Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Updated: Mar 3
Memphis, 1939 – Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shanty-boat. Rill was left in charge when her father rushed his wife to the hospital. All was well until strangers arrived in force and made all the children go with them to await their parents at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS) orphanage. Rill was assured she and her siblings would soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. 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 Lisa Wingate’s riveting, heart-wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where it belongs.
Present day - Aiken, South Carolina – Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: success as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, 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 family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.
In this page-turner you will find yourself going back and forth through the years as Rill (name changed to May by the orphanage) tells the story of what happened to her and her siblings after being abducted by the “authorities” and placed in the TCHS orphanage, along with thousands of other children over the years. As it turns out the TCHS was run by the infamous Georgia Tann - later accused of kidnapping, and stealing children to sell to wealthy clients who couldn’t have them.
May’s story was one of survival, and hopelessness in trying to keep all her siblings together – she had made a promise to her daddy to keep everyone safe. And though she did the best she could, she suffered many punishments for trying. It wasn’t until May was older, that she finally ran into Avery. That fateful day May recognized Avery’s bracelet that brought memories back to her and ignited Avery’s curiosity to try and find the answer to some puzzling things her grandmother had alluded to in her weekly visits. It was Avery, who would soon pick up threads that led her to discover secrets that had been hidden away for a very long time. Secrets and a reunion that had to come to light come what may.
I was totally immersed in the tragedy of ruined lives, the strength needed for survival, and the joyful reunion that was finally affected. Wonderful, wonderful book, sad but with a satisfying end.