Before We Were Yoursby Lisa Wingate Published 06 Jun 2017
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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.
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 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.
"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.
I won this through one of my book groups 😊 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.
4.5 stars! What a heart-wrenching, powerful and emotional read!
I’ll start by explaining that ever since I laid eyes on this cover a few months ago, I haven’t stopped thinking of this book. There is just something about this cover that calls to me and makes me want to reach into the picture to hug and comfort these two little girls. I have never had a book cover ‘speak’ to me as powerfully as this one does.
With that being said, I was so happy that the actual story lived up to my hopes from the cover. It was an emotional, shocking and devastating story that I simply cannot stop thinking about. This fictional novel was based on true events surrounding Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage which was an organization involved with the kidnapping of children and their illegal adoptions. Tann made millions from her black-market baby adoption scheme from the 1920’s to 1950. I had not heard of this sickening piece of history until I read this and I have been googling and researching it since I finished this book. I have a hard time accepting this actually happened – it is so shocking and upsetting.
This novel follows the lives of the five Foss siblings who grow up living on a Mississippi River shantyboat with their parents in 1939. They have a unique and wild childhood with parents who shower them with love and affection in unconventional ways. One of the children, Twelve-year-old Rill Foss, grows up taking care of her younger siblings, often fulfilling parental roles. Rill is one of the narrators of the book and she is a character I will not soon forget - I absolutely adored her!
The present day story wasn't as interesting and slightly took away from my overall enjoyment. However, Rill's story more than makes up for it.
I highly recommend this wonderfully written and well researched book! This will definitely stay on my mind for a long time.
I will end with one of the several quotes that stood out for me. “I learned that you need not be born into a family to be loved by one.”
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.
An amazing,don't want to put down, hold the book in a big hug and wish this story never ended. Sigh* BUT....
This grabbed me from the get go. Two stories told simultaneously during 2 different time periods.
Avery's story, present day. She's an attorney who has met up with a woman in a nursing home who says she looks familiar. Curiosity starts to open this Pandora's box. Rill, a river rat, has been kidnapped along with her 4 siblings back in the 30's and sent to an orphanage to be sold to the highest bidder. Secrets are revealed that threaten to destroy a political family. Based on reality, which is disturbing in itself, I'm still left baffled. How does Judy fit in here? What did I miss?? I did have some wine while I was reading this but not during its entirety. I loved the writing, I didn't mind the romance but it could have been a great story without it.
4.5 ⭐️ and a big thanks to Jen M. for her sleuthing efforts for assisting me with the final piece of the puzzle!
A Disturbing, Heart-wrenching & Powerful Piece of Historical Fiction.
Before We Were Yours is a story about families torn apart by Social Injustice. Told from two different points of view: Rill, now known as May, who experienced horrors most of us can’t even begin to imagine; and Avery, a former Federal Prosecutor and the Daughter of a Senator, who feels the need to live up to her families’ expectations at all times.
Between the 1920’s-1950’s, The Tennessee Children’s Home Society was run by a matron named Georgia Tann. She illegally adopted out hundreds of children to the highest bidder. Those who stayed in the care of the home were abused, neglected, or worse. And sadly, many children died under her care. The tactics Ms. Tann used to scare parents into signing their children over were despicable and once that happened, there was nothing that could be done. She was the epitome of evil incarnate. Just ask Rill Foss and her four younger siblings, who found themselves in Tennessee Children’s Home Society one day, after their parents left them home alone. Rill thought life was a struggle before, but she had no idea how good they had it. One by one, Rill’s family fell apart and she lost control of everything.
Avery Stafford is a former Federal Prosecutor, who left her own life behind (which includes her fiancé) to return home to care for her ailing father, the Senator. She has been summoned to attend political functions and events with him and be the “dutiful daughter.” In the midst of attending these events, she decides to visit with her Grandmother Judy, who is suffering from Dementia. During this visit, her Grandmother divulges something to Avery that she has kept hidden all of her life. This secret leads Avery to uncover facts about her Grandmother and helps Avery down her own path to self-discovery.
The girls and women in Before We Were Yours are extremely strong & independent. My heart broke for all of the children who spent time in The Tennessee Children’s Home Society or any place that even remotely resembles that. Parts of this story were not easy to read. It is a truly profound & thought-provoking character study, which is full of atrocities that no person, let alone a child, should ever have to endure. While the subject matter is a tough one, the book is very well done and the storylines are intertwined expertly.
Lisa Wingate’s writing is phenomenal. The book is so good, it actually hurts to read.
Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine & Lisa Wingate for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon on 6.11.17.