Before We Were Yoursby Lisa Wingate Published 06 Jun 2017
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THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly 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.
"Before We Were Yours" Reviews
I absolutely loved this heartbreakingly beautiful piece of writing! I'd give this book 10 stars if I could! "Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate grabbed me from the very beginning, tossed my emotions around like a salad, and never let go! I didn't want it to end.
I listened to the audio version! Both narrators deserve huge props for their performances! I actually think this novel was enhanced by the superb narration!
There are two storylines going on in this novel, one in 1939 and one is present day. They slowly unravel and come together. I thought the writing was wonderful and so were the characters in both storylines. As gut wrenching as this novel is I feel it is an important story that must be read!
There is a bit of chick lit to the part of this story taking place in modern day. I actually enjoyed the bit of romance in it, but I know some diehard historically fiction fans might not.
People are comparing this to "The Orphan Train". In my humble opinion it's a much better book.
OK, so I'm going to be the party pooper on this one.......I liked this one, but didn't love it. There were things I really liked about it and other things that drug it down a bit for me (hence, a 3.5 rating). So I'll try to list a few here.
First, the story. I think just about everyone knows this story. I'm sure I'm the last to read and review. A historical fiction read that has headlines plucked from the real world. Two dual stories told in alternating times between Memphis, Tennessee 1939 and present day Aiken, South Carolina. The true story portion was the horrible things that happened for over 30 years in the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage. The woman running it had some connections - judges, politicians, police, those with money...who LET her get away with basically stealing children from their parents. Their parents were poor, or less educated, or just made her mad. She then 'sold' these children to unsuspecting potential parents...and probably some suspecting too. It's utterly horrible to learn of this part of our history. The two stories are told from the point of view of a family of children ripped from their parents and put through the system and a woman, a bit lost, trying to figure out what her family is hiding after an elderly woman mistakes her for someone else.
What I liked:
*The story from the point of view of Rill - OMG, so heartbreaking. I spent so much time reading up on real articles about this time and the horrible, evil witch who ran the orphanage.
*I love historical fiction and always love to read where a small piece of history is used and a bigger story is weaved around this topic
*The audio - the narrators were fabulous! Especially the narrator for Rill. (which helped the rating)
What I disliked:
*As indicated, I do love a story weaved around a part of history. But what I don't like is when an author just piles on more and more dread and horrible things to happen. It just becomes too much and after awhile, I think the story gets a bit ridiculous (yup, The Nightengale did the same thing)
*Avery's story line. Initially, I had a hard time getting into her story. Eventually I warmed to her a bit, but the love-story portion was not needed.
*Too long - so much un-needed commentary could have been removed. Most of this came in Avery's story line. For example, way too much detail on the cab, riding in the cab, etc. After sometime, I just wanted it over.
*The very ending seemed rushed. Even though I thought it was a long read (needed editing), it just seemed so fast so many things were wrapped up too quickly with a bow.
*Perhaps it's just me, but it bugged me a bit how none of the children even tried to speak up. I understand how horrible it was, but children usually speak their mind. Even when you don't want them to. At least once speak their mind before they realize the trouble they might get in. Then, as adults, they wanted to hide the fact they were sisters.
Overall, I'm glad I read this. I learned a lot about this part of history. But I can't help but wonder, since this was the big NG Historical Fiction book of the year 2017, did I go in with the highest expectations that could not be met? I tried to separate that, but who knows....I didn't think this was the best of 2017. But everyone voted for their own favorite reads.
This is 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.
The siblings were kidnapped and taken to the Tennessee Children's Home Society in Memphis, Tennessee. Miss Tann is an evil lady and controls all the decisions. The home is rotten to the core. The stories are sad and gruesome. Kids were brokened. Georgia Tann made money by charging huge fees for adoptions, transportation, delivery out of state. She took children from poor families and sold them to celebrities and people with political interest. She duped women in hospital maternity wards into signing surrender papers while they were still under sedation. She told people that their babies died when they hadn't. Miss Tann was such a monster, a very evil lady.
Georgia Tann did indeed facilitate the adoptions of children from the 1920's through the 1950's. Many of the children were not orphans. Many had loving parents who wanted tonraise them. The children were literally kidnapped in broad daylight and no matter how birth parents tried to fight in court, they were not allowed to win. The babies weren't given proper food or medical care. They were to weak and dehydrated to cry. They were tied to beds, and chairs, they were beaten, held under the bath water, and were molested. It was a house of horrors. In the end Georgia Tann died of cancer before before she could be forced to answer charges.
I thought the book was a little disturbing and heartbreaking. The book went back and forth to the past
and present. The past was the siblings earlier years and the horror they went through. The present was the siblings trying to find each other when they got older. I loved the earlier years the best. It was so emotional and heart breaking. I can't imagine how anyone could do these things to kids, but it happened. It was so awful. The Tennessee Children's home was a horror home. No child should have to go through what these children went through. The author did very well with the characters. She made them come to life. The siblings had a deep love for each other. My heart went out for them. I just adored the siblings, Lark, Fern, Gabian, Camellia, and Rill. I felt that Rill was the strongest one. Miss Tann was an evil lady, a monster.
