smith

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the Founder, Editor, and Head Honcho of Epic Book Society. She was born and raised in the United Kingdom and graduated from the University for the Creative Arts with a degree in Journalism. Louisa began her writing career at the age of 7 when her poetry was published in an anthology of poems to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee. Upon graduating university, she spent several years working as a journalist writing about books before transitioning to become a Primary School Teacher. Louisa loves all genres of books, but her favorites are Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult Fiction. Read more Louisa's story here.

2 thoughts on “24 Engaging The Lost Girls of Willowbrook Book Club Questions”

  1. To further enhance the discussion, I recommend watching the original piece exposing Willowbrook by Geraldo Rivera in the 1970s on YouTube. Its not for the weak of heart bit will provide context to this book. Also there are several other videos dealing with Willowbrook on YouTube.


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