Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours

Lisa Wingate

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.

Start Reading….

Read Excerpt Now


Sign me up to receive news about Lisa Wingate.

Place our blog button on your blog to let people know you are a member of this great program!

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking [and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart . . . based on a notorious true-life scandal.”*

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.

*Library Journal

Praise for Before We Were Yours

“A [story] of a family lost and found . . . a poignant, engrossing tale about sibling love and the toll of secrets.” People

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.” Parade

“One of the year’s best books . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near-perfect novel.” The Huffington Post

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun

Advance Galley Reviews

This was a difficult book to read for me. I found myself putting it down only to come back to it later many times. Not because it's bad, but the content felt tough to get through. It's a heartbreaking but beautiful read.

This was a very difficult book to put down. And at times a difficult book to read because it was so heart-wrenching. This historical fiction novel opened my eyes about a part of American history I never knew existed and the pain inflicted on countless children and families. While the family spotlighted never existed, many families like it have, and that makes me want to share this story with anyone who is willing to read and learn. Despite the heartbreak it contains, it is a beautifully written story, its characters and landscapes rich with detail and the protagonists filled with love for their families and inner strength. I highly recommend this book – it is one you will not forget.

Riveting and heart wrenching. Wow! Could not put this book down. Great characters...some you rooted for and others you didn't. Can't believe this is based on true events and they actually happened. Unbelievable. Good story flow. Highly recommend this book.

This was an extremely absorbing book, a modern-day mystery surrounding the origins of a woman who is falling into dementia and giving out clues to an unknown past as she declines. Her granddaughter takes the mystery to heart, at first because of and then in spite of the ramifications the truth may have on her family's political ambitions. The story is based in fact, when wealthy adopters -- or those with less pure motives -- were able to buy children that were acquired by 'brokers,' often through deception and even abduction. The story is sad but is told with urgency and compassion.

I love books that are based on actual real-life events. I had never heard of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and Georgia Tann. Ms Tann ran an adoption organization that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families. From 1924 to 1950 Georgia Tann used deception, manipulation, threats and force to obtain children from poor families and single moms. The children were than sold to families of means. Knowing this historical context, makes Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate all the more powerful. Lisa Wingate provides amazing character development. Many of the characters have stayed with me long after finishing Before We Were Yours. The story takes place in two time periods. In present day we meet Avery Stafford, the senator’s daughter and successful lawyer. Avery as a character grows throughout the story and begins to understand what is really important in life. She takes a journey through her families history and brings the truth forward, even though she is unsure if her Grandmother, Judy wants the truth known. I love how Avery kept after the truth even though it could change her family. As she grew, her life priorities changed and she found happiness. In 1939 the Foss children lived on a shantyboat in Memphis with their parents. They are a very happy family of limited means. A medical emergency takes the parents away from the shantyboat. During their absence, their 5 children (Rill, Lark, Fern, Camilla and Gabion) are kidnapped and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The children are slowly separated as some are adopted. Georgia Tann changed all the children’s names when they came to the orphanage and tricked families into signing papers to legal surrender their children. Some of the legal paperwork were completely fabricated. The oldest daughter Rill, feels she is to blame for not keeping her siblings safe. Rill is an amazingly strong young girl in a no win situation. She does the best she can to take care of her siblings. I have so much respect for all she did for her siblings. Rill gave up a great deal to stay with her sister, Fern and build a life with her. I don’t want to give too much away, but Before We Were Yours is an very emotional journey. Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves together the past and present to drive the plot. I absolutely loved the ending. There is freedom in the truth for the eldest of the characters. I think the ending perfectly brought both story lines together, allowing a lost family to be found. Before We Were Yours is about deep love and family secrets. I have had a hard time starting another book since I finished Before We Were Yours, as I keep thinking about these characters and their lives. I rate Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate a 5 (it was amazing) due to the depth and development of the characters as well as my love for books based on real-life events. I know this story and its’ characters will stay with me for a long time. The images of the Tennessee Children Home Society and the events that happened there are forever with me.

I loved this book. It is not my usual fare. Historical fiction is not the typical escape that I seek when selecting books because it is based on truth, and truth is often painful. This was no exception to my idea on historical fiction, except for the fact that I found it completely mesmerizing and it left me wanting more. It was heart-racing and heart-breaking... swelling with emotions of hope and despair. Before We Were Yours is the type of book that makes me want to march a copy into the school library and force it into the stacks for everyone to read. And in fact, I may just do that. Although I would let the librarian catalog it. Thank you for this great, unexpected read!

After reading the blurb of this book, I was very interested in reading it. I was just not prepared for what I found within the pages. Lisa Wingate certainly writes a touching story based on true events - in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country - that had me on the edge of my seat impatiently awaiting for what would come at the next page turned. Rill Foss (known as May Wethers) and Avery Stafford, unknowingly, are part of a same past, generations apart; while one is trying to leave all heartache behind in peace, the other is beginning to uncover truths she is not sure she is ready for. A family ripped apart in the hands of the unscrupulous and greedy and brought back together by a bond stronger like no other, blood, family! In this gripping, yet moving and heart wrenching story; Wingate gives us an insight to what has been a shocking chapter in the history of American society. A real look into the working of social circles, politics, and family dynamics. And when all is not pink colored how we want it to be; there is only one thing that we can hold to and keep going, love, hope.

I found this book to be well written, but for some reason the character of Avery annoyed me. Also, the romance trope thrown in this book just made me roll my eyes. This book definitely wasn't bad, but it just didn't find myself "gripped" by the story

I went into this novel not knowing anything about the real-life origins. Needless to say, after I finished Wingate's book I just had to know more. I am a big fan of true crime, which this book technically is not, but I love when a story is intriguing enough to compel me to find out more. Wingate's work is interesting yet also so heartbreaking. I cannot imagine what these children went through, not knowing what was going on or how to stop it all from spiraling out of control. I received this eARC from First to Read but that didn't stop me from grabbing a print copy from Book Expo this week so I can share it with others.

I am so grateful to First To Read for letting me read this astounding novel. Having come to it blind to the actual story behind it,it was shocking to discover this was based on a and established practices in childrens homes. Uplifting and redeeming and ultimately hopeful,I loved it. It was equally heartbreakimg and infuriating to read what the characters went through was real and I would absolutely read more by Lisa Wingate.

As a fan of historical fiction, I was drawn to this novel because it was about The Great Depression time period as well as a well-known person in the area of family services, Georgia Tan, and the Children's Home Society of Tennessee. The scandal that was inflected upon so many poor families and their in ocent children is nothing short of evil. There is also another story taking place two generations later with an influential family. Their successful lawyer daughter has returned home and is being groomed as a possible replacement for her Senator father who is undergoing cancer treatments. A chance encounter with a resident of a nursing home has Avery looking for documents and a possible connection to her Grandmother. Lisa Wingate writes in a style that will have you riveted to continue reading on to the next chapter. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair review of the book from First to Read and Penguin Random House.

What an amazing novel! I absolutely loved it! Avery, Honeybee, May, Judy, and all of the other characters had me completely involved in the story. What an emotional and gut-wrenching book! Will definitely recommend to all of my reading friends!

I greatly enjoyed how this author managed to personalize such a terrible historical circumstance, one that I was quite ignorant about before reading this book. It did take reading a little ways in before I was fully invested in the story, but once the characters came to life on the page I was swept away by the emotional journey. I am very glad to have revived an advance copy of this book to read and review!

Lisa Wingate takes a horrible time in our nation's history of adoption agencies and makes heart-wrenching tale touch your soul. It is a powerful and touching story of a granddaughter piecing together her family's deep dark secret that not even her parents know...the true tale of her grandmother. Great read! I could not put this riveting book down.

Try as I might I could not get into this book. I started over several times but would loose interest quickly. Nothing bad about the writing or concept, it just didn't hold my attention.

I have to admit that it took about 75 pages before I felt completely engaged with this book, however it is more likely an issue with my surroundings and schedule rather than the book itself. Overall, I found the the story lines compelling and I ended up being completely drawn into the lives of the characters. The story is heartbreaking yet inspiring and I am grateful for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book, I am now looking forward to reading more from this author.

