Before We Were Yours
By: Lisa Wingate
# of pages: 334
Challenges: Full House (dual time line)
Quote: “Since coming home I’ve readopted words like y’all, which I had expunged from my vocabulary up north. They’re good words, I’ve now decided. Like the humble boiled peanut, they serve perfectly in many situations.”
An engrossing novel inspired by shocking real events—the kidnappings and illegal adoptions of children conducted by the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society—Before We Were Yours is a poignant, uplifting tale for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.
My review: Wow, this book was even more shocking and interesting to read just after reading The Girls Who Went Away. The novel has a dual time line and follows Rill, a 12 year old girl who lives on a riverboat on the Mississippi River, and Avery, a 20-something year old lawyer with a political future in South Carolina. I’m going to interrupt my review to say that part of the book takes place on Edisto Island, which isn’t far from my grandparents’ house and is where I go a couple of times a year on day trips to the beach. It’s beautiful there and I loved the descriptions of the SC low country throughout the book.
Back to the review. One night Rill’s life is turned upside down when her parents suddenly have to leave her in charge of her three younger sisters and baby brother. Within less than 24 hours, the children find themselves at the Tennessee Children’s Home in Memphis. Not only are they confused about why they are in the house when they have two loving parents, but they soon find themselves starving, abused, and separated from each other one by one. It was incredibly hard reading about Rill and her siblings knowing that while Rill was fictional, these stories really did happen to hundreds of children in the earlier 1900s. But I loved Rill and how realistic her character felt.
Now compare this to Avery Stafford, a successful DC lawyer who came home to South Carolina to follow her father around to train to be a future senator. Not only has she been raised with the best of the best, she takes it for granted and tries to justify her family’s wealth and comforts whenever she’s confronted with even a hint of criticism. I’m not going to lie, Avery annoyed the heck out of me for most of the book. She’s spoiled and even worse, doesn’t think she’s spoiled. Avery is stressed out dealing with her father’s bad health and training to be a future senator. Every move she makes is planned out in order to maintain her family’s media and public appearance. However, her life is also turned upside down when she meets a woman named May.
Instead of continuing her apprenticeship and maintaining appearances, Avery decides to do a little investigating into the past. In the process she loses most of her entitled attitude and gains an insight into the past and the life of her grandmother.
I recommend this book to everyone because it’s an important part of history that should be learned and remembered. I had never heard of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, but I’m interested in learning more about it now. The author includes references in the back of the book that I’d like to check out soon.
Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Avery was annoying at times, but the other characters were great and the story was well written and an important story to hear.