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 that the truth is much darker. 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.
Aitken, 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 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—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.
Review of Before We Were Yours
Powerful and gripping, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, is the heart wrenching story of love, loss and the unbreakable bonds of family. When Avery Stafford comes home to assist her dad Senator Wells with political and social appearances while he recovers from cancer treatments, she never imagines a chance encounter with an elderly woman will change the course of her life. While assisting her father with the media at a local nursing home, Avery inadvertently meets May Crandall, a new resident having difficulty adjusting to her new life. As May reaches out to Avery, she grabs her wrist and accidentally removes Avery’s dragonfly bracelet. When Avery returns to the nursing home to retrieve her bracelet she discovers a picture in May’s room that bears an uncanny resemblance to her grandmother Judy suffering from dementia. Unable to let the picture and the strange encounter go, Avery returns to talk with May about the picture and embarks on a journey of discovery that will uncover a personal connection to each other and the scandalous history of an orphanage known as the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.
As the story of May and her grandmother come to light, everything Avery has been groomed for no longer seems relevant. Now she must decide on a different course as she is armed with information that could change her family’s life. Avery must decide how she will bring the past into the present for the sake of her grandmother, May and herself.
I LOVED this book. I have read other novels written by Lisa Wingate, but this is my favorite by far. Her characters in Before We Were Yours made me cry, cheer and cringe. Avery was tenacious in her ability to discover the truth. Rill was tender, gritty and heartbreaking in her attempt to keep her siblings together. May was mysterious, determined and full of spirit. Mrs. Tann and Riggs literally made my skin crawl. Once I started this novel I had great difficulty putting it down. From the moment May mistakenly called Avery Fern I was hooked. Along with wonderful, gritty characters this book also had tenderness, suspense, mystery and a little romance. A great read for the summer Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate will not be disappointing. It will be a story that stays with you long after the last page is turned.
I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for an advanced copy of Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.
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