Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. New York: Ballantine Books, 2017. 352p
This is haunting story about children taken from their parents by deceit and kidnapping then sold on for adoption. Based on a true story this is a damning indictment of the system where people in positions of power and trust preyed vulnerable and poor families. Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards.
The book takes place in two viewpoints. In the present, Avery Stafford is the daughter of a politician, raised to put family’s needs and wishes first. Her father is running for re-election as she heads home to South Carolina to help out with the campaign and be groomed as his successor.
She meets a woman named May Crandall, who has a link to Avery’s grandmother Judy. Her curiosity is piqued but Judy is suffering from Alzheimer’s and can’t respond. Avery decides to look into her grandmother’s past and unlocks secrets that concern orphans and their adoptive parents.
Twelve year old Rill’s story set in the past, circa 1939 Memphis, Tennessee. Rill lives on the river and helps care for her younger siblings. Her parents do their best but life is hard. When Rill’s parents go to the hospital forthe birth of a new baby, Rill and her sisters and brother are taken by “authorities” to an orphanage.
In alternate chapters telling the two stories – one of a woman looking into a mysterious past, and the other of a child looking ahead to an uncertain future. It creates both a bleak and optimistic drama with Avery finding her roots and Rill afraid of losing hers. This novel has two central stories and neither overshadows the other. Both Avery’s and Rill’s journeys are every bit as compelling. Set in two different worlds,the bond between the two women and the genes they share, evolve in a compelling way.
There is no two ways about this brutal tale but which is told with care and compassion. Both girls are after the same goals. Avery is searching for the truth and Rill is trying to keep her family intact. You are profoundly affected by this well crafted novel and you are rooting for Avery and Rill from the very beginning. This is definitely a novel that should not be missed and makes for a great book club read.
Luba Sawczyn is the Branch Manager of the Graham Public Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 570-6730.