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Before We Were Yours


Before We Were Yours

Avery Stafford is a contemporary success story. Born into wealth and privilege and using it smartly to turn herself into a successful federal prosecutor, she has a fast-paced life that looks wonderful from the outside. A model-handsome fiancé and a perfect Martha Stewart society wedding has been planned as well, the envy of any red-blooded American.

Avery’s father, a rock in her life on which she has built her own success, has suffered some medical setbacks, culminating in a health crisis that requires her to attend to him. She takes time out of her busy schedule, but being requested to care for her dad gives her a sense of love and belonging she finds hard to resist. However, while in the course of trying to nurse him back to full health, Avery happens upon a face from the past, one that stirs up a family secret long held and, until then, not known. Soon, Avery starts to find out that the solid foundation she came from has cracks that have shifted the earth under generations of Staffords.

"BEFORE WE WERE YOURS is an exciting read and a warning to all who think that their family foundations are secure and everything necessary to know has been safely passed down from generation to generation."

Avery’s story ends up becoming a link to difficult occurrences from the past, affecting not only her family but others as well. BEFORE WE WERE YOURS is based on a real-life scandal involving a woman named Georgia Tann. Tann was the director of a Memphis-based adoption agency that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families throughout the country from the 1920s to the 1950s. She also guided a network that allowed the deaths of as many as 500 children and infants. These children were not orphans. They had families that cared for them, but Tann’s people would kidnap them and sell them off to the highest bidders. The original families tried hard to take back the children through legal means, but no matter what the birth parents did, they never won and the kids were never returned to them.

This heartbreaking backstory is discovered little by little as Avery snoops around the family manse and uncovers the truth about this sad situation and how it completely changed the trajectory of her own family. The story she uncovers involves Rill Foss and her four younger siblings, all prey to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society the night that their parents leave their beloved shantyboat home and have to go to the local hospital when their mom gets sick and leaves Rill alone with the other four children. As Rill realizes that they are not going to be allowed to go back home, she fights to keep her siblings together as a group and protect them from the dark dealings of the nefarious children’s organization.

This is a terrifying story, actually. Lisa Wingate puts you both in the place of the horrified spectator learning about this forgotten bit of history and the frightened but brave children to whom this happened. As we discover the facts along with Avery and see how this affected her own family, we alternate between fear and hope and everything in between. Wingate builds a perfect tension between the two stories and gives us something to cheer about as well as something to fear as Avery uncovers this family history.

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS is an exciting read and a warning to all who think that their family foundations are secure and everything necessary to know has been safely passed down from generation to generation. This may not be the case, and the answers may alter the way that the future encroaches on the next generations.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on June 9, 2017

Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate

  • Publication Date: May 21, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0425284700
  • ISBN-13: 9780425284704