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Before We Were Yours
Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate
Memphis, 1939: Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shanty boat. 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 familia...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9780425284704
ISBN-10: 0425284700
Publication Date: 5/21/2019
Pages: 384
Edition: Reprint
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.

4.3 stars, based on 86 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

Moonpie avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 1170 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
From the first time I read a book by Ms. Wingate, she captivated me with her stories and writing. I was very excited to read this book and it far surpassed my expectations.
I am intrigued my fictional novels that are based on true stories. The facts are true but how they are made play out in the characters' stories lies in the hands of the author. Through Lisa Wingate's talent and writing skill, these individuals were literally brought to life, so much so I had to keep reminding myself they were fictional!
Until this novel I had never heard of the Tennessee Children's Home Society spearheaded by Georgia Tann. From the 1920's through 1950's, hundreds of children were kidnapped by abduction or trickery from loving and caring parents. Until they were adopted by wealthy or famous people, for a hefty fee, they suffered unimaginable physical abuse, sexual assault, neglect, and with some even death.
In 1939 a young girl, Rill, and her siblings lived happily in poverty on a house boat with their parents. While her father and mother were at the hospital welcoming another child they were snatched away and taken to one of Ms. Tann's âhomesâ. That was when the nightmare began. As if the heartbreak of being separated from their parents was not enough, Rill also felt the pain of trying to protect her younger siblings and keep them together in an environment of cruelty and violence.
My heart broke at the horrors these children encountered. I never imagined!
The chapters alternate from Rill's narrative to Avery Stafford in the present day. Avery is 30, wealthy, privileged and the member of a prestigious political family, totally opposite to Rill's experience. When Avery attends a nursing home tour a resident appears to recognize her. She returns to visit her. In a sepia photo in May Crandall's room she sees a family. One of the children strongly resembles her grandmother. She cannot get it out of her mind and begins to relentlessly seek out answers about her Grandma Judy's past. Could May be a part of that past? Due to dementia claiming her grandmother's once sharp mind she cannot ask her questions. It's all up to Avery. What secrets will she unearth? How will they change her and her family's lives? I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! An incredible book with an amazing story!
Thank you, Lisa Wingate, for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book. The opinions I have stated are my own.
susieqmillsacoustics avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 1061 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This is a gripping tale that spans generations. It is told from the perspective of 12 year old Rill in 1939 as she tries to protect her younger siblings when their lives are forever changed. Then to present day and the perspective of Avery, a successful attorney and senator's daughter engaged to her childhood friend who returns home to South Carolina when her father becomes ill. She becomes intrigued with an elderly patient in a care facility who recognizes a bracelet Avery wears that was passed down from her grandmother. This is a bittersweet tale both tragic and triumphant. It is frightening how much the real Georgia Tann and Tennessee Children's Home Society got away with decades ago and how many lives were affected by them! Shudder...
smileen avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 241 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
What an amazing story based on facts about children being stolen and placed in a facility called The Tennessee Children's Home Society where they were put up for adoption. This is the story of four children who were taken off the riverboat they lived on, and forced to live in deplorable conditions, and how they found their way back to each other years later. I love reading stories and finding out they were not altogether fiction. Highly recommend this book!
reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 145 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
 This is a very readable book.  The story holds you and the writing is good.

It is based on the Tennessee Children's Home (TCH) Adoption scandal when Georgia Tann sold children that had been given up and kidnapped to adoptive families.  While waiting for sale the children were kept in deplorable conditions that included neglect, hunger, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.  Many of these children were not orphans.  Friendly judges gave these children into the custody of the home.  The adoptions were often not legal.  Biological parents had not signed away custody, were not even aware what had happened to their children.  Many of the parents who adopted from TCH were not screened and not fit.

Georgia Tann is the reason that, to this day, most adoptions are closed-with no contact between old and new families.  The adults that the TCH children became had no way to trace their real families, nor did their grieving parents have a way to find them.

The given reason for this chaos, was that children in rich families have better prospects.  Tann apparently really believed that she was helping children by moving them from poverty to wealth, regardless of the character of the adoptive parents.  This remember, was the 1920s and 30s, before Hitler ruined eugenics.  Many people were open in their belief that there were superior and inferior people.  Surely a child would have a better chance being reared and influenced by a superior person.

This story tells of a family of children whose parents are tricked into signing adoption papers while their mother is in hard labor with the youngest.  The children are removed from their custody and taken to a branch of the TCH.  Always the oldest ones are trying to get home to their parents, but when they do things are not what they expect.

This story alternates with the story of a grand-daughter, a woman of class and privilege who is putting together this family history.  She is horrified and intrigued as she goes along.

Eventually the story has a mostly happy ending.

I have read as much as I could get on the TCH scandal and Georgia Tann.  I felt that the book has a little bit of PC revisionism that I didn't like.  First, the book did mention that Tann saw children as blank slates, but not that her stated motive was to do her part to destroy the lower classes by giving their children to upper class parents.  This is a very important point to the meaning of the story.

Another thing that annoyed me is that in real life a lot of the molestation was done by Tann and her friends.  However, in the book, the one male character had to be the molester because in the PC culture women do not sexually abuse people (they must be victims not aggressors) and lesbians (which Tann was at least as pertained to her abuse of children) must never be portrayed as villains.

The story is worth reading in spite of this twisting, but it would have been even better had Wingate chosen to portray reality as it is (a theme in the end of the book).
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pj-s-bookcorner avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 845 more book reviews
If you like historical fiction, give this a try. Set in the late 1930's, a family with five children live on a shanty boat off the Mississippi. When a medical emergency comes up with his wife, husband/father leave to take his wife to the hospital. What follows is an emotional, heart wrenching story, based on actual facts The Tennessee Children's Home Society existed in Memphis run by Georgia Tann. Lauded at the time as the pioneer of modern adoption, what unfolds for the residents is harrowing for many. Children for sale, human trafficing. Tied in to a prominent political family's past it makes for a compelling read.
Yoni avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 327 more book reviews
I never knew about the Tennessee Children's Home Society until I read this book. Although it is fiction, it gives you a tiny glimpse into a horrific time. It made me want to find out more, and I discovered that it was even worse than the book leads you to believe. With that said, this is such a great story. The subject is sad but in the end it is cathartic and warm.
MKSbooklady avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 924 more book reviews
This is one of the saddest books I have read in a long time. The hideous things that the people at the Tennessee Children's Home Society did make me sick. But this is a story of strength, and family. I enjoyed the story taking place in the past more than the present day .
starvinArtist avatar reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 57 more book reviews
Although fiction, this story is a composite of some of the true stories of children who were taken by the very real Tennessee Children's Home Society. Centers on sisters who were stolen from their home while the mother was in the hospital. Brutilized while in the home and lied to, this was a heart breaking novel of the worst of the worst in orphanages.
reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 50 more book reviews
This book is based on thousands of true stories. It's one story that spans a lifetime and it is hard to put down and go to sleep. It compels you to want to know more.
reviewed Before We Were Yours on + 33 more book reviews
Really enjoyed this book. was easy to follow all the characters and timelines.

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