A beautiful portrayal of lives altered by one corrupt and greedy woman.
When I finish a book, I like to let the story sit with me overnight before I review it. Before We Were Yours took more than one evening. There is so much depth to this story, so much pain and sorrow. The bright spots in the novel don’t allow the reader to get fully dragged under.
Based on true events surrounding Georgia Tann (who brokered children to the wealthy from the 1930s-1950s), Rill’s story is fictional but based on accounts of children who spent time in one of Tann’s homes.
Rill’s story is heartbreaking. A twelve-year-old girl who assumes responsibility to her four younger siblings but can’t keep them all together despite her best attempts. A girl who has only known life drifting on rivers in her family’s shanty boat with parents too young to call Mom and Dad. A girl who has everything she loves about her life stripped away only to be forced into a nightmare that grows worse as the days spent apart from her family stretch.
As Avery Stafford, a politician’s daughter whose life has been mapped out by her family, dives into the mystery present by a woman she meets at one of her father’s political appointments, she uncovers secrets long buried. Secrets that will make her take a hard look at her own life and future.
While reading, I felt Rill’s heartache, her shame and guilt over not keeping her family together, and her desire to return to the life she once had. And I felt Avery’s tug of war between keeping her family happy and living a life that makes her happy.
This story has a satisfying ending, though not exactly a happy one for everyone. It took me a bit to get into it but this is not unusual for me with Lisa Wingate’s stories. Probably because I tend to read more romances than anything, and while there was a hint of it in Before We Were Yours, the romance is not the heart and soul of this story. And just like every other book I’ve read written by this author, sticking with it was more than worth the payout.
Note: This book is written for the ABA market but is a clean read.
I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shanty boat. 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.