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Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Title: Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 339
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (TN, SC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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 the 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 returnshome 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 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.

Review: I heard so much about this book before I picked it up and wonder if my expectations were a tad too high since I liked this book a lot, especially the last third, but didn't love it. I think that's because it was slow in the beginning and I am not great at slow books.

I like the dual timeline / alternating chapters of Rill in the 1930s and Avery in the present day. We know their stories will connect at some point, and that's okay because we don't quite know what the relationship will be. Seeing it all unfold through Avery's eyes is very effective.

I really liked the way that the author truly captured the dialect of the characters. It actually took me a few pages to get into the rhythm of it, but that's good because it made me focus on the characters and what they were saying. It certainly isn't a book to skim.

As with any book steeped in reality, I love the author's post script that explains the truth behind the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage, the horrible woman who ran it, and all those who helped her to steal babies from poor families and sell them to wealthy and prominent ones. Stealing other people's children! I managed to sob my way through the last third of the book as it all comes together.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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