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.
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!
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...
A well-written story based on tragic real life events, this heart-wrenching novel left me in a book hangover for days. The author takes you to the edge, then puts just enough hope in to keep the reader from despair. A story that needed to be told, with implications for generations. I really liked the present day end of the tale, with the added romance and intertwining of the two main stories. I didn't want to stop reading until I found out what happened to them all.
Recommend to readers who like southern fiction with difficult subjects, like poverty, child abuse, human trafficking, political corruption, and alcoholism.
(An e-book was provided by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.)
This was a fantastic book with just the right amounts of every component of a good story. It is based on the true story of the Tennessee Children's Home Society which from the 1920-1950s took poor children away from their families, abused them and sold them into adoption as if they were orphans. The chapters here alternate between the story of two women: Rill/May who in 1939 is living with her parents and siblings on a riverboat when the children are all captured and taken to the TN Children's Home Society. They are separated and sold off to wealthy families and she fights to keep them together. The other story is of Avery in present day. Avery is 30, a sharp and well educated powerful attorney from a prominent political family. Her beloved grandmother has dementia. When visiting a nursing home another woman seems to recognize her and Avery sets out to investigate why. Great characters, family secrets, a compelling story with true history mixed in, and even a little side romance. Satisfying read.
What.A.Book. Another to add to one of my favorites!
This is a heartbreaking story about the real life scandal involving the infamous Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage in 1920's through 1950's. Children of poor parents were kidnapped and sold to the elite after being brutalized at the home.
This is one of the most heart wrenching, painful and traumatic book I've read, a "can't put it down" book with the author's superbly written text which puts me in the story as if I'm experiencing it myself.
My only regret is that Georgia Tann, Director of a Memphis based adoption organization, sold these children all over the country and got away with it. She was brutal and merciless to the children even went so far as committing murder.
Eventually she died of cancer, but deserved much worse!
A MUST read!
Spellbinding book, a great read. Based on true documented events. It was difficult for me to put this book down. It pulled me in and kept me reading. Its amazing that this practice could have taken place in a society as ours, but it did. Its a shameful reminder of what some people will do for money.
Truely a 5 star rating if any book ever deserved it.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
This story is told in past and present. The past is May's story. How she grew up on a riverboat, a river gypsy, her and three sisters and a baby brother. Until they were taken away one night when her parents had to leave the boat.
The present is told by Avery Stafford. A woman who lived in the limelight of being raised in a wealthy family with a father who's a senator. And she was being groomed to one day take his place.
Everything changed when an older woman in a nursing home seems to recognize her. It sets Avery on path that she must follow, must see where it leads. Even if it shakes her perfectly manicured world to its core.
I loved this story. It stirs so many emotions. Seeing the mistreatment of young children in the orphanage and the woman who smoothly lies to make a profit from their lives. The sadness of families being torn apart. Yet, how sometimes the past must be faced before we can move on to the future. Another well written story by this author.
**Received from publisher for an honest review
The book was engaging from beginning to end. To think that woman got away with it in America and was never punished is unbelievable. It is not a book that is enjoyed as such, but one that keeps the pages turning hoping that things will be resolved. It is extremely hard to put down, but well written.
Wingate uses the historical framework of a corrupt adoption system in Tennessee to tell the story of a fictional family torn apart by a system that saw the children of poor and often uneducated parents as commodities to be sold to the highest bidders.
Rill Foss is left in charge of her four siblings when their father makes a frantic trip to get their laboring mother to a hospital. In the adults' absence, the children are removed to an orphanage where they are systematically stripped of their identities and separated under the auspices of the "Tennessee Children's Home Society".
Their story is revealed piecemeal when the daughter of a prominent political family in modern-day South Carolina begins trying to understand the actions of her grandmother, whose dementia is stealing memories she may or may not have ever intended to share.
Written as an intriguing mystery, and based on actual history, this novel rates five++ stars. It is the heart wrenching story of the Tennessee Children's Home Society and the powerful woman who ran it. It was hard to put down as the narration switches back and forth between a modern day woman digging into her family's past, and one of the victims whose entire life was altered by unforgivable events. Georgia Tann kidnapped numerous children from the indigent and ignorant families she met, by false and criminal means, and became rich while securing their "adoptions" for money. A tragic story about real people. D.
A well written tale about illegal adoptions and untold cruelty in the 1930's through the late 50's. Based on a true situation in Memphis back then. The story weaves present day masterfully with yesteryear and it is finally revealed how this particular family made it through.
Absolutely loved this book about children who end up in an orphanage where they don't belong, and about the illicit practices of the person who secures these children, and their treatment at the orphanage. Heart warming.