Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
This is a sober post written by me, Minda. I devoured this book—it was very good—though the topic is tragic. It is based on the true story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, an organization involved with the kidnapping of children and illegal adoptions in the first half of the 20th century.
What drank prior: Just sparkling water—the content seemed a bit too serious for me to drink for this.
Spoiler-free Overview: The main character Avery comes across this older woman at a nursing home, May, who confuses her with her sister. This leads to more discoveries from Avery hoping to get to the bottom of her family’s past. Over time, Avery stumbles on another secret of her grandmother’s and the story begins to unravel—in a good way. The story in the present is shared with a story in the past about a girl named Rill trying to keep her siblings together after they are ripped from their home without answers.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: I loved this book. Overall it was a very heartwarming story, but the portion in the past was heartbreaking and I was so interested in seeing how it all tied in to the present. It was all very well done and I was teary-eyes near the end.
This was a really really good book, but it’s incredibly sad that this adoption center is based on a real story of an orphanage that stole poor children from their families and sold them to wealthy families for a profit, no questions asked. Here’s the Wikipedia page for more info on the background for the book. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Children’s_Home_Society
Characters: This book does an amazing job of showing the bonds between sisters. Rill was definitely my favorite character in the story and I felt for her as a fellow older sibling. My heart was breaking for her. Avery was a little frustrating with her privilege and passiveness, but she grew on me. Heart-shaped hands for Trent and Aves—their story was cute. Also loved May’s relationship with Hootsie, even though it’s fairly minor in the story.
Plot: This is another one of those books that takes place in the present from two POVs—mostly Avery’s but also May’s—and the past with Rill—an oldest child of five growing up on a houseboat on the Mississippi River.
In the past (the reason for the sober post): Rill and her five siblings are put into police custody after her mother and father go to the hospital to save her mother’s life while she’s in labor without anyone giving them any details. They are all put into a very abusive group home and are slowly separated into different homes, while Rill struggles to keep them all together and safe. Things all come to a head when her and one of the sisters are placed with a new family.
In the present: After learning more from May after their meeting, Avery seeks to get more answers around her family’s past, nervous that they might have something to do with the missing children. As she digs deeper, she finds Trent whose family’s story is also intertwined with her own’s. Finally, she pieces the story together and it was so satisfying.
…….Now onto spoilers…….
Rill’s whole story was so tough to read—and even tougher since this is based on real stories that happened to thousands on kids around Memphis. It was incredibly sad how Rill’s Arcadia dreams ended, but I thought it was insightful how she dealt with it and eventually led her to closure/embracing her new family.
I loved how the story unfolded with Avery’s grandmother being the little baby girl birthed at the beginning of the story. It all made a lot of sense, though it is still sad that all the sisters felt the need to hide their stories from their families. The reunion of May and Avery’s grandmother was so sweet.
Rating: 5/5 shots.
Drink pairing: A deep red wine, if you can handle it