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Before We Were Yours: A Novel
Before We Were Yours A Novel
Author: Lisa Wingate
THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT?A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller — For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a ?thought-provoking [and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart . . . based on a notorious true-life scandal.?* — Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four youn...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780425284704
ISBN-10: 0425284700
Publication Date: 5/21/2019
Pages: 368
Edition: Reprint
Rating:
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 39

4.5 stars, based on 39 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 137
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Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed Before We Were Yours: A Novel on + 1094 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
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.
reviewed Before We Were Yours: A Novel on + 146 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
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: A Novel on + 788 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
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...
reviewed Before We Were Yours: A Novel on + 107 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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reviewed Before We Were Yours: A Novel on + 163 more book reviews
Historical fiction telling the true story of the Tennessee Children's Home written from alternating viewpoints of two charactersâAvery telling the story in current times, and elderly May Weathers
( originally Rill Voss) telling of her childhood experience at the adoption center.
It was hard to read of the child snatchings, fraud, and then the abuse that occurred in the home, with many deaths resulting that were hidden from families and authorities. It took decades before the state of TN addressed the crimes. Authorities and charities even recognized the home's director for promoting adoptions of poor children.
This was a piece of history I had never heard of despite being from a nearby state. You will rejoice in what Avery is able to accomplish when her curiosity is sparked by a chance meeting with May and she delves into the secrets some families keep through the ages.
reviewed Before We Were Yours: A Novel on + 12 more book reviews
Could not put this down! Great read!

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