Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Before We Were Yours

By Melissa Amster

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 the dark truth. 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 to 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—Lisa 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.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I had heard many good things about Before We Were Yours, despite how heavy it sounded. So I was pleased to win it from Linda's Book Obsession a few weeks ago. As soon as it arrived, I added it to my TBR. And as soon as I picked it up, I became immersed in the story. It is an unforgettable novel about the bonds of family.

The parts that took place in 1939 made me think of a V.C. Andrews novel. Adults were always cruel to children in those books. However, those were fictional characters. Georgia Tann was a real person who did despicable things. The way she lied about everything made me think of how easy someone can use gaslighting to get their way. Especially if they have money and political influence. Her behavior was similar to some behaviors I've seen nowadays.

I really liked the back and forth storytelling as Lisa Wingate delved further into the mystery surrounding Avery's family and how it potentially tied into the scandal from the past. She kept me guessing as to what would happen next. During the scenes from the past, I was on my toes with worry for the children.

Lisa does a great job of describing characters and scenery without taking away from the narrative. I felt like I could easily visualize everything that was going on. The dialogue felt genuine and both Rill and Avery were likable and sympathetic characters.

I only wish that Rill's story could have been carried further. It stopped after a while and then there was a quick summary of the many years between the past and present. It would have been interesting to see the changes in her life as she came of age into adulthood.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to read this novel and to Linda for picking me at random to receive a copy. I'm glad to pay the recommendation forward, as it is a novel you won't want to miss out on. Just be forewarned that some parts in the past are unsettling to read about.

Since this novel would make a great movie, here are some casting ideas I had in mind.
Avery: Blake Lively
Elliot: William Moseley
Trent: Michael Stahl-David
Georgia: Annette Bening
Rill: Maisy Stella

More by Lisa Wingate:


Janine said...

This book sounds really interesting. I enjoyed your review.

Erica Robyn said...

Wow! This definitely sounds like an intense read. Great review!

dstoutholcomb said...

I enjoyed this, too. I was part of Lisa's Sisterhood of the Traveling Book and read it as an ARC.


The Book Sage said...

Obviously, another book/author that I need to add to my exploding TBR pile (largely due to you, but no guilt!). Your reviews make it extremely hard not to read those books...even though I try. Ultimately, though, I am always happy when I do.