Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by Lisa Wingate

Overview: 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.

Martha Lawton (07/26/17): Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate checked all my boxes: great characters, interesting plot line, a little mystery, and lots of questions. I was not prepared for the anger I would feel toward one of the characters, nor was I prepared for how much I would care about the other characters. The story is well written and planned. Quite frankly the idea that the story is based on a what really happened in Tennessee makes it feel even more important of a read. The story is told a series of chapters back and forth between the older story and the newer story.

The Foss children in 1939 living with their parents a subsistence life on the river were happy, loved and cherished. A cruel twisted reality had them kidnapped and forced away from their family. The modern day story introduces us to Avery Stafford, a young lawyer engaged to a long time friend living at home and slowly being indoctrinated into the life in the public eye as a Senator.

One day, she meets an older woman at a nursing home and Avery’s journey into the past begins. She finds herself wanting to discover who the woman really is and what if anything does she have in common with Avery’s grandmother. Clues are slowly revealed and Avery’s need to understand, just might take her political future away.

A wonderful book! Inspiring and full of emotional highs and lows! A top read for the summer! Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a fabulous read!
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss (07/23/17): I agree with Judy that this was a very interesting read. Because the story is based on historical fact the book really made an impact on me. Children being stolen and then adopted out as orphans is a totally abhorrent concept. That it actually occured makes me very sad and angry. What always impresses me with stories like this, is how the children somehow overcome the obstacles and not only survive, but thrive. I was proud of the young siblings involved in this particular novel, but my heart went out to them throughout their ordeal.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (06/29/17): I was drawn to read this book when I learned it was about one of the earliest adoption agencies (1939) that operated with hospital, police and government support, literally taking poor children and placing them in more affluent families. Lisa Wingate alternated the story from the voice of an older child who is abducted with her 4 siblings to the story of a young female attorney on the cusp of major life changes in her personal and professional life,who learns about the impact of the Tennessee Children's Home Society Orphanage on her grandmother's life. It is a compelling read, using historical fiction to portray one of the many families impacted by this facility and its cruel, heartless founder. I don't think the issue of poor children being given more opportunities by living in affluent homes was paramount, because the motives of this agency were only to make money for itself, with children being abused, starved, left to die, and treated like chattel. So sad that this really happened and that the government supported it and refused to open up family records until 1995. Very interesting read.
Rating: ****

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