Title: Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate
Date finished: 6/6/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Blurb from the cover:
Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.
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.
My rating: 4.5 stars out of a scale of 5
This book tells the story of two women, separated by many decades but both affected by one same event in history. Avery Stafford is the daughter of a prominent politician, and she is being groom to take his place should the need arise due to his health. While at an event, Avery meats May Weathers, an elderly woman who just began her stay at a residential care facility. When Avery sees an old photograph of May’s with a woman who looks really similar to her grandmother, she can’t help but be curious. And when she asks her grandmother about it, her reaction is odd. Decades ago, when May Weathers was a young girl, something awful happened to her. At a dark time in Tennessee’s history, poor parents with young children had their families torn apart; their children kidnapped and sold off to the highest bidder like cattle. Organized by a woman who could only be described as truly evil, these “adoptions” were never overturned and these poor children were ripped from their families. Based on true events, this heart wrenching story is a fictionalized version of what most likely happened to many families in Tennessee’s history. And from Avery’s point of view the author depicts the ripple effect over the generations.
Overall I ended up really liking this book. Towards the middle it was starting to get hard to get through for me because the subject matter is just so overwhelmingly traumatic. Reading about how this young girl was ripped from a family, that while poor still loved her, to be placed in a home where she was abused and tormented and separated from her younger brothers and sisters was awful. I was starting to think that the book was going to be too emotionally traumatic for me. However I persevered and I am so glad that I did. While this was still an extremely difficult subject matter, I think it is definitely worth the read. Hearing about how May did everything she could do to protect her family, and the heartache and struggles that she went through in her young life was so inspiring. This is definitely a book that you should keep a box of Kleenex handy for because while May’s young life was overwhelmingly sad, her life didn’t end there. The author was able to turn the trauma into a hopeful and touching story that I just loved. And generations later as Avery finds out things she never knew about her family, the reader can see through both her struggles and May’s that there is still goodness in the world. Told between alternating chapters set in 1939 and the present day, this is a story that will truly reach in and twist you up inside, but you your heart real will feel full in the end. I would highly recommend reading this one.
The bottom line: This was a great book! It was so moving and while sad also somehow hopeful, I loved it. I would definitely recommend it.
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page