Review Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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.

*Library Journal

Praise for Before We Were Yours

“A [story] of a family lost and found . . . a poignant, engrossing tale about sibling love and the toll of secrets.”People

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.”Parade

“One of the year’s best books . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near-perfect novel.”The Huffington Post

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun

Before We Were Yours: A Novel by [Wingate, Lisa]

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A [story] of a family lost and found . . . A poignant, engrossing tale about sibling love and the toll of secrets.”People

Before We Were Yours is sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . [Lisa] Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.”Parade

“One of the year’s best books . . . It is almost a cliché to say a book is ‘lovingly written’ but that phrase applies clearly to Lisa Wingate’s latest novel, Before We Were Yours. This story about children taken from their parents through kidnapping or subterfuge and then placed for adoption, for a price, clearly pours out of Wingate’s heart. . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near-perfect novel. It invades your heart from the very first pages and stays there long after the book is finished. Few novelists could strike the balance this story requires but Wingate does it with assurance. There are a lot of books that will catch your eye this summer, some from our best storytellers. Make sure this one is on your radar. It should not be missed.”The Huffington Post

“[An] affecting new novel.”The New York Post

“Every now and then a novel comes along that sweeps me off my reading feet. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is such a book. . . . It’s a great book-club read, one of those books that teaches you something, gives you lots to discuss and even more to think about. . . . Take note: This may be the best book of the year.”Shreveport Times

“This story is heartfelt and genuine, especially as Wingate explores the idea of home and family from a youngster’s point of view.”Historical Novels Review

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power. That Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society could actually exist, unraveling the lives of countless children, stealing their pasts and changing their futures, will give you chills. But the real feat of this stirring novel is how deeply Wingate plunges us into the heart and mind of twelve-year-old river gypsy Rill Foss. Rill’s utterly singular voice will stay with you long after the last page is turned, as will Wingate’s courage to follow her anywhere. . . . Vivid and affecting.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun

“A powerful tale of family, of sisters, of secrets kept and secrets shared. I absolutely loved this book. I’m still basking in the afterglow, in shock at the true-crime elements, in awe at the journey of these characters who seem to have immortal souls.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Top customer reviews

Lisa Kearns – TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE: 

I wasn’t familiar with Lisa Wingate’s books before I read “Before We Were Yours” but I’ll be looking for others now that I’ve read it. I was drawn fully into the story, set in both the 1930s and present day. It follows the story of the Foss children in the ’30s and Avery Stafford in present day, and brings to light a horrifying and shameful real-life scandal.

From the ’30s to 1950, a woman named Georgia Tann, who ran the (Memphis) Tennessee Children’s Home Society, stole poor children from their families and newborn babies from single mothers and sold them to celebrities, politicians and others who could afford them. It was all done under the guise of helping orphaned and abandoned children find good homes, but it was actually human trafficking.

Avery Stafford finds a puzzling photograph that leads her into an ever more confusing story of secrets and lies inside her upright, respected family. Along the way, she starts to question the man her family has picked for her to marry and her expected role within the family. What follows is a heartwarming story of love, betrayal, memories and staying true to your heart. In addition to the well developed characters and background love story, I liked the realistic view into the 1930s.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about a dark time in our history, when being poor was enough to have a family ripped apart forever.

April Garden:
This is a REAL story. It is poignant, sad, unbelievable and a must read to learn about how families were destroyed and children were mistreated in orphanages prior to 1950. The way children were stolen and placed in homes under cruel caretakers is chilling. Children were stolen, warehoused in homes until they could be adopted into “high class” families. The family story centered in Lisa Wingate’s book describes five children and their parents who live on a river houseboat on inlet to Mississippi River. They are close to lowest of socio-economic status possible. But,they dearly care for one another, especially the children and their mother. At term with pregnancy for twins when the midwife is unable to deliver the mother, the midwife insists the father take her to a hospital. They are told the twins do not survive, but the mother does. When the mother and father return to their houseboat the other five children have been stolen by the authorities. How the children survive their existence under the ugly supervisor, Miss Tann, their separate adoptions and how they manage to regain contact with each other is an unbelievable story. Andy was not stopped until 1950.
Viki House:
This is the first book I’ve ever read by Lisa Wingate, but having read it I will search through her other titles. It was an excellent book! The subject matter was hard, and sad at times, as I knew it would be before starting. I could not put it down because I had to find out how the story ended. It was a glorious book, I’m happy that I read it!

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