Before we were yours is a compelling tale based on the real life events of children near Memphis in the 1920's-1950's. The book follows the story of the fictional Foss family, and in particular the eldest child Rill. Her and her siblings were torn from their family and placed in a children's home, even though they had parents. Meanwhile in present day, Avery Stafford is following in her father's footsteps in becoming a politician. She finds an old picture of her grandmother in another lady's nursing home room. She ultimately is trying to discover her family's history. The book was great overall. I loved the writing style and Wingate did a really good job with character development especially with Rill and Avery. However the beginning of the book was extremely confusing with the switching back and the Rill/May namechange and figuring out where grandma Judy fits in. Once I got toward the middle of the book it picked up and was very hard to put down! *Thank you to Penguin Random House for the ARC in exchange for a review*

"Before We Were Yours" tells a horrifying story based Georgia Tann and The Tennessee Children's home which she used as a mean for child trafficking starting from the Depression era through 1950 when she died. Through a dual timelines one starting in 1939 and current day the author tells the tale that connects a dynastical American political family, to the 9 children of a impoverished family of river folk who were stolen away from their parents, how they were separated and how they fought to be reunited. Ms. Wingate paints an extremely realistic portrayal of how actual children were taken from their families and sold as property while authorities were either corruptly involved or chose to look the other way. Masterfully "Before We Were Yours" hurdles the reader through the historical ugliness of the past and current day and subtly questions character of any society that turns it's back on or take advantage of it's weakest and least powerful members whether they be children, the elderly, the disabled, or the poor. This is my first experience reading Ms. Wingate's work and I was thoroughly impressed by this powerful story and look forward to diving into the author's back list.

Unfortunately this book just didn't grab me, so I didn't complete it. There was nothing bad about the book, it's just not my typical genre.

A beautiful portrayal of lives altered by one corrupt and greedy woman. When I finish a book, I like to let the story sit with me overnight before I review it. Before We Were Yours took more than one evening. There is so much depth to this story, so much pain and sorrow. The bright spots in the novel don’t allow the reader to get fully dragged under. Based on true events surrounding Georgia Tann (who brokered children to the wealthy from the 1930s-1950s), Rill’s story is fictional but based on accounts of children who spent time in one of Tann’s homes. Rill’s story is heartbreaking. A twelve-year-old girl who assumes responsibility to her four younger siblings but can’t keep them all together despite her best attempts. A girl who has only known life drifting on rivers in her family’s shanty boat with parents too young to call Mom and Dad. A girl who has everything she loves about her life stripped away only to be forced into a nightmare that grows worse as the days spent apart from her family stretch. As Avery Stafford, a politician’s daughter whose life has been mapped out by her family, dives into the mystery present by a woman she meets at one of her father’s political appointments, she uncovers secrets long buried. Secrets that will make her take a hard look at her own life and future. While reading, I felt Rill’s heartache, her shame and guilt over not keeping her family together, and her desire to return to the life she once had. And I felt Avery’s tug of war between keeping her family happy and living a life that makes her happy. This story has a satisfying ending, though not exactly a happy one for everyone. It took me a bit to get into it but this is not unusual for me with Lisa Wingate’s stories. Probably because I tend to read more romances than anything, and while there was a hint of it in Before We Were Yours, the romance is not the heart and soul of this story. And just like every other book I’ve read written by this author, sticking with it was more than worth the payout. Note: This books is written for the ABA market but is a clean read. Disclosure statement: I receive complimentary books for review from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

I don't much care for historical fiction usually, but this book swept me away. It's well written and the author really draws you into the characters' lives. Great read.

