BEFORE WE WERE YOURS
Author: Lisa Wingate
Publisher: Ballantine Books 2017
Genre: Novel/historical fiction
Hardcover Edition: 354 pages
Source: Personal copy
This story wraps itself around the reader and as the events unfold the wrap is tighter, warmer and more suspenseful.
It is told in two voices: Rill Foss and Avery Stafford. Many reviewers spoke highly of the character Rill Foss and the scenes of Rill and her siblings stolen from their parents and kept in the Tennessee Children’s Home waiting for adoption. It was not a nice place and Rill’s voice is strong in telling the tale of her family. But it was the character of Avery Stafford who captured my heart. A young lawyer from an old South Carolina family she pours her heart and soul into learning more about her grandmother’s mysterious past.
The tale is based on the real-life scandal of the Memphis adoption organization that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families. Wingate gives us a window into the treatment of some children in the thirties. It would seem that greed and injustice have been present in our world in places we sometimes least expect. Our heroine Avery Stafford has no inkling of such a situation, but she senses that something is not as it seems in the history of her beloved grandmother, who is now receiving care in a nursing home with a memory unit. The reader, who is told the story by Rill Foss as a young girl, knows what is going on. But it is how this author Lisa Wingate is able to fit together the pieces of this story and the feeling each represents that creates a riveting and mysterious tale.
With each passing chapter the story and the characters are more vivid and pull at the heart more strongly. For this reader, Avery is the heart of the story. As book clubs choose and discuss this story, no doubt readers will feel most strongly for different characters. Though some critics do not agree with me, I take this to be a sign that Wingate knows how to create characters as well as plots. It is far from easy to write multiple young children with clarity and interest as Wingate has done. Many readers agree. This book has been weeks on best-seller lists.