Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate ~ Book Review

In Tennesse in 1939 Rill Foss is the oldest of 5 siblings living aboard a shanty boat on the river with her parents.  Theirs is happy family life albiet a poor life.  When her mom, whom they all call Queenie,  goes into labor and comes up against major complications, the midwife insists her father, Briny, take her to the hospital.  But the hospital is across the river.  A family friend, another river dweller in the chaos and panic, offers to take them but Rill, who is only 12, is left behind and given the responsibility to care for the younger ones until Briny can come back.  While her parents are gone, strangers come who identify themselves as police and under duress remove the kids, telling them they have to stay in an orphanage until they can be returned to their parents.  Having a deep sense that they must stay together, Rill goes along with it, knowing she can't fight the adults anyway.

In present day South Carolina, Avery Stafford is being groomed to possibly take her Dad's political position.  When she returns home to help him out during a health scare, she comes across a lady in a senior's home who mistakes her for someone else.  But the encounter compels Avery to start a search into her family's history but what she finds can ruin her well off, upstanding political Southern family.

I saw this book on a Christian book reader's page on facebook and it came very highly recommended.  This was a new author for me and it sounded very interesting so I put it on hold right away.  Good thing because it had tons of holds.  It is based on a true story about Georgia Tann, who from about 1925 - 1950 when they finally shut her down, kidnapped and stole children from poor families and through her Tennessee Children's Home Society sold them to wealthy families, including the notorious actress Joan Crawford, whose adopted daughter from this orphanage wrote "Mommy Dearest", about the abuse she experienced at the hands of her adopted mother. Google Georgia Tann, you will be shocked!   The author wrote from the perspective of the children and though the family in it is fictional, all the goings on were from testimonies of survivors of this horrendous fake orphanage and adoption agency.  I was stunned that this could actually happen and that so many people, from police to judges to politicians were bought off and allowed this to continue for so long.  Some of the siblings that went through these orphanages spent years trying to find and reunite their families when they became adults.  The records were so contorted or "lost" that some never did.   It is a sad piece of American history that needs to be told so that it brings awareness to child trafficking and how it hides under the radar.

I loved the character of Rill.  Only 12 years old, but as is the nature of the oldest child, she has a strong sense of responsibility and of family and doing what she has to do to try and keep them all together and she deeply feels the burden of that.  She is strong and courageous for her young age and what she is going through and is determined to find a way to get back to her parents and home.  And I also loved the character of Avery, who dug and strived to find the truth even though it could have tough consequences for those she loved.

I, in turn, cannot recommend this read enough!  I rated it a 9.5/10


Barbara H. said...

I've loved the books of hers that I have read. This sounds like another great one.

Susan @ ReadingWorld said...

Sounds wonderful. I just requested in from my library.