Rating: 5 / 5
This year’s Popsugar Reading Challenge includes a prompt for a book based on a true story. For this one, I quickly selected BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate and was very excited to read it, but it kept getting pushed off until it wound up in my #stackofshame post. This was the last book I needed to read to finish my reading challenge as well, so was extra excited to cross this one off my TBR.
In 1939, five kids are removed from their family’s Mississippi river shantyboat when their father takes their mother to the hospital due to complications of child birth. Oldest child 12 year old Rill takes responsibility for her brothers and sisters, but she has no choice but to go with the strangers who promise to take them to their parents. Instead they wind up in a the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage where their names are changed and they are told that their parents will not be coming for them. In less than hospitable circumstances, Rill tries to hold her family together, but she is fighting a losing battle.
In the present day, Avery Stafford has returned home to help her ailing father with his political career. In making a stop at a care facility for the elderly, Avery meets an older woman who seems to recognize her though Avery has never met her before. Returning to meet with her once more, Avery is surprised to find that the woman may have connections to her own past and Avery begins to investigate.
This book was so well done! Books that alternate between timelines can be somewhat hit or miss for me because I often feel more tied to one timeline or the other, but in this case both Avery’s and Rill’s stories were equally compelling. In addition to being a mix between historical fiction and a more contemporary story, there is a strong element of mystery at play. While we are learning more about the past, Avery is investigating her own ties to that same past and I was entirely hooked to keep flipping pages to find out where both stories would lead!
Rill’s story is a heartbreaking one and knowing that the book was based on real-life events makes it even more so! These children were torn away from their families and split up from their siblings. They were mistreated and exposed to unthinkable dangers so the director could make a quick buck by adopting them out to desperate, wealthy families. Working with kids who have been part of the foster care system, this book really hit close to home for me!
Once I posted that I again got a lot of recommendations for this book, so I made sure to prioritize it and get it into my September reading schedule. It took me to the very end of the month, but I finally read it and finished September on a very high note!