TITLE/AUTHOR: Before We Were Yours; Lisa Wingate
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2017
GENRE: Fiction / Historical
FORMAT: print / LENGTH: 378 pp
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.