2017 Book #50 – Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

517zceaBMWLTitle: 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

My review:

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.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #12 – The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

51giUwdr+qLTitle: The Children’s Home
Author: Charles Lambert
Date finished: 2/12/16
Genre: Fiction, thriller/suspense
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Pages in book: 224
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:

For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor—and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.
In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.
Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.
The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque—as well as the glimmers of goodness—buried deep within the soul.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Morgan Fletcher, who was horribly disfigured years ago in a tragic family event. Since then he has hid himself away in his family home, trying to hide his face from the world. He realizes that his face causes fear and disgust and this is something he simply can not deal with. At some point he acquires Engel as his housekeeper, though how she came to find him he is yet unsure. And then after awhile children start showing up at the house, orphans who are in need of a home. And miraculously these strays seem to form a family together, and Morgan is grateful that his new family accepts him as he is and they are not frightened by his mangled features. And then Morgan meets his new friend Crane, a doctor who comes to care for one of the children when they are sick. Crane also is not frightened by Morgan and together they form a deep friendship.
After awhile though Morgan starts to notice something different about the children that live with him. They don’t make very much noise (for children) and they always seem to disappear until someone is looking for them. They seem to already know all about Morgan and his estranged sister and the rest of their family. Morgan starts to question where they all came from and how they came to find him, hidden away in a country estate.
Overall I thought this was a great book. It was mysterious and weird and interesting, just everything you could want in a book. I’m still not 100% sure that I understand everything that was going on at the end but I think that’s mostly because I had a lot of outside distractions going on, I might need to read the last like 20 pages again. And honestly I really want to discuss this book with someone else that’s read it because I do think there are some points that the author leaves open for interpretation and I would just love to get someone else’s thoughts on it.

The bottom line: I would definitely recommend this book! It was fascinating and I am definitely going to be suggesting it for a book club pick, I think this one would be great for a group discussion. Mysterious and weird and just a great read!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #90 – A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

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Title: A Window Opens
Author: Elisabeth Egan
Date finished: 8/26/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Pages in book: 384
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:

Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.
Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

My rating: 4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #11 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about Alice Pearse and her family: her husband, Nicholas, and her children, Margot, Oliver, and Georgie. Alice is a book-lover so I felt an instant connection with her character. I am not a mom yet but I hope to someday be one and a lot of the issues presented in this book are ones I have thought about many times already. When Nick leaves the law firm he’s been working at pretty much his whole career to open his own firm, Alice and Nick decide that Alice should go back to work full time until Nick’s new firm is up and running. Alice finds a job at Scroll, a company that is supposed to lead us into the book stores of the future. Unfortunately, not everything always works out the way we’d imagined at the start.
Alice’s job is time consuming and sometimes (like many jobs, mine included) it runs over into her personal time. And unfortunately (as is the case with many stressful jobs) her time with her family sometimes suffers because of her dedication to her job. I have to say this issue is one of the things that really bothered me about this book. Nick ends up with an attitude through most of the book about Alice’s dedication to her job. When he was working hard at his law firm and she was taking care of the kids, he was a dedicated worker. But when the roles are reversed Nick says that Alice is “obsessed” with her job. Just because she wants to do good work and she’s dedicated why does that make her obsessed? Also why is this a good excuse for Nick to get so drunk he ends up passing out on the couch every weekday afternoon? Alice had to take care of the kids mostly on her own for like ten years and she never had to get drunk every day. And then he has the nerve to ask her if she is the person she wants to be when he was the one who was too drunk at noon to answer the phone and pick up their sick daughter from school? Are you kidding me? So anyway suffice it to say I was not a huge fan of Nick’s character. I wanted to punch him in the face most of the time but Alice seemed to like him overall so I guess he can’t be all bad.
Overall I really liked this book. I am going to warn you there are a couple sad parts but I think those might have been the parts of the story I found the most touching. Obviously I also felt quite a bit of anger for some of the book but there was a lot of tenderness described in the story. Also a lot of the issues Alice faces through the story are ones that I will have to face sometime in the future. Alice is right, you can’t do it all. Sometimes you have to prioritize and those priorities don’t always have to be fixed, actually they shouldn’t be. Your job shouldn’t come first every day but there are days where you might need to put it first and I think that’s ok.

The bottom line: There were just so many feels. And the main character was highly relatable for me so this one really was a good one for me. I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page