Before We Were Yours. Finished 1-10-18, rating 4.5/5, historical fiction, pub. 2017
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.
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. from Goodreads
This was the Goodreads Historical Fiction Winner and although I didn’t read any of the others I can see why this won. There once was an evil woman who stole children from poor, loving parents and sold them to the highest bidder. These children were forced to live in horrifying conditions and it’s completely heartbreaking. That is true. The book is the fictionalized account of the kids she abused.
Rill, Camellia, Lark, Fern and Gabian will stay with me for a while. These kids, aged from 2-12, all lived on a run down boat that their parents moved when needed. They were well loved. When the mother, Queenie, was forced to go to the hospital to deliver twins, 12 year old Rill was left in charge only to be overrun by what she thought were police. All five of the beautiful, blonde (but one) Foss children were taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home and exposed to adults who only viewed them as profit, or worse, play things. The story was gripping and hard to put down.
It alternated with a current day story that connected to 1939 and was rooted in the political arena. It reminded me a bit of the current John McCain story with a Senator suffering from cancer but in this one the family decides to groom one of their own to take over if needed.
We read this one for our book group and everyone liked or loved it, but one. The 1939 storyline was universally loved, but there were some dissenting views on the current storyline. A few saw it as wasted potential and too clunky, but the rest of us saw it as welcome relief from the harsh realities of the horrific Children’s Home.
I would highly recommend this one. If you are interested in the real Georgia Tann and her home of abomination Google her or start with this one.
10 thoughts on “Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate”
I thought all of Wingate’s books were Christian fiction so I’ve never read any her work. You’ve made this sound appealing.
This is definitely not Christian fiction. I didn’t know that’s what her other books were. I think you’d really like this one!
This sounds a little bit like Orphan Train. I am constantly amazed at how how much history I DON’T know. And I was history major!
I think you’d really like this one! I haven’t read Orphan Train but I did hear the comparison at book club.
I’ve read another book by Lisa Wingate, TENDING ROSES, and liked it very much. I do think that she writes Christian fiction, but not all of her books fit in that area. I’ll watch for this one at the library.
This is my first book by her and didn’t know that she wrote Christian fiction, which this isn’t. I think you’d really like this one Kay!
This sounds really good. I’m adding it to my list to read.
On the one hand, this sounds like a wonderful emotional read. On the other hand, it also sounds draining and emotionally taxing as well, because of those children stayed with you, well, let’s just say my imagination is going into overdrive right now.
Oh, yes! I am definitely interested in reading this one. I will have to check out the link you shared. Thank you, Stacy.