This is an emotional, heart breaking book that will stick with me for a long time.
This was a Traveling Sister Read and enjoyed discussing it with them.
I don't read a lot of non fiction so I really appreciate when a novel can enlighten me on things that happened that I wouldn't have otherwise known about . As in Orphan Train when I first learned about their existence or in What She Left Behind, which highlights the atrocities of a mental institution and in particular the treatment of women, this story inspired by real events relays the sad story of a family torn apart by the greed and horrible acts against children and their families. The author explains in her note that the characters are fictional but the place and the circumstances and the woman who perpetrated these acts are real. In a recent interview Wingate described the seed for this story.
" A rerun of the Investigation Discovery: Dangerous Women cycled through at about two in the morning. I looked up and saw images of an old mansion. The front room was filled with bassinettes and babies. I tuned in and immediately became fascinated by the bizarre, tragic, and startling history of Georgia Tann and her Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. I couldn’t help but dig into the story. That was the spark that ignited Before We Were Yours." 5/29/17 in an interview on The Untold Story Guru.
The reality of what happened to numerous children from 1920 - 1960 is depicted through the story of five siblings taken illegally and subjected to the adoption for money system spearheaded by Tann. I said that the story is sad, but that's an understatement. It really is heartbreaking and though the characters are fictional, I couldn't help but think about the real children who were affected. There are past and present storylines that do come together and make for a captivating read. The Goodreads description provides more plot details, which I will leave out here and just say that I definitely recommend it. I can't quite give it 5 stars as I felt that the romantic thread in the current story diluted the story a bit for me . It didn't add to the importance in my opinion. Having said that, this is a worthy read, eye opening and heart wrenching with a thoughtful and satisfying ending.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group- Balllantine through NetGalley.
My book won the GR 2017 award. Yay!
Wow! This book was really sad and had a happy ending at least. I had no idea this was a place and it breaks my heart 😢
This is written in the front of the book:
For the hundreds who vanished
and for the thousands who didn't.
May your stories
not be forgotten.
For those who help today's orphans
find forever homes.
May you always know the value
of your work
and your love.
This book is about the Foss children. They are fictional in the book but taken from real life stories. The stories of this horrible woman, Georgia Tann, who had children stolen from poor families and sold to rich families. Those that actually survived living at the Tennessee Children's Home Society. These kids were malnourished, raped. Jesus, I can't go on with all of the travisties.
You can google and find out tons of information
Here is a photo of the evil woman.
Here is a picture of a memorial to the hundreds of children who died. There are a lot of photos if you google.
That's all I have people. I just can't. I'm crying too much to write anything else.
Recommend to everyone.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a 2017 Ballantine Books publication.
This is an amazing, heart wrenching story centered around the true events involving the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.
When Avery Stafford, the daughter of a prominent Senator stumbles upon the possibility her grandmother is harboring a dark family secret, she nearly becomes obsessed with her mission to uncover the truth.
The story flashes back to 1939, when Rill Foss and her siblings are snatched from their poor Mississippi Shanty boat, after their parents had to leave them behind in an emergency medical situation. They are taken to a children’s home, but before they were 'adopted' out, they endured cruel conditions and abuse.
The narrative switches back and forth between Rill and Avery, but I must confess my heart was with Rill from start to finish.
This novel pulls on the heartstrings, stirs outrage and horror, but at the end of the day the story was about familial bonds, and a spiritual connection that can not be broken, no matter what.
Wingate did a magnificent job of pulling the reader back in time, creating a realistic atmosphere, and building a fictional story around one of the most shocking black-market adoption operations in American history.
But, the real magic is creating characters we care for, cheer for, and want to champion. It may have taken a lifetime, but the truth has a way of freeing itself, exposing crimes and scandal, but it also brought out an incredible family saga that is both inspirational and heartwarming.
Avery is a central character, but she can’t compete with Rill, so the author wisely fattens up her part of the story with a little romance, which kept her character from simply becoming a means to an end. I did enjoy how the mystery unfolded, which made Avery into a bit of an amateur sleuth.
I loved the conclusion of the story, which was about a perfect as could be expected under the circumstances. It is all very bittersweet, with a lot of sadness, but there were blessed times, as well, and those are the reflections and moments that will stay with me.
There are some difficult passages in this novel, which you should be prepared for, but this is such a great story! Everyone kept telling me I needed to read this book and they were right- so I feel I should pass that advice on to you- Read this book!! You’ll be glad you did!
*For those who are unfamiliar with Georgia Tann, a Google search will give you a clear picture of her dirty deeds and how she was eventually exposed, although it was too little, too late. Shockingly, the children’s home was used by famous actresses Joan Crawford and June Allyson which is a little bit of trivia I was totally unaware of before reading the author’s notes.