By: Lisa Wingate
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 6/6/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars +++
Master storyteller, Lisa Wingate returns following her heartwarming Carolina Series The Sea Keeper's Daughters with her best yet, BEFORE WE WERE YOURS Top Books of 2017— A powerful story within a story inspired by one of American’s most horrific real-life adoption scandals. (stunning front cover)!
A haunting, beautifully written and emotional story of family, sisters, human connections and the strong bonds of love. From good versus evil, deeply-buried secrets, and injustice, to triumph in the face of adversity.
With two storylines, two families generations apart— the bridge between past and present. Before We Were Yoursalternates between the historical story of the Foss Children and the modern-day story of Avery Stafford.
Present day: We meet Avery Stafford. 30 years-old, graduated top of her class from Columbia Law and works for US attorney’s office. A successful career as a federal prosecutor, a fiance’ and an upcoming wedding.
She returns home to South Carolina to help her father, a high-profile politician. He is up for re-election and has some health problems (cancer) and undergoing chemo. Of course, he wants Avery to step into his shoes with a political career.
Avery’s grandmother, Judy is a ghost of her former self. They are keeping it from the media due to the fact they have moved her to an upscale luxury facility. They are currently dealing with a scandal of wrongful death and abuse cases involving eldercare, so they do not want people pointing fingers. Of course, the decision to move to her this facility was not political—her doctor recommended.
They are heartsick about her cruel descent into dementia. Before they moved her to the nursing home, she escaped her caretaker and staff and was found wandering at a business complex near a mall where she formerly shopped. Ironically, since she cannot even remember their names.
While touring on the nursing homes (not as luxurious as Judy's), Avery encounters a woman. She calls Avery, Fern. The nurse called the woman, May Crandall.
Through the mind and voice of May, she has triggers from the past. She thinks of Queenie her mother and Camellia. Thinking back to the Mississippi riverbank to Memphis. The night there was no returning.
Past: Memphis 1939. A twelve-year-old girl Rill. She lives on a riverboat and helps take care of her four young siblings. Life is difficult. However, there are complications during the birth at the hospital and the children are snatched, while Rill was in charge.
They are thrown into an orphanage. They are told they will be returned to their parents. Rill must keep her siblings together. However, they find evil and something more sinister than they could ever imagine.
“I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone.”
From past to present, Avery is haunted by this woman in the nursing home. Is there a connection? She had on her grandmother’s bracelet. Her curiosity has been piqued by her sad story. Does this woman May, know her grandmother Judy?
There is no way Avery can let this drop. Secrets from the past. She goes back to her grandmother’s letters and notes.
Who is Trent Turner in Edisto? He does not seem helpful. What is he hiding?
Amidst the suspense and intensity while Avery tries desperately to piece together the mystery of her family’s past, we hear the heartbreaking story of sisters and children taken against their will. Ripped from their biological parents.
A true to life story of Georgia Tann, the director of a Memphis-based adoption organization which basically kidnapped and sold children to wealthy families for many years. Thousands of birth families would never know what became of their children.
“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever-present as a pulse.”
If you have read any of Lisa Wingate’s stories, you know she writes of family, love, and deep connections. A master storyteller, her books are thought-provoking, inspiring, emotional, and deeply moving. Her passion shines through as she shares her stories from the heart to her readers.
Normally when reading a dual time timeline story, I find the historical one the most intriguing. However, in this case, both stories are equally as compelling, since the present-day story still revolves around its own past family history.
As in sex and child trafficking today, the abuse and devastation continue to destroy lives and futures of innocent children. The monsters target the poor, single mothers, or those on welfare. In this haunting yet true story of babies and children being kidnapped and abused, molested, and mistreated while waiting for the big payday. Some were stolen from birth and siblings and parent’s lives forever to be ripped apart.
Well-researched, the author offers details as to the number of children who vanished under Georgia Tann’s management range as high as five hundred. Thousands more disappeared into adoptions for profit in which names, birth dates, and birth records were altered to prevent biological families from finding their children. This went on from the 1920s-1950s and was not fully brought to justice until 1996.
From the author: “If there is one overarching lesson to be learned from the Foss children and from the true-life story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, it is that babies and children, no matter what corner of the world they hail from, are not commodities, or objects, or blank slates, as Georgia Tann so often represented her wards; they are human beings with histories and needs, and hopes, and dreams of their own.”
Lisa Wingate is at the top of her game. Having read all 8 total works in the Carolina Heirlooms’ series, have been an avid fan of the author’s writing.
However, BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, really showcases her strength to blend both historical with modern-day stories in a powerful way to capture the heart and most intimate feelings of her characters and the dual timelines. Resilience and the power of love.
“The heart never forgets where we belong.”
I had the opportunity of reading this book well before its publication date in June; however, I was dealing with my dad’s illness in North Carolina, his death, funeral, and executor of his estate. Playing catch up with reviews/postings I missed this summer. A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
I enjoyed this book so much, purchased the audiobook for my personal library and listened again this past week. Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber are ideal narrators and in sync with Lisa Wingate’s poignant story.
“Do we carry the guilt from the sins of past generations? If so, can we bear the weight of that burden? Trent” ― Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours
Highly recommend! If you can only read one book this year, this would be the one. Wingate fully understands the power of story. If this does not win Historic Fiction of the Year, I will be shocked. Ideal for book clubs and further discussions.
If you have not viewed the The Book Club Kit, by Random House— highly recommend, to enhance your reading experience. Well done!
For fans of Charles Martin, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah, Sally Hepworth, Nicholas Sparks and Diane Chamberlain.
As the author mentions in an interview, “In the end, both the modern-day and historical characters in Before We Were Yours are willing to risk everything else for one all-important thing—a place to be authentic and people to be authentic with. That’s what I love most about the book.”
Your fans agree. Cannot wait to see what’s next from this talented author. No wonder it still ranks today as #7 Most Read book on Amazon. Totally captivating!
“No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.” ― Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours