Book Review: Before We Were Yours By Lisa Wingate

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A diverse cast of characters tug at your heart as you’re plunged into life on the Mississippi River in Before We Were Yours. Written by Lisa Wingate,  this is a fiction book that centers around the systematic kidnapping and sale of poor children by a Tennessee-based adoption agency in 1939. This sordid detail is actually based on the long history of corruption in the adoption system lead by Georgia Tann.



The book is told from the perspective of two characters in two different time periods. Avery Stafford is a successful woman in modern day South Carolina. Rill Foss is a 12 year old girl living on a shanty boat on the Mississippi River in 1939.

Before We Were Yours raises the question of do family secrets help or hurt. Also how many generations does it take for the effects of trauma to work its way out? I felt there was a lot of shame that lasted for the characters over things that were completely out of their control. Those without financial resources were at such a disadvantage and were easily exploited. I want to think that this is could no longer be an issue in this country but I know it is. The whole idea of being separated from your family and not being able to do anything about it is terrifying.  

I enjoyed every bit of this book. Rill and Avery have very different voices. Rill paints amazing pictures of life around her. I was able to picture, feel, and smell everything. Don’t fear though, it isn’t overly wordy with paragraphs dedicated to describing the sunset. Avery is much more practical and grounded in reality but also enjoyable.

The fact that this book is incorporated real events totally peaked my interest. I went and looked up shanty boats. I looked up the Georgia Tann scandal. I wanted to know more as soon as I was finished with the book. There was so much about Depression Era America that I didn’t know about.

On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest it rated the following:

Laughs: 1

Tears: 3

Cheese: 2

Predictability: 2

Overall: 4/5

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I would definitely recommend it for a book club.  It is definitely a book worth discussing. Click here to get your copy of Before We Were Yours

Currently reading: I, Eliza Hamilton

Currently Listening to the podcast: Missing and Murdered Season 2: Finding Cleo

Before We Were Yours


    • I was definitely worried about that too. I almost always cry during books, but this one didn’t make me. I think it was maybe the setting where I was reading, so I kept it bottled up. The potential is there though.

  1. I have not heard of this book before! I am always looking for good books to add to my monthly reading list. I may just have to check this one out. 🙂

  2. I am a fan of historical fiction and love a good book. I will add this to my reading list thank you for the suggestion.

  3. I love when I find a book that is so intriguing that I can’t help but research it after I’m done reading! What an awful but captivating story and I like the sound of the way it’s told, especially no paragraphs describing the sunset ? Thanks for this recommendation! I just finished a book yesterday and I’m looking for my next read.

  4. Wow! I love historical fiction, and I had no idea that things like this happened. I feel so bad for the kids, but it looks like a great read! 🙂

  5. This does sound like it’ll be good for a book club session. I’m no part of anything but I’d definitely take a look at the roles of the two perspectives. Sometimes, fiction is the only way to explain reality.

  6. It sounds like an interesting read, I have very little knowledge of the topic and I like that it had an educational aspect, referring to real life events. Thank you for recommendation, will check it out.

  7. This book sounds really interesting. I often think those who are more financially comfortable tend to have more options. It seems that they don’t. I love books that are so thought provoking. Definitely gonna check it out!

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