Before We Were Yours
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.
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 almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power. That Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society could actually exist, unraveling the lives of countless children, stealing their pasts and changing their futures, will give you chills. But the real feat of this stirring novel is how deeply Wingate plunges us into the heart and mind of twelve-year-old river gypsy Rill Foss. Rill’s utterly 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 Circling the Sun
“A powerful tale of family, of sisters, of secrets kept and secrets shared. I absolutely loved this book. I’m still basking in the afterglow, in shock at the true-crime elements, in awe at the journey of these characters who seem to have immortal souls.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“An unforgettable read . . . This captivating novel will quite likely break your heart, but because it’s Lisa Wingate at the helm, you will not be left broken. She is a master storyteller and never fails to get to the heart of what makes us hold on to hope.”—Susan Meissner, author of Secrets of a Charmed Life
“Lisa Wingate’s heart-racing tale of a family ripped apart by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal rang so true I couldn’t sleep until I knew their fate. Days later, I’m still haunted by the diabolical plot to steal and sell the most vulnerable children to high bidders, sanctioned by high-ranking officials who looked the other way.”—Julie Kibler, author of Calling Me Home
Advance Galley Reviews
This is a book that has stayed with me long after I read the last page. Although it was sad and heartbreaking, it showed how deep love can break a person or cause a person to be strong and rise to the challenge. This wasn't my normal genre, but I'm so glad I read it. I learned a history lesson in addition to reading an unforgettable novel.
This book absolutely deserves a five star rating. It is outstanding! It hooked me in the first paragraph and I could not lay it down until the very last sentence was read. It has a lot of sadness but also showcases the strength of even children when put in deplorable situations. There is some history to be learned here also about theTennessee Childrens Home Society. This was real and was run by Georgia Tann from 1930 to 1950 in Memphis Tennessee. The children that were adopted from there were sometimes stolen from the side of the road, from their front porches, and even from hospitals right after their birth. Their living conditions were horrible and many of them died. In this story five siblings were stolen from a boat they lived on with their parents and taken to this home to live. The story goes from there to modern day time and tells what happened to each of them and how it affected them and their extended families. The author has written this in beautiful, descriptive prose describing the Carolina low country in all its splendor. This is a truly wonderful book and if you like Pat Conroy you will love it.