Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars
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.
Taken from headlines back in Memphis, Tennessee 1939, this audiobook gripped me quickly and never let go. Yes, I’m probably the last to see this title, but so glad I did. My mother ended up in an orphanage in the late 20s when my grandmother and grandfather split; the Depression, the crushing poverty, and no way to care for two young daughters. So, while my mother didn’t have this horrendous experience, her’s was not pleasant either.
The storyline narration splits between 1939 and present-day Aiken, South Carolina.
It is essentially the true account of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage and Georgia Tann, who in today’s dollars, made a ton of money selling children from the facility. Not just orphans, however, as some were literally stolen from their parents for the bounty they would bring.
Babies were a hot commodity and Tann found a market with well-to-do couples unable to have their own. Then she found further avenues of income by squeezing them further for various trumped-up charges and fees.
The cruel life the children lead in the orphanage is heart-stopping. Tann apparently had cultivated major connections, including judges, politicians, and police who literally turned a blind eye to what was happening.
Historical POV is told through twelve-year-old Rill Foss, the oldest of five children from a family living on the Mississippi River in a shanty, a river houseboat. They are taken from the boat following a nighttime emergency trip to the hospital by their mother and father. Rill’s story is poignant, riveting, heartbreaking, and suspenseful.
In present day Aiken, Avery Stafford is caught up in the family drama of an elderly woman and makes a shocking discovery.
I definitely preferred the voice of Rill—her story captivating—her strength, resolve admiral. She had loving parents and had been well taught but was far too trusting. Avery is more difficult to warm up to—rich, her narrow scope of view rested on the well-to-do, educated, classed gentry. Once she got into the investigation; would not let it go.
There were a few things I didn’t quite understand (the adult sisters hanging onto their secret) and the conclusion that managed a touch of romance (obvious which way it was going), and really—he’s a nice guy and all but wondered how long the nice guy part would last over her kind of privileged background.
Yes, I got the audiobook from my lovely library and thought the narrators did an outstanding job. My heart rose and sank throughout, hanging on every word, until I was emotionally exhausted. I kept thinking of my mother—and understood again—why she was so paranoid about losing my brother and I when our dad left. Thank you, mom.
Genre: Fiction Sagas, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House Audio
Listening Length: 14 hrs 29 mins
Narrator: Emily Rankin, Catherine Taber
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Before We Were Yours [Amazon]
The Author: Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Wingate lives in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas.
©2022 V Williams