Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Book 28/30.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whew! This book had no business being so goddamn sad. My goodness 🥺🥺🥺 if I was a “book crier” I’d have the reddest, puffiest eyes ever because 💔💔💔

Before We Were Yours is based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organisation, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country. Operating under the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Tann used the unlicensed home as a front for her black-market baby adoption scheme from the 1920s until a state investigation into numerous instances of adoption fraud being perpetrated by her closed the institution in 1950. She’s estimated to have stolen 5,000 children, of whom at least 19 were killed due to abuse and neglect. Maddeningly, Tann died of uterine cancer three days before Governor Gordon Browning of Tennessee filed charges against the home, meaning she got off scot-free and I’m sooo enraged at that 🤬🤬🤬 I can only hope her death was very slow and excruciating. Before reading this I’d never heard of Tann, and normally after reading something I have little to no knowledge of I usually Google and research further, but this time I don’t have the heart to do so. At least not yet. Let my heart heal a bit before delving further into the real-life monster that was Georgia Tann and her “orphanage”.

Before We Were Yours is a dual POV novel with alternating timelines, one narrated by Rill Foss in Memphis, Tennessee 1939 and the other by Avery Stafford in present day Aiken, South Carolina. The two storylines slowly unravel and come together and that’s all I will say about that as I don’t want to give anything away. Rill’s story was mostly set in the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and it was downright heartbreaking to read. All of the 🥺🥺🥺💔💔💔 because just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Foss siblings, they did. I’m very thankful to Lisa Wingate for alternating Rill’s story with Avery’s as doing so gave me a reprieve from the Foss siblings’ heartbreaking story, if only for a few pages.

Before We Were Yours is an emotional, shocking, devastating, heartbreaking, beautifully written 5 star read. But it was only after sitting with my emotions for three hours after finishing the book that I decided on the 5 star rating because given how goddamn sad it was, I felt conflicted saying “it was amazing”. The emotions I normally have after finishing books I’ve rated 5 stars tend to be happy ones, but this was not the case at all this time around. It’s not all gloom and doom though; there’s a romance arc as one of the characters finds true love and the novel ends on a (relatively) happy note. Those two aspects were instrumental in my decision to rate this 5 stars.

PS: this was my second Lisa Wingate novel, the first being Drenched in Light that I read in 2020 and in my Goodreads review of it I wrote:

This was really quiet and rather slow, but I enjoyed it. I was invested in the story & the characters and was quite keen to know how everything turned out in the end. I am writing this review four days after finishing the book and the story is still darting in and out of my mind, so now I want to read the other four books in the series.

But now after reading this masterpiece of a novel I don’t feel compelled to read any of her previous novels that definitely maybe are not as good 😅

View all my reviews

** A guide to ratings **
1 star – did not like it
2 stars – it was okay
3 stars – liked it
4 stars – really liked it
5 stars – it was amazing

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