Before We Were Yours – Review



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.

Before We Were Yours was absolutely mind-boggling. Days after finishing this audiobook, I’m still depressed it’s over and completely shocked by the true events this story was based on. I frequently saw this book on Instagram or Goodreads with rave reviews and I finally understand why. I decided I would check out the audiobook to squeeze in an extra book for the month of January, but I never expected this story to draw me in the way it did. I found myself looking for extra things to do around the house just so I could listen to a few more minutes of the story. I was even eager to wake up early to sneak extra time in before the kids got up. Before We Were Yours was captivating enough to leave me with the faraway look of someone lost in a daydream as I listened to this story while cooking or cleaning. I was turned into a robot, my mind completely absorbed by the story while my body worked of its own accord.

I avoided reviews of this book to keep the mystery alive. It was a story I wanted to enter into as blindly as possible and one I’m glad I did. I was completely unaware, as were many of my fellow readers, of the Tennesee Children’s Home Society and the actions of a very real character, Georgia Tann. As the story drew on, I kept thinking surely this could not be based on true events. There had to be large doses of fiction thrown in, but to my immense dismay, the story follows the actions of one greedy woman quite closely.

“It’s funny how what you’re used to seems like it’s right even if it’s bad.”

It’s impossible to imagine the effects of Georgia Tann had on future generations. The numerous lives affected, even today, by such a ruthless woman, and how different the present might have been for the victims if they had been left in the care of their biological parents. As a mother, imagining my own children being stolen, renamed, and placed for adoption kills a part of my soul. I can only fathom the very same feeling was often experienced by mothers and fathers of stolen children.

The sense of injustice and the weight of the years stolen from families of children kidnapped by Georgia Tann and others is absolutely astounding. I found myself constantly wracking my brain, trying to figure out how large scale operations like this can take place right under numerous noses. I was angry and heartbroken, as one should be while reading this book. Even now as I write, I find myself struggling to put the insurmountable emotions into words. This book offered a whole spectrum of feeling, education, and history. It was truly everything I look for in the books I read.

I can’t even begin to express how much I equally loved the past perspective of Rill and the present point-of-view of Avery. The lives of these two women from very different generations were expertly woven together with such an air of mystery and excitement – I could not get enough. There were important life lessons pieced in, a sense of wisdom only aged characters can bring to a story, and a bittersweet realization of just how deeply the people in our world shape our lives.

“In my multifold years of life, I have learned that most people get along as best they can. They don’t intend to hurt anyone. It is merely a terrible by-product of surviving.”

I can’t praise Lisa Wingate enough for creating such a moving and important novel. This story begs to be read and needs to be shared again and again. I won’t soon be forgetting Before We Were Yours.

Book #4 in my Beat the Backlist Challenge.

Purchase on Amazon.


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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Your review touched me so much! The book’s premise is indeed heart-wrenching. The author seems to have done a wonderful job with this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Your comment means a lot to me! ❤️ This was an unforgettable read.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was just such a fabulous book. So glad you enjoyed this sad tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was! It’s hard to say you love it because it’s just so heartbreaking. I’m glad I read it though, such a great book!


  3. Jules_Writes says:

    I have this on my TBR pile, I must get round to it. Wonderful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for checking out my review. It’s definitely a must-read! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds amazing to read I need to get a copy fab review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!! Definitely worth getting. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. When I saw you’d be reading this, I hoped you’d love and empathize with it as much as I did. Apparently, you did and have written a touching review. I did the same with my audio listening…found as many chores as I could to prolong my listening. Great job, Ashley!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jina Bazzar says:

    Touching review.

    Liked by 1 person

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