Lisa Wingate's "Before We Were Yours" is a well written and compelling tale overall. She does an amazing job of depicting the heartbreaking events of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Rill's voice is authentic and captivating. However, I found the other main character, Avery, off-putting, annoying, and not at all sympathetic. She just seemed incredibly shallow. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the tale overall and recommend picking this one up. It's a vivid tale about an awful set of events that still comes to a satisfying, if not altogether, happy ending. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

This book was one that I read in one sitting. I really connected with the characters. The way that the past and the present were threaded throughout the book made the story come alive. I could just picture the setting and the characters as they were in the late thirties to early nineteen forties. This was also a tearjerker, all of the siblings ripped from their parents as their mother was recovering in the hospital. What they go through as they are waiting to be sold to a wealthy family is just beyond sad, this is based on the real life scandal of Georgia Tann who stole poor children from their homes and sold them to wealthy families. May aka Rill is a strong character who tries her very best to keep her siblings together but only succeeds with one. Avery is from the present day and is just uncovering her grandmothers secret that is long buried. I thought that the story was so well written and very respectful to the subject matter. Avery seemed to do what is expected of her by her wealthy family most of her life. When she starts to unravel her grandmothers past Avery starts to come into her own. There is a bit of a romance but not too much to take away form the story. This story is one that has stayed with me since I put the book down. It was a very moving book. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I was completely blown away by this powerful and heart-wrenching story about family, love, perseverance, and loss! This novel was inspired by the horrifying true events of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, run by Georgia Tann from the 1920’s-1950’s. The plot is written from two points of view, weaving between past and present, this is the story of how one family’s past has shaped its present. Lisa Wingate’s writing is absolutely flawless. She pulls you deep into the lives of each character where you feel like you are inside the novel witnessing all these heinous events up close. Before We Were Yours is one of the best historical fiction books I have read to date, it will definitely stay with me for a very long time. If I could give this more than 5 stars I would - Highly recommend!

A compelling tale based on a true story, the author makes me wish I had grown up on the river. While times were tough on the boat, the family was close-knit and looked out for each other. The story of the children's time spent at the Tennessee Children's Home Society is tragic and it's horrifying to know that these acts actually occurred in the past. The author makes you feel for the children in their fear and uncertainty. It's hard to accept what these children endured, especially those like Camelia who refused to give up the fight and paid dearly for it. Although the kidnapping, abuse, and deaths are appalling, one hopes that the kids who were ultimately adopted by people with money were eventually able to leave a somewhat happy life and maybe even grow up in a better situation, although that is no excuse for what was done to them. As Rill/May's story unfolds (and that of Grandma Judy), it is calming to realize that the past was left behind to a large degree and that some good came out of the adoptions that took place for these children. Avery's story is a bit forced and hard to imagine Avery would have time to commit to this with her father's health issues and prior commitments, but it ably moves the plot along in a gentle way without too much disruption to the unveiling of May's story. The tale was wrapped up nicely and left me with a smile on my face.

This book was so good. So sad and daunting, yet heartfelt. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Before We Were Yours: Tragic with a touch of horrifying & heartfelt; it’s full of love, loss & perseverance. Lisa Wingate draws you in so close that you can imagine being there and witnessing the unspeakable things that took place in recent American history through the young lives of certain characters in the book; the consequences which changed lives forever and those responsible went unchecked by corrupt politics. This is one of the best historical fiction books I have read, every time I had to stop reading to deal with daily life I was left thinking about the characters and wanting to get back to it to see what was happening next in the story. The mystery that unfolds from the present to the past kept me wanting more. This book shows the horrors that poor children & their families endured at the hands of truly evil people pretending to do good all for their own financial or personal gain & how some of those that survived turned those things for good. I think events like this need to be remembered and the stories told so that history may never repeat itself; we owe it to all posterity. We must cherish our children because we never know where life may take them.

A Penguin First to Read ARC e-book in exchange for an honest review. This book was so hard to read, in a good way. Beautifully written and tugs at all your heart strings. Horrifying that it is based on true events. 1939, Rill Foss and her four younger siblings are living along the Mississippi river with their parents when their mom is rushed to the hospital during a stormy night. Rill is left in charge but strangers come and forcefully drag them from their home. This story is based on the real events of Georgia Tann who kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families. Locked away into the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage the young Foss children don’t know what happened to their parents or what is about to happen to them. Generation later, Avery Stafford was born into wealth and privilege. Into a family that she thinks has no hidden skeletons. While at home putting in her public appearance at an elderly care facility she runs into a woman that mistakes her for someone else, that seems to think she know her family more than just their public name. Avery decides to look into the past a little more and starts uncovering a horrifying tale of the Foss family and what that means for her own family. As an adopted child, identity gets a bit muddled when you don’t know your family. As an adopted child part of a sibling set, all you have are the siblings that you may or may not get to stay with. I was lucky that most my siblings got to stay together. This story really reached home.

This story blew me away. Such an amazing read. It was a story based in fact about the terrors of Georgia Tann's reign in the Tennessee area ranging from the 1920s to the 1950s. This book brought about an awareness to the horrors that so many families went through during this time. Children were stolen from parents, placed in group homes where they experienced horrors no child should ever have to endure, and adopted these children out to the wealthy and privileged. The fact Tann was able to get away with this for 30 years just blows my mind. This story follows a girl and her siblings that were stolen from their home and placed in the Tennessee Children's Home Society. The story is written in alternating points of views, switching from past to present to bring this story together to end in a beautiful conclusion. I loved this story from beginning to end.

I would like to thank and Lisa Wingate for the ARC of "Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate for my honest review. This is a book that i really liked and will remember, but it could have been great. Its still awesome, falls short of greatness and here's why. I loved loved the writing and fears of Rill Foss, trying to fend for her siblings, alone without parents. And i hated the alternate voice of Avery, especially when she gets all flirty with her male partner in her quest to find out what her grandmother's past holds. Past to present narration works for me mostly when both the characters are undergoing the same emotions. Imagine, here a child is being molested, kidnapped and trapped in a horror house of an orphanage, and your are jolted to present day flirting between two main leads. I strongly feel that the author could have either had the present day narrator face some turmoil of her own, or completed the Rill Foss arc, come to present day happy story, which gets darker as past secrets emerge. But all that said, this book is still a medium- to-heavy read which tugs your heartstrings. The author has captured the voice of a 12 year old Rill well. I hated the villains and rooted for the kids as the story progressed. It has a bittersweet ending, which I feel did justice to the entire plot, because life cannot have happy endings all around. Overall 3.5 stars for me and a weekend well spent :)

I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine and Lisa Wingate for the ARC (advanced reading copy) of "Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate for my honest review. The genres of this novel are Women's Fiction and Historical Fiction. This story has fictional characters but is based on the true scandal with Georgia Tann and the Memphis Adoption home. Children were kidnapped, and disadvantaged parents would sign papers unaware that their children were being sold to wealthy families for profit. There were reported cases of abuse and deaths at this Adoption home. Georgia Tann had many top Politicians and the law by her side, depriving the children of their rights, and treating them as chattel The timeline and places for this story are in the past, 1939 in Memphis Tennessee, and in the present time in South Carolina. The characters are described as complicated and complex. Georgia Tann is described as evil, dangerous, manipulative, and corrupt. Most of the employees that worked for Georgia Tann turned a blind eye, and some were sadistic and were bullies. The author describes the children as innocent, frightened , scared, confused. Some of the children were brave and courageous. In "Before We Were Yours", Lisa Wingate tells the story about a family that lives in a shanty by the river.The mother is having a difficult time delivering twins, and has to be moved to get medical help. In the time that the parents are gone, the children are taken by the local law officials and placed in the Memphis Adoption Agency. I appreciate the way that Lisa Wingate writes about the hard times at the adoption home where the children are brought. I could feel my heart break at some of the parts in this story. The storytelling shifts between the past and the present. Avery is a prominent attorney part of a wealthy and politically active family. Her father is in a political high political position. One of the discussions they are in involve nursing homes, and how the elderly are treated. At one of the homes that they visit, an older resident calls Avery a different name, and insists that they know each other. This starts Avery on an adventure to discover her family and her self. I like the way the author writes about betrayal, loyalty, and secrets. The author also describes family, friends, trust, love and hope, The author makes me think, what is the cost for searching for the truth? How could this scandal go on for so long and cause the consequences that it did for many families and children? I would highly recommend this intriguing novel, and look forward to reading more from the author. There are some Kleenex moments.

I requested a digital Advanced Reader Copy of this title based on the description provided. It lived up to Jamie Ford's review and the description! I enjoy historical fiction, especially when it is well researched, well written and believable. This book certainly is all three. Set in the current day and in 1939 in North Carolina and Tennessee, related narrators relay the story of each time. It becomes clear they are most likely related, but as the present day narrator, Avery, unravels the information she is given, the relationship becomes clear. As a romance was hinted at for Avery, I was at first disappointed and did a bit of an eye roll, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn't sidetrack the story line or disrupt my enjoyment. As with good fiction, it left me wanting more and thinking about the characters next moves. As with good historical fiction, I wanted more factual information on the events outlined and a small amount of research clearly show the author's endnote truthfully relays the work she did to complete this novel. I highly recommend it! With thanks to Ballantine Books and Lisa Wingate for the Advanced Reader Copy.

This is the best book I have read in recent memory. Lisa Wingate’s writing flows beautifully, and she weaves her story brilliantly. The pacing was just perfect, and it really allowed me to understand everything that was going on even as the story jumped between the 1930s and the present day. The story kept me on my toes, as I was constantly trying to figure out the true identities of the various characters in the story and connect the state of things in the 1930s with the way things are in the modern day world of the story. I won’t spoil the ending either, but it was a beautiful conclusion that really wrapped up everything about the story in the same way it probably would if the story had occurred in real life (and it had, since Wingate’s novel is based on the horrifying true story of Georgia Tann’s Tennessee Children’s Home Society). This story might do well to have a content warning, though, as there are some descriptions of sexual assault (mostly non-graphic, but still possibly triggering for some). I do highly recommend this book; it is one that I will truly not forget for a long time.

This was a lovely story that wrapped genealogy, with the question of are we who we are because we're the product of our genetics/ family history or do we turn out this way after the circumstances we overcome and the lives we lived? This was a step outside of my usual genre of choice (thrillers + suspense) but on a quiet rainy Saturday it captured my attention and the story warmed my heart. I highly recommend this for readers of historical fiction & those of us who've taken the Ancesrty DNA test. Thank you Penguin Random House for selecting me for this special ARC review opportunity.

One thing that makes a well written story better is when it is based on true events. This book has it all, a good plot,believable characters that one can easily identify with, and an ending that doesn't disappoint.

This story of a very crooked Tennessee Children's Home Society needs to come with a warning of some kind. I'm enjoying the story but I feel you should be warned something terrible happens at one point and even though it's not exactly described you get the jest. I've never heard of Lisa Wingate until I saw this book on First To Read and the description drew me in. I'm glad and honored to be able to review as I'm loving this free flowing writing style. The balance of all the main players is wonderful and fast paced makes you want to stay up and read. First you have Avery Stafford a young woman who is strong in her career but has come home to take care of her dad a very prominent senator fighting cancer and she might possibly be stepping up into his shoes. Then you have May Weathers a frail (or so it seems) old woman in a nursing home. Their paths meet one day in a nursing home where the senator and his daughter are helping celebrate a birthday and putting on a strong front to investigate some issues. May runs into Avery swiping a family heirloom in a bracelet from her grandmother Judy. As they get to know each other Avery uncovers the shocking past that connects May and grandma Judy. Will this scandal come to light and how will it effect all involved.? I greatly encourage you to read this wonderfully written, heart-wrenching tale but be warned there may be some upsetting innuendos.

Like THE ORPHAN TRAIN, author Lisa Wingate builds a novel from the bones of history and puts together a very compelling book. She creates a mystery for protagonist Avery, who sets out to uncover a family secret that would remain hidden due to her grandmother's senility. Interwoven within this narrative is the tale told by Rill Foss, who is early shown to be the same old woman Avery knows as May. Readers are given enough insight early on to understand much of the connection between May and Avery's grandmother, and the pleasure in reading the novel comes from following along as Avery discovers those same facts. There is a great deal of heartstring tugging as Rill struggles to survive the ordeal of being kidnapped by the Tennessee Children's Home baby snatchers. Like the Catholic Church running the mother and baby homes in Ireland, there was a booming market for adoptable children during the 1930's through the 1950's. The same theme runs through BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, as Rill struggles to keep her siblings with her, only to watch them torn away in adoption. We have some sexual tension, of course, between Avery and the grandson of the man who made it his life's work to find lost siblings. Additional friction exists between the young lady and her mother, a dispute over proper place and future plans in a powerful, wealthy, politically prominent family. The story is well told and thoroughly enjoyable, right down to the happy ending that isn't overly saccharine.

