Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Before We Were Yours is a tragically mesmerizing piece of historical fiction. Lisa Wingate has created a heart wrenching tale of the 6 Foss siblings abducted then sold like cattle. Although fictionalized, the children's story is based upon testimonies from survivors of the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal which operated from the 1920's through to the 1950's. This story is raw, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
Wingate, a former journalist, has authored more than 20 novels and her work has been nominated for many awards. She is a professional and a highly skilled writer. Before We Were Yours is the first book I've read by Wingate, and I plan to read more. Lisa Wingate masterfully creates and shapes believable characters and isn't afraid to push them to lose everything not once, but over and over. Her writing is almost flawless, and in the case of Before We Were Yours, written simply, yet littered with elloquent turns of phrase.
Life is not unlike a cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. ~ Lisa Wingate, Before We Were Yours
From the first page, Before We Were Yours gripped me, I couldn't put this book down. The anguish felt by the parents and children who were wronged by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society are inconceivable. Before reading this novel I was unaware of this scandal and am disgusted with how many people were involved or turned a blind eye.
I would like to share a few words from the Author's Notes, which are a great summary as to why this story needed to be told:
If there is one overarching lesson to be learned from the Foss children and from the true-life story of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, it is that babies and children, no matter what corner of the world they hail from, are not commodities, or objects, or blank slates, as Georgia Tann so often represented her wards; they are human beings with histories, and needs, and hopes, and dreams of their own. ~Lisa Wingate
I adore how Wingate crafted this story. She alternates between elderly Rill Foss's life story and present day Avery Stafford's drive to discover her ailing grandma's secrets. The switch between character points of view every chapter was frustrating, but is the reason why the novel is so compelling. You just have to keep reading.
I must warn all you mothers and fathers, this story will be tough to bare. The atrocities forced upon the children in this book are appalling and will break your heart. As a mother it was a struggle to read the Foss children's tale. At many points during the night tears curled the pages of this novel. I am so glad I read this book though, as it reminded me of how truly dear my own children are.
I recommend this novel to those who look for characters and stories that cause you physical turmoil, give rise to tears, and squeeze your chest. This novel is skillfully written and will not disappoint.
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