Before We Were Yours

By Lisa Wingate,

Book cover of Before We Were Yours

Book description

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Before We Were Yours as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book is a split-time masterpiece, and I was equally invested in both timelines. It also taught me about historical, harrowing events surrounding the adoption industry in the United States that I didn’t know about before.

While the characters in this story face impossible scenarios, it’s also a lesson on the kind of grief that comes from horrific choices being made for a person that can’t be undone.

Every family has secrets, some more devastating than others. Lisa Wingate's historical novel about a young woman who uncovers secrets related to the Tennessee Children's Home Society in the 1930s brings a great wrong to light.

It made me wonder if some secrets are better kept hidden or if families deserve to know details about the past, even if those details may derail the present. The novel made me wonder what secrets my family may be keeping. Do I want to know?

I learned a lot from this book. I wasn’t familiar with the Mississippi River shantyboat people and what their lives were like.

And though I knew of the existence of orphanages, both good and bad, I’d never had a real understanding of what the lives of children were like in facilities such as The Tennessee Children’s Home, where children were commodities to be bought and sold. I ran the gamut of emotions while reading about Rill and her sisters and their lives before and after growing up on a river boat and their stay in the children’s home. 

A gripping…

The decisions mothers are forced to make are often difficult, but it is terrifying to have those decisions taken from you.

When the five Foss children are scooped up by unscrupulous people under the guise of social services, the children’s best interests aren’t part of the discussion, and the repercussions are devastating to all.

Based on a horrific true story.

A compelling read that took me by the collar and plunged me back in time to 1939 Memphis. I found the true, yet terribly disturbing events of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage to be both eye-opening and immersive. My heart was warmed by the determination of the Foss children to find their way home, despite the years it took to get there. Before We Were Yours is a story that has never left me as it straddles the tightrope of humanity, at its worst and also at its best, with a deft hand that is as haunting as it…

This was a historical fiction based on a Tennessee Orphanage that captured children from impoverished families and then sold them to rich adoptees. The fairer the child the more profit there was to be made. It was hard to believe that this practice existed from 1925 to 1950. The extent of abuse the protagonist and her sisters experienced while at the home was harsh, including attempted escapes. Despite her efforts to stay together, the siblings were ultimately split up into different homes. Through miraculous events the story culminates in the reunification many years later making for an inspirational read.

It’s hard to write a book this riveting and wrenching and raw without resorting to baser language and situations, but Wingate does so beautifully as she takes readers back to a fictionalized version of a real-life adoption agency in the 1930s that kidnapped and sold children to wealthy families. This split-time book also has a compelling touch of mystery, which appealed to the suspense writer in me. But mostly, it’s about resilience, determination, and the strength of family ties even in adversity and across time and distance—which is why I found this book uplifting despite the hard subject matter.

Wingate has a knack for researching little-known pieces of history and creating awesome novels that feel like nonfiction. When I read Before We Were Yours, I was fascinated and moved by the fictionalized story of children stolen from their parents and sent into lives they were not equipped for. The novel inspired me to write its nonfiction sequel—an unusual approach. The fiction brought forth real-life people who wanted to tell their true stories of being “Georgia Tann babies” and led to lots of intriguing research. Highly recommend this novel to help brainstorm how to shape a compelling real-life story…

This novel is based on a notorious real-life scandal: Georgia Tann, director of an adoption organization in Memphis, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country from 1924 until 1950. This heart-wrenching and affecting novel takes place in 1939 Memphis, Tennessee and present-day South Carolina. In the 1930s storyline, siblings who live on a shanty boat are taken to an orphanage, where they must survive cruel conditions. In the present day, a wealthy prosecutor digs through her family’s long-hidden history, leading her to a shocking truth. I love that this book deals with dark elements of…

From Meredith's list on dual-timeline historical stories.

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