A heartbreaking, but heartwarming story of family, love, and loss. Hard to believe those horrors happened in the not so distant past, and that poor children were stolen from their homes and placed into more well-to-do families.

This was such a great heartfelt story! I felt myself drift into the story and live through the good and bad with Rill. The tears came many times. I loved it!

Thank you for the advanced reader's copy of this incredible book! I really enjoyed this book. It is the story of a family - two families really - that unfolds over three generations. It is by turns sweet, sad, heartbreaking and triumphant. The characters are likable and the story, even though it goes back and forth between places and time periods, is easy to follow. Not only is it an enjoyable read, but because it also touches on the subject of politics, illness, elder care, & some of the more disturbing history of foster care and adoption, it is an important book as well. 4.5 stars!

Thank you First To Read for an advanced copy of Before We Were Yours written by Lisa Wingate. What an outstanding book! Five stars! Have to say, this book kept me reading way past my bedtime! I could not put it down and when I was not reading it, I was thinking about it! Beautiful writing, captivating characters and great historical fiction! I cannot rave about this book enough! This story is based on the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal, which was run by Georgia Tann. Children were stolen/taken from their birth families, from hospitals after birth (marked as still birth), front porches, and trickery (falsifying documents). Once taken, children were place in boarding houses with terrible living conditions and abuse where sickness, malnutrition and death occurred. This story focuses on three generations who's lives intertwine. From a well off family with political power to a lowly family that lives on the river. This author alternates between the past and the present, quite effortlessly. The mystery and suspense heighten all the way to the ending of the story. It is quite fascinating how these character's lives were connected. A definite MUST READ! Loved every moment of this suspense, romance, mystery, political and historical fiction read!

A heartbreaking novel about the historic, 1950 Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal where children were tricked and stolen from their mothers who were either poor, mentally ill, unwed, illiterate or ill and stored in an abusive orphanage until being sold to wealthy and often, famous people. Our story follows three generations of children from a once happy, large family of Mississippi river gypsies whose lives were horribly disrupted by the agency in 1939, until the present. Well developed characters, secrets, dementia, romance, suspense and more.....all present in this powerful and absorbing book.

I had never heard of the historical incidents that inspired Wingate to write this story, and I think the author deserves credit for tackling such a heavy subject. The novel hits the right balance between sentiment and realism without delving into the maudlin or moralizing tone that a story involving child neglect and abuse is susceptible of. However, for a story about children, most of the child characters in this novel came off rather flat. Only May and Camellia, really leaped off the page for me. Plus, I am not usually a fan of having an entire story told through alternating past and present points of view. Some of the drawbacks to an approach like this include constantly breaking the flow of both narratives, as well as revealing too much of the plot's trajectory too soon, thereby undercutting all of the mystery of a story. Before We Were Yours is guilty of both. Within the first fifty pages or so, many of the crucial discoveries that drive the modern characters of the story are already strongly foreshadowed to the reader from a mile away. As a result, I found myself struggling to invest in Avery's story. Still, the events that Wingate sets out retell in a convincing and intriguing new way are what ultimately allow the novel to earn its stripes.

Lisa Wingate uncovers horrific, tragic events and a real life crime scandal from the 1930's, which eventually leads to an unbelievable, heart-warming reunion. This historical journey merges past with present as the story alternates between two strong narrators. Rill Foss, the 12-year-old protagonist of the past, tells how she and her four siblings were snatched from their home on a Mississippi River shanty boat. They were turned over to the Memphis Tennessee Children's Home Society, where poor children were sold to wealthy families. Rill and her siblings suffered shocking abuse, mistreatment and horrors while there. Viewing parties were held where the youngsters were dressed up and forced to be paraded before wealthy adults who paid absorbent amounts of money to adopt these helpless victims, and the real parents never knew what had happened to their kidnapped children. Avery Stafford, a 30 year old single federal prosecutor, narrated the present events. While visiting a nursing home, Avery has a chance encounter with May Crandall, an elderly resident. The mystery unfolds as a connection is revealed between May and Avery's Grandma Judy. The author creatively intertwines the past with the present. I was fascinated and moved with the absorbing back and forth narration as the protagonists' stories merge. The intriguing journey and mystery made this book a page turner and compulsive read.

