Although I have been a fan of Lisa Wingate books since the very first one I picked up several years ago, I was particularly interested in reading “Before We Were Yours”. I have lived my entire life on the outskirts of Memphis and over the years since my childhood have sometimes heard talk among family members that an adopted relative may have come from Georgia Tann. No one ever knew for certain and all those who may have known the truth are now long gone. It is the mystery in my own family that enhanced my interest in this novel.
As always, Wingate’s writing is exquisite. She pulled me right into the story and I felt as though I was experiencing it along with Rill and her sisters and brother. Some readers may find it just a bit slow at the beginning but I encourage persistence. This book is definitely worth your while and you will be glad you kept with it until you are hooked like I was. Although the story took place in two different eras, I easily moved from one to the other with no difficulty. I loved the way that the two stories were woven together so well by the end and especially loved a few surprises along the way.
It was heartbreaking to read Rill’s narration of the horrors experienced by herself, her siblings, and other children in one of Georgia Tann’s institutions. Before reading “Before We Were Yours” I had no idea of the extent of mistreatment the children endured. Reading about it was often difficult, especially while wondering if my relative had experienced the same abuse. The contrast between Rill’s life and Avery Stafford’s life was striking. I had to admire Avery for her persistence in getting to the bottom of the mystery she had inadvertently stumbled upon despite the discouragement that came from every direction.
“Before We Were Yours” is a story about family secrets, both past and present and the long-lasting effect on the lives of those family members. It was a riveting tale based on a true scandal. We can only hope that our society does not produce any more Georgia Tanns but I am afraid there will always be more people like her to take her place. I loved this book and cannot wait to see what the author has planned next for her readers.
I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by Lisa Wingate’s Book Ambassadors. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking [and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart . . . based on a notorious true-life scandal.”*
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.
Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: