Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:THE BLOCKBUSTER HITâ??Over two million copies sold! A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller â??Poignant, engrossing.â?â??People â?˘ â??Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nationâ??s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.â?â??Paula McLain Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their familyâ??s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in chargeâ??until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Childrenâ??s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parentsâ??but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facilityâ??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 fiancĂŠ, 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 familyâ??s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption. Based on one of Americaâ??s most notorious real-life scandalsâ??in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the countryâ??Lisa Wingateâ??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. Publishers Weeklyâ??s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017 â?˘ Winner of the Southern Book P
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First of all, I am positive this would have been a better book if the author had
The book goes back and forth between a child's past in 1939 and an adult woman's present in the present day, and I can't tell you what a problem that is. The present-day sections are so trite, so ridiculously over-the-top in what the author is trying to do, and the characters so flat and stereotypical, it's a little bit infuriating. The present-day sections do nothing less than cheapen the history and the sections told in the past. And here's the thing: I grew up in the south. I've spent a fair amount of time in the towns that this author chooses to use as her setting for the present day... and this book feels like it makes a mockery of them, offering some odd ideal of what an upper-class woman must be in that world. Much of what comes across practically bleeds not just sentimentalism and casual racism, but a stereotype of the south which is the very stereotype most Southerners recognize only as Hollywood stereotype. Add in the casual higher-than-thou attitude and the over-the-top focus on thoughts of feminism vs. tradition alongside self-absorbed righteousness, and it's all just too much to take.
Halfway through the book, I didn't want the narrator of the present-day sections to find a way out of her loveless, society-approved relationship and find closure about her family and her grandmother. I wanted her to walk into the ocean and disappear from the book so that I could just enjoy the chapters written from the child's voice in 1939. I imagine you'll ask why I didn't just keep reading those chapters, and skip the others--and the truth is I thought about it. But in all reality, I wasn't enjoying them so much as I wasn't annoyed by them, and I'd much rather read a history book to get any insight into the history touched on here--and, for me, that's not normal.
So, no, I wouldn't recommend this book. I couldn't finish it, and I'll be sure to never pick up another book by Wingate. Regardless of the awards--which I can only guess were awarded by people who had a very particular idea of the South that was mostly driven by wishful nostalgia or stereotype--I don't think much of anything of this book, and I'm sorry to have spent money on it.
I didn't care for the back and forth with the present day, although I get the why, and I liked the tie up at the end. But I found myself rushing through the present day with Avery Stafford to get back to Rill Foss.
That aside, this was such an emotional read. (Yes, tissues needed) It was definitely a thought provoking, malice provoking read. I sped through reading this emotional tale because:
1. I was aghast that a woman could be that greedy and use children this way.
2. I was aghast that so many "upstanding?" humans used her services. But to be fair, they weren't aware of the behind the scenes lives these children were living. And unfortunately, those ghastly behind the scenes horrors the children were living were AFTER this woman abducted, stole, coerced parents and totally abused the system.
I feel in love with the children from the Kingdom of Arcadia. The author did a great job with this story and I was thoroughly entertained. This was my first book by this author and I will definitely keep her in mind in the future to read more of her books.
Huge thanks to Random House/Ballantine for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
The book is written from two points of view. In the historical
Powerful reads like Ms. Wingateâs are often disturbing. Before We Were Yours stirs powerful emotions. The writing is first rate. The struts of the book are the strong characters she creates, based on real stories. Perseverance under oppression, hope, and human resilience are the main themes.
Highly recommended,Before We Were Yours is a heart-wrenching novel that held my attention from the first page to the last.
I thank NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.
Two alternate stories, one in the past narrated by a young girl, whose brother and three sisters were taken from their parents and taken to this horrible place. Children were not treated well here, punished severely for minor indescretions and fed as little as possible. Blonde children were particularly valuable as they were more easily adopted, bringing the larger sums of money to it's notorious founder. Her story is heartbreaking, and though hers is a made up character her story is representative of many that were factual. The modern day story follows a grown woman, Avery, from a prestigious family who wants to find the truth about her beloved grandmother, now suffering from dementia, life and her own family background.
I readily admit to liking the former story more, the writing is finer, the characters more fleshed out, the plot tighter and their story more interesting. I did like how the stories come together in the end. All in all, the author did a fine job with this book and bringing to light another little known injustice. Of course these type and other injustices are not just confined to the past, and I can't help thinking about the injustices being committed in our present that readers will read about fifty years from now. Something to think about.
ARC from Netgalley
About halfway through
While the sons and daughters of Queenie and Briny Foss were fictional characters. Their experience with the Tennessee Childrenâs Home Society mirrored those of real life victims. Wingate tells their story in such a way that the reader is fully engrossed and completely overwhelmed with the raw emotion evoked by the tale. I found myself praying for those real-life children and families who were victimized in this decades-long tragedy. While this book is no fluffy beach read, I would suggest that if you donât read any other book this summer, read this one.
I thank Ballantine Books a division of Random House and NetGalley for making this book available in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for providing this review.
I am intrigued my fictional novels that are based on true stories. The facts are true but how they are made play out in the
Until this novel I had never heard of the Tennessee Childrenâs Home Society spearheaded by Georgia Tann. From the 1920âs through 1950âs, hundreds of children were kidnapped by abduction or trickery from loving and caring parents. Until they were adopted by wealthy or famous people, for a hefty fee, they suffered unimaginable physical abuse, sexual assault, neglect, and with some even death.
In 1939 a young girl, Rill, and her siblings lived happily in poverty on a house boat with their parents. While her father and mother were at the hospital welcoming another child they were snatched away and taken to one of Ms. Tannâs âhomesâ. That was when the nightmare began. As if the heartbreak of being separated from their parents was not enough, Rill also felt the pain of trying to protect her younger siblings and keep them together in an environment of cruelty and violence.
My heart broke at the horrors these children encountered. I never imagined!
The chapters alternate from Rillâs narrative to Avery Stafford in the present day. Avery is 30, wealthy, privileged and the member of a prestigious political family, totally opposite to Rillâs experience. When Avery attends a nursing home tour a resident appears to recognize her. She returns to visit her. In a sepia photo in May Crandallâs room she sees a family. One of the children strongly resembles her grandmother. She cannot get it out of her mind and begins to relentlessly seek out answers about her Grandma Judyâs past. Could May be a part of that past? Due to dementia claiming her grandmotherâs once sharp mind she cannot ask her questions. Itâs all up to Avery. What secrets will she unearth? How will they change her and her familyâs lives? I couldnât turn the pages fast enough! An incredible book with an amazing story!
Thank you, Lisa Wingate, for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book. The opinions I have stated are my own.
Wingate has taken a footnote from history and turned into a page-turner. The reality of the story is Georgia Tann and her Tennessee Childrenâs Home Society. On the outside, the
Based on this solid fact and careful research, Wingate creates a Mississippi River family whose home is a shantyboat named the Arcadia in 1936. The Great Depression is raging across America, so life on the river isnât so badâŚat least they always have something to eat.
The five children and their parents, Briny and Queenie, lead a wandererâs existence, traveling up and down the river. The kids get schooling here and there, but they seem to always be on the move to where the fishing is better and the weather is warmer. When Queenie goes into labor and a river midwife canât help her deliver, Briny is forced to leave the boat and take his wife to a Memphis hospital. Twelve-year-old Rill is left to care for the boat and her four siblings.
The parents have been gone a couple of days when strangers passing as the law come to collect the children, telling them they only be staying at the Tennessee Childrenâs Home Society until their parents can come and collect them. The abuse they endure at the hands of Tann and her minions are criminal.
Then flash forward to contemporary time. Avery Stafford and her father, Senator Stafford, have returned to South Carolina for the Senatorâs health issues. Avery is being groomed to take his place in the Senate, following in her fatherâs and grandfatherâs footsteps. But itâs a chance meeting with an elderly woman during a nursing home photo opp, that changes her life forever.
The encounter compels Avery to dig through her familyâs history to try to determine what the elderly woman and her dementia-addled grandmother have in common.
Waving between past and present, this is the story of how one familyâs past has shaped its present. A highly compulsive read, the characters are complex and well-drawn. Before We Were Yours receives 6 out of 5 stars in Julieâs world.
