Sunday, June 27, 2021

Book Review - Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate

TITLE/AUTHOR:  Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate

PUBLISHER:  Ballantine 


GENRE: Fiction / Historical

FORMAT:  print LENGTH: 378 pp

SOURCE:  Library

SETTING(s):  TN and SC

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A fictionalized account of the Tennessee Children's Home scandal where poor children were rounded up and sold to wealthy families.

BRIEF REVIEW:   In 1939 Rill Foss and her four younger siblings lived a poor but happy life aboard  a Mississippi River shanty boat.  When their pregnant mother went into labor, the parents had to leave unexpectedly,  putting twelve year old Rill in charge.  Everything changes in the lives of these children when the authorities get involved and the children are found and taken to the children's home.  The children are told they will be reunited with their parents but, of course this does not happen.

In the present day,  Avery Stafford is a prosecutor in South Carolina and the daughter of a Senator. Born into a wealthy, prominent SC family, her family is helping her plan her wedding.  When her father is diagnosed with cancer, Avery comes back to help her father with business and personal matters. It is a chance encounter with May, a woman in a nursing home, a picture that May has in her possession and a bracelet that has Avery wondering if somehow May and her grandmother may have a connection.

The dual story lines alternate with Rill's POV (past) and Avery's story (present) and the possible link to the past as Avery begins her personal investigative work.  Rill's story was quite compelling and sad at times. It is through this narrative that we learn the deep dark secrets of the children's home and what children had to endure.   Avery's story was quite good as well but, there was an unexpected romantic development added to the story which seemed unnecessary and basically served as a needless filler.   There is a lot of abuse and neglect suffered by the children in this story which is hard to read about at times.  There were a few parts that left me confused; some people are mentioned and then seen to just disappear without explanation, leaving the reader to speculate what might have happened.

This book was selected for our June Book Group discussion and it lead to a good discussion.  Most of us were glad we had a chance to read this one but, that we would not have minded if the cheesy romance sub-plot had been eliminated.

There are lots of articles online about Georgia Tann, the Director of the Tennessee Children's Home, who  was responsible for the rounding up of these children and some 5,000 others around that time. Many of these children were adopted out to wealthy families in Hollywood and throughout the US.

RATING:  4/5


  1. holy smokes, I guess I didn't know about this kidnapping scheme of 5,000 kids. OMG. gives me the chills. thx for linking the article of the perpetrator. Wingate really dug up quite a (real) story

  2. This one interests me even though I typically avoid emotional stories involving children. I know a little about Georgia Tann but I really do want to give this one a try.

  3. This sounds like a heartbreaking story.

  4. Must be a heart breaking story/ies.

  5. I liked this one, but I would have been just as happy if Wingate had stuck with Rill's story and not bothered with Avery's. But then I'm not a huge fan of dual timelines. :)

  6. I didn't realize this was based on some reality until I had finished reading it, which made it even more interesting. I thought it was well done.

  7. I thought this was a very good novel and my book group had a great discussion about it and the true story behind it. I'd forgotten all about the "cheesy romance sub-plot" and agree that it was unnecessary. Still, I think I'd like to read more by Wingate.

  8. I liked this one a lot, but it is a sad, sad story. I can't believe Georgia Tann got away with everything she did. Shameful.

  9. My mother has recommended this to me several times. She's read several books by this author, but I haven't tried one of her books yet.


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