Thank to First To Read for an advance copy of this book for an honest review. I absolutely loved this book. I don't read many historical fiction books because they often seem to be more of a history lesson and less of a novel. This is a great novel with the truth of history as its backdrop. What happened at the Tennessee Children's Home is horrific. It is hard to believe a place like this not only existed but thrived. The author does an outstanding job of building the characters of these individuals from children to adults. It is a story about a family who is taken from their home, 4 girls and one boy and put into the TN Children's Home and sold to the highest bidder. The lady that runs the facility, Georgia Tann doesn't give a flip about any of these children, they are just something for her to profit from, and she doesn't care what the people who buy them do to these children. Some children are lucky and are adopted by wealthy families, other children are very unlucky. The author fortunately doesn't spend a lot of time sharing the horrendous details of some of the children but she does tell that these things did happen. For anyone who has older parents or are older yourself will appreciate the story from the perspective of aging, nursing homes, Alzheimer's, family and secrets being revealed. There is also young Avery who is one of the main characters, she grew up in a wealthy home and knows she has had advantages in life. She is seeking her own truth of what is important in life, as well as figuring the mystery of how her grandmother fits into another older women's life in a different nursing home, where the women notices Avery's bracelet and confiscates it for herself. It is a heart warming story, a story of overcoming obstacles, perseverance and personal growth. Read it!

The story about the travesties surrounding the Memphis Tennessee Children's Home Society run by Georgia Tann.The children are mistreated and adopted out illegally. May, one of five children from a river shanty boat thrown into the Home who suffers loss and horrible conditions Even though they were adopted, the sisters meet later but decide to keep their relation secret from their families. Avery, Judy's granddaughter finds an unfamiliar photograph in her grandmother's care room and starts digging into the past eventually leading to the sisters secrets. Avery's revelation has her family reeling and deciding to protect the secret from fear of scandal versus the happiness of two senior ladies' remaining time. Recommend. as a entertaining insight to an historic event

This is such an engaging book. I had heard of the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal but Lisa Wingate's story made the reality of the nightmare that the children and families of those children lived through. It also is a story of love keeping hope alive even in the darkest times. A reminder and a memorial to the children and families devastated by Georgia Tann and the system that allowed her to operate for any amount of time...may it never be repeated.

(I received this ARC from Penguin Books and the First to Read program in exchange for my honest review) ????? I could NOT put this book down. The summary alone was intriguing, but the actual story contained within these pages was so much more. The characters were incredibly well developed and the plot line never slowed down. I found myself thinking about the characters in this book when I wasn't reading about them. I woke up thinking about them and wanting to know what was going to happen next. I found myself entangled in the emotions portrayed in the way Lisa Wingate writes and felt as if I was a part of the story. Lisa Wingate has taken a truly tragic piece of history and written an incredible work of fiction interlaced with truth that makes you want to learn more about the history, but also not want the story to end. I would highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I look forward to reading more of Lisa Wingate's work in the future

This is a powerful, emotional, and riveting story. It's a chilling tale filled with unimaginable horrors. This book is based on a true story about Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society. It is incomprehensible how so many people allowed these atrocities to take place, and they continued to allow it for so long. The characters were not all real, but they were based on real people. The things that happened in that home are unspeakable. This story is mesmerizing. It is very well written. I had to keep reading to find out more. The fact that she never faced justice for her horrendous behavior is appalling. This book has made me want to find out more about the real story. Money bought these kids and their families so much pain. It is still true today that people with money, power, fame, and privilege do these things and get away with it. The characters in this story just pull you in, and they don't let go, even after the book is finished. This book has drawn attention to something that I have never heard about, but is something we all should know. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read this book. I am thankful to the author for writing this story. Mostly I am so very heartbroken for the kids and families that had to endure such deplorable treatment.

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.


More to Explore

  • Tending Roses
  • Good Hope Road
  • A Month of Summer
  • Dandelion Summer

Copy the following link