Before We Were Yours: A Novel

Lisa Wingate
Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.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 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. 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 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. 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--Lisa 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.Advance praise for Before We Were Yours"Lisa Wingate takes an almostunthinkable chapter in our nation's history and weaves a tale of enduring power.That Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children's Home Society couldactually exist, unraveling the lives of countless children, stealing their pastsand changing their futures, will give you chills. But the real feat of this stirring novel is how deeply Wingate plunges usinto the heart and mind of twelve-year-old river-gypsy, Rill Foss. Rill'sutterly singular voice will stay with you long after the last page is turned,as will Wingate's courage to follow her anywhere... Vivid and affecting."-Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circlingthe Sun "A powerful taleof family, of sisters, of secrets kept and secrets shared. I absolutely loved this book. I'm stillbasking in the afterglow, in shock at the true-crime elements, in awe at the journey of these characters whoseem to have immortal souls."-Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotelon the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost "An unforgettableread. This captivating novelwill quite likely break your heart but because it's Lisa Wingateat the helm, you will not be left broken. She is a master storyteller and never fails to get to theheart of what makes us hold onto hope."-Susan Meissner, author of Secrets of a Charmed Life  "Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate's heart-racing tale of a family ripped apart by the TennesseeChildren's Home Society scandal, rang so true I couldn't sleep until I knewtheir fate. Days later, I'm stillhaunted by the diabolical plot to steal and sell the most vulnerablechildren to high bidders, sanctioned by high-ranking officials who looked theother way."-Julie Kibler, bestselling author of Calling Me Home


Reviewed: 2019-09-22
From 1924-1950, Georgia Tann, under the guise of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, stole and sold more than 5,000 children on the black market. Before We Were Yours tells a well crafted story based on fact yet is a work of fiction. The story itself is told in multiple narration of Rill Foss/May Weathers and Avery Stafford and alternates between past and present time. The point of views eventually intersect creating an emotionally impactful masterpiece. I loved the characters and found Windgate's writing to be mesmerizing, especially knowing the story was devised from fact and recounted stories. This story exposed a horrific part of history that was unknown to me, a history lesson wrapped up in a powerfully emotional story. Lovers of Orphan Train will enjoy this.
Reviewed: 2018-05-06

When I was younger, I remember watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that featured Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society.  At the time, I had not comprehended the extent of her crimes and the damage it has caused in many poorer families Memphis area.  Although this story surrounds a fictional family, it does give a window into the real horrors that the children would be put into these homes.  Many times, birth Families were duped into signing over their children.  By the time they figured out what happened, they were powerless to reverse what had been done, which caused many families to fall apart.  The children and the birth families were not the only victims of Georgia's money-making schemes.  The adoptive parents were also victims of Georgia's blackmail in order for them to keep the family they want so much.  The final injustice is some (or all) of the children who experienced these travesties would spend the rest of their lives hiding the truth to not ruin their or their adoptive families reputation.  Some of these children were able to be reunited with their birth families, but, sadly, there are some that have not.


In all, this was a truly beautiful story that spans across the generations and shows how far some people are willing to go to hide the truth in the sake of reputation.


Note:  This was read in preparation of the Books in Bloom Festival in Eureka Springs, AR (May 20, 2018).

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