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Before We Were Yours: A Novel by Lisa…

Before We Were Yours: A Novel (original 2017; edition 2017)

by Lisa Wingate (Author)

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7686512,049 (4.21)22
Title:Before We Were Yours: A Novel
Authors:Lisa Wingate (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (2017), Edition: First Edition, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Before We Were Yours: A Novel by Lisa Wingate (2017)



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There is nothing new under the sun. While we may not have heard of separating children from their families at the border before, taking children from their families, housing them in orphanages, and then adopting them out to new families is not new in the history of this country. From 1924 through 1950, Georgia Tann ran the Tennessee Children's Home Society, an adoption agency that stole babies from single mothers or kidnapped older children from their poor parents and sold them to wealthy people looking to adopt. The law looked the other way for decades, and they and the adoptive parents colluded with Tann to keep the secret of the these illegal adoptions. In Lisa Wingate's novel, Before We Were Yours, she fictionalizes Georgia Tann's very real crimes to create a novel about the devastation and long term affects on the children and families illegally ripped apart.

In 1939, a young woman loses her baby and is advised not to have more. To mitigate this devastating heartbreak, her father is directed to a woman in Memphis. In present day Aiken, SC, high-powered federal prosecutor Avery Stafford has come home from Baltimore to help her father, a wealthy and well-respected Senator in the midst of a reelection campaign who is also facing a health crisis. Avery is both being groomed to take over for her father one day and also to provide an additional face for his campaign events right now. At one such event, an elderly woman named May Crandall mistakes Avery for someone else. This case of mistaken identity is somehow the thing that Avery latches onto during this stressful time, leading her first to her grandmother, suffering from dementia, with questions about the past and then to the family secret buried for so many years. May might have gotten Avery's identity wrong but she remembers quite a lot from her own tragic past.

Memphis, Tennessee, 1939. Rill Foss lives with her parents and four siblings on a riverboat shanty tucked away on the Mississippi River. When her mother's latest labor becomes dangerous, Rill's parents must go into town to the hospital, leaving the 12 year old in charge. While they are gone, the boat is raided and the children taken to an orphanage to await reunification with their parents. But Rill comes to understand that there will be no reunion, in fact her parents were tricked into signing their children away, even as she fights to keep her siblings together. The orphanage is an appalling and terrifying place. The children are abused and starved. They are molested. They are punished for outspokenness. And they disappear. Some children disappear into new adoptive families. Others just plain disappear.

Avery's and Rill's story lines alternate back and forth as the novel progresses taking the reader from the heart-breaking and horrific life in the orphanage in the 1940s to the closely guarded secrets of the present day. The description of what the Foss children endured daily after being ripped from their parents is so disgusting and their perseverance is so extraordinary that this historical story was far more compelling than the modern day revelations. Rill's determination to stay connected with her siblings and to find her way back to her family is incredible. Avery's story is more of a blossoming love story with a side of mystery and less engaging in general. The two plots come together in ways that reader will see coming long before the end but somehow that doesn't take much away from the power of the novel. Although based in large part on a terrible, true historic tragedy, this novel manages to be hopeful and positive in the end. Historical fiction fans will be completely engrossed in this one and all readers will sadly learn that we have not always been concerned with the welfare of children or of the sanctity of families. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 18, 2018 |
Interesting fiction based on a true story. ( )
  marciablnc | Jun 14, 2018 |
I absolutely loved this book. The story is based on a real-life historical place called the Tennessee Children's Home Society which was an orphanage operating during the 1930's and 1940's and run by a woman called Georgia Tann. A later investigation on the home and Ms. Tann revealed that it had been operating under Tann's direction as an illegal adoption facility. Many children were lost and never found again after they had been taken to this facility. This book is about a 12-year old river shantyboat girl called Rill Foss and her 4 siblings. All five were picked up by the police and taken from their boat when the family's father took their mother to the hospital because of problems with child delivery. Rill was left in charge of her siblings when they left, and continued to try to look after them under the appalling conditions they faced at the Children's Home. The book slips back and forth from 1939, when the children were snatched, up to the present day. The story of Rill and her siblings unfolds in these two time frames, and the story moves seamlessly through each one. I absolutely loved the book. The writing was fabulous, and the descriptions of the river and the people who lived on it, so realistic. As a 90-year old Rill (May) states near the end when explaining to Avery how she managed to survive all the hardships -
"Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we don't understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day, or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance to the music of today." I highly recommend this book, and am placing it on my special favourites list. ( )
  Romonko | Jun 5, 2018 |
I could not put this book down. It will make you angry, and deeply sad. I had never heard of this scandal in Tennessee before this book. It’s unbelievable. I connected with this story in so many ways. The characters are so likable, even lovable. I found myself on the edge of my seat to see how it would all come together. From the beginning the journey runs parallel with the past, but doesn’t make you feel like you’re jumping back and forth. The transitions are smooth and leave you longing for your next glimpse of the past or future.
I’m not generous with my stars, but there was no question on this one.
If you are a victim of child abuse, be cautious with this book. It will reach into your gut and twist. ( )
  Nemorn | Jun 4, 2018 |
I was hooked on Rill's story from the start, but it took me a while to get into Avery's plot line. The whole thing about what Georgia Tann did is shocking. Orphanages were bad enough, but to make people into "orphans" when they weren't is demented. Ms. Wingate writes a captivating story of what might have happened. ( )
  eliorajoy | Jun 1, 2018 |
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"Did you know that in this land of the free and home of the brave there is a great baby market? And the securities which change hands...are not mere engraved slips of paper promising certain financial dividends, but live, kicking, flesh-and-blood babies."  ---FROM THE ARTICLE "THE BABY MARKET, The Saturday Evening Post, February 1, 1930
"They are, [Georgia Tann] said repeatedly, blank slates. They are born untainted, and if you adopt them at an early age and surround them with beauty and culture, they will become anything you wish them to be."  ---BARBARA BISANTZ RAYMOND, The Baby Thief
For the hundreds who vanished
and for the thousands who didn't.
May your stories
not be forgotten.
For those who help today's orphans
find forever homes.
May you always know the value 
of your work
and your love.
First words
My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon.
It's funny how what you're used to seems like it's right even if it's bad.
Life is not unlike cinema.  Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand.  No matter how much we love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn't suit the moment.
I have to be close to my sister, We've been stitched together at the heart since she was born.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425284689, Hardcover)

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 that the truth is much darker. 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 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—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.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 03 Jan 2017 19:09:35 -0500)

"Memphis, Tennessee, 1936. The five Foss children find their lives changed forever when their parents leave them alone on the family shantyboat one stormy night. Rill Foss, just twelve years old, must protect her four younger siblings as they are wrenched from their home on the Mississippi and thrown into the care of the infamous Georgia Tann, director of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. South Carolina, Present Day. Avery Stafford has lived a charmed life. Loving daughter to her father, a U.S. Senator, she has a promising career as an assistant D.A. in Baltimore and is engaged to her best friend. But when Avery comes home to help her father weather a health crisis and a political attack, a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her deeply shaken. Avery's decision to learn more about the woman's life will take her on a journey through her family's long-hidden history"--… (more)

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