As I was reading, my heart kept telling me ânoâ, but when you finish this story, and I had to google ahead and find out, this is a fictional story about a true happening. The injustice of it all, and when you see no one was brought to justice for ruining so many lives, it will break your heart.
The author did such a marvelous job with this story and kept me page turning, and yes the secrets come out, at least in our family scenario. There are so many heart-breaking scenes here, but when you meet the survivors they are elderly, and this is their story.
Thank you Lisa Wingate for doing such a marvelous job with this book, I am sure it was a hard story to tell.
I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Ballantine Books, and was not required to give a positive review.
A beautifully written and very disturbing story about the Tennessee Childrenâs Home Society, the woman who ran it, and the children and families who were affected. Rill, a 12 year old âriver rat,â and her brothers and sisters are forcibly removed from their
The characters, real and imaginary, have clear personalities. The action is real and terrifying. The time and place are vividly shown.
If you have children, or work with them, or just know a few, this tale of real events in the not distant past is horrifying. Book groups will have a field day with discussions of family, love, poverty, discipline, adoption, heartache, sacrifice and hope.
5 of 5 stars
MY RATING âď¸âď¸âď¸âď¸âď¸
PUBLISHER Ballantine Books
PUBLISHED June 6, 2017
NARRATOR Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber
BEFORE WE WERE YOURS is a thought-provoking and masterfully-told story of a family torn apart by one unscrupulous woman.
In Aiken, SC 2016, Avery Stafford, a successful federal prosecutor has returned home to help her father, a U. S. senator weather a health crisis. Avery was born into wealth and privilege and is engaged to her handsome childhood friend. A chance encounter with a women resident at a nursing home has her curiosity bubbling. When she asks her Grandma Jane about the mysterious woman, she hears the name Arcadia for the first time. But what is Arcadia, a place, a person or something else? Avery is compelled to find if there is a connection between her family and this lonely woman in the nursing home.
Everyone should read this book to ensure we all learn from the mistakes of the past. This story is fiction, but is based on one of America's most notorious real-life scandals. Georgia Tann, who was director of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country from the 1920-50âs. LISA WINGATEâs writing is fabulous and the story which she has creatively woven is both gut-wrenching and riveting. Reading BEFORE WE WERE YOURS is like floating in the rushing currents of the Savannah River, itâs fast and fabulous. Itâs a book you will be thinking about long after you turn the last page. Make sure you read the author note at the end too! Itâs powerful and maddening!
I listened to the Audible version of the book and the narrators Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber were superb and gave breath to the story.
The author brings this story to us by introducing us to a family
This is an endearing story, despite the tragedies, of a set of siblings victimized by the owner and staff of this orphanage - with an oldest sibling intent on keeping her family together. Great character development and an interesting window into a piece of history.
Rill/May is such a great
The other narrator, Rill Foss, is the eldest of five children--"river rats"--living with their parents in a houseboat. When Rill's mother goes into a difficult labor and has to be taken to the hospital, she is left, with the help of an old man and a teenage boy, to watch over her siblings. Instead, the police arrive and take the children into custody, claiming that their mother gave birth to twins that died and their parents signed them over to the state. The Foss children become victims of a real-life scandal: Georgia Tann, director of the Memphis Tennessee Children's Home Society, made millions of dollars kidnapping children from poor families and selling them to wealthy adoptive parents. Rill tells the story of their time at one of Tann's group homes and of her struggle to keep the siblings together and reunite them with their parents.
Rill's story is both fascinating and brutal, but the "mystery" that Avery tries to unravel is rather dull and, unfortunately, falls into the expected romance. The characters in this modern-day narrative are all rather weak and clichĂŠ, especially her mother, the typical sugar-coated, socially ambitious Southern woman who is hard as nails beneath the surface. Wingate uses Avery as the means to connect to Rill's story--a connection that, again, is perhaps a a little too facile.
This story juxtaposes between the lives of the Foss children and the present-day life of Avery Stafford, daughter of State Senator Stafford and a federal prosecutor, destined for a privileged life in the political arena if she follows in her fatherâs footsteps. Avery is resolute in uncovering the truth about her grandmotherâs past, and in doing so, she discovers herself and how to move forward into the future.
This novel reminds me of âThe Orphan Train,â as they are both literary representations of the injustices and mistreatment of our youth in our nationâs history.