I must say that I’m rarely ever shocked anymore by things I read or hear about, but I still am deeply disturbed by reading when atrocities are committed upon human beings by other human beings. I always wonder HOW on earth one could treat another person with such disrespect and lack of dignity at the least, and at the worst total cruelty and criminal behavior such as rape and physical brutality.
This story mainly chronicles two women: a young Jewish woman named Klara Gelfman (view spoiler) and Elizabeth Cochran, aka Nellie Bly and Nellie Brown. The latter of these women had the courage to enter the asylum to cover a story about its treatment of its patients that had been rumored. Elizabeth was a news reporter who cared enough about the people in the asylum to pretend to be “crazy” herself by studying and mimicking the actions of mentally ill people.
Elizabeth Cochran was not only a news reporter, but she was a reporter for THE Joseph Pulitzer for whom the Pulitzer Prize. Knowing that in this day and age certainly gives extra credibility to the journalism of Miss Cochran. But to play her part she also had to be an actress to be believable in her role.
Karla Gelfman was mugged and had her purse stolen very shortly after arriving in New York, in America, the home of the FREE where people come to be treated with dignity and get away from such things as being scapegoats as the Jews were in Russia. After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II there was a proclamation given that the Russian Jews were responsible for his death. The Gelfman family lived in Kiev and knew that they would soon get a “visit” from the Russians who infiltrated the Jewish communities and terrorized and slaughtered innocents! One evening the Gelman family was minding their own business and having a nice evening at home, when (view spoiler) To get away from such hatred, she and her father set out for New York.
When Miss Gelfman was mugged, she fell and hit her head and was dazed as a result. So when she had the chance to get help from the policemen, the ones she was told would help her, because she wasn’t coherent and couldn’t speak English yet, she ended up being put in the asylum for the insane. Of course, she wasn’t even close to being insane.
There Karla Gelman met some of the most cruel “caretakers” that most of us couldn’t even fathom: Sally who was a very cruel nurse with no business being in any hospital, let alone one that was for the weak in society, people with mental illnesses. Her cruelty went beyond anything I’d ever imagine a nurse would commit. And there was Roy, a man who was Sally’s beau but who had eyes for other women and when Sally was gone from work, Roy liked taking advantage of her absence.
This book is an important one that I really am afraid of giving to much away. It’s important because history is known to repeat itself. Americans, sadly, have had a history of being so cruel to a people: African-Americans, the Japanese, the gay/lesbian communities, the homeless, and so many others. It is important that we recognize that we must be vigilant and care about the weak in society and others who are “different” due to religious views or sexual orientation. The atrocities that were committed in the Blackwell’s Island Asylum should NEVER be repeated to any degree!!
The lessons one can learn from this book are abundant. To read the story about Elizabeth Cochran unfold as she enters the asylum and befriends Karla Gelfman and other women, one being Catherine who is kind and gentle and sane, is one amazing read. But more than that, it is one important read!
Recommendation: My recommendation is that there is not a person out there who should not read this book. It’s sad, yes, but it’s informative, well-researched, touching, enlightening, moving, and its historical relevance will pique the reader’s interest. I absolutely recommend A Different Kind of Angel because God only knows we need them.
*Note: The author gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My review is genuine and I spoke honestly about what I think of the book.