Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: Review



“In my multifold years of life, I have learned that most people get along as best they can. They don’t intend to hurt anyone. It is merely a terrible by-product of surviving.” 

I wrote that quote into three seperate places after I read it. If you loved that, you’re going to love this. I’m pretty sure that we all know by now that my favorite genre falls between romance and psycho thrillers. What you may not know is that I read a vast amount of books from different genres…I just never really feel like they are much to write home about. Well my friend, I have finally read something that is not absolutely twisted or sick over the moon love-struck. When Amazon suggested that I pick up a copy of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours I immediately imagined the story was about adoption. Which honestly is something my heart has always really felt connected to. Truth be told, we would love to foster or adopt in the future.

“One of the best things a father can do for his daughter is let her know that she has met his expectations. My father did that for me, and no amount of effort on my part can fully repay the debt.” 

I absolutely adored every single word of this beautiful portrayal of life. I felt like from the first three pages my heart was in the thick of it with both narrators. I’m going to tread lightly, because I genuinely don’t want to ruin any single aspect of this book for you. The most apparent connection I can draw for you is that if you liked Orphan Train you will most definitely like this even better. Seriously.

Right off of the starting line you are given two storlyines. One dating back to 1939 while the other takes place in the present. The two stories dance and twine back and forth until finally marrying together in a way I genuinely could not have dreamed any better.

Before We Were Yours is a book that emotionally killed me because it is entirely inspired by true events. Take a break from this blog post and google “Georgia Tann.” She’s a real life horror story of a human being who ran a type of black market trafficing for children that she covered as being a “legitimate” adoption agency in Tennesee. You’d think something like that wouldn’t be able to stay operational in any decade, but the truth is that even in 1939 she was doing this for not years…but DECADES! Tann made easy work of dealing with mostly the rich and famous that wanted perfect blond hair/blue eyed kids and could afford paying astronomical prices for it. The direct connection that I immediately drew was to Annie. Think of a horrible, way worse, even more terrible and rotten version of Miss Hannigan. Except that this version sold kids who were kidnapped. Yeah. That is next level evil.

“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever present as a pulse.”

Unlike most books that I’ve read with stories told in two parts, this one is entirely connected and interwoven. The book spans over generations taking turns between present-day and the past. The past version of the story is told by the oldest of the Foss siblings, Rill. Avery Stafford is our other narrorator. She is a really fun, dynamic character. I love that she was a boss lady federal prosecutor and her father was a major prominent Senator. The connection doesn’t come right away, but gradually more pieces are linked and woven togther to reveal the intersecting plots.

All five Foss children are set to parallel the actual life experiences of document victims of Georgia Tall’s illicit adoption agency. (The Tennesee Children’s Home Society) The Foss children are kidnapped from their family’s riverboat one night in 1939. Their mother has a complication after childbirth, and their father takes her to the hospital. Can you imagine leaving in an emergency, coming home, and your kids were just gone? It genuinely sends chills down my spine. Dirty cops kidnap the children, which is something that was very common of Tann’s adoption ring. She had many officers in her payroll, because why would an officer taking children be suspicious?

The fictional story of the five Foss children parallels the real life experiences of hundreds of victims of Georgia Tann’s illegal adoption agency, the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The children are stolen from their family’s riverboat one night in 1939. Their parents have to go to the hospital due to complications with the mother’s pregnancy and childbirth. Left alone, the children are taken by corrupt police officers working for the notorious child trafficker.

Right away the kids are exposed to abuse and ahborrent cruelty by the people that are supposed to be “running” the “children’s home.” All the kids know are confusion, loss, and heartbreak as they are literally stripped of their former selves. They are all separated. All renamed. All adopted out. All irrevocobly different.

In the present day Avery meets an elderly lady named May when she spends some time visiting a nursing home. Something with less “aww” motivation, and more to do with her father’s political aspirations and campaign. After arriving immediatly there seems to be a connection to the elderly May. When she gets contacted by the home saying that May stole her bracelet, she decides instead of pressing charges to spend some time visiting with May personally. That’s when their first meeting sets an entire lifetime of events in motion.

It isn’t very often that I read a book that makes me fill with rage. This one did. Rage for how heartbroken those families torn apart by this senseless act of greed caused. Heartbreak that the plight I was reading about of the Foss kids was much more than fiction for so many families. Disgust in the fact that in other countries this is still something that is happening.

Often I don’t think that I’m “sheltered” or that I’m unaware of the horror that happens in our world. But I was so entirely unware that illegal adoption was even an issue as recently as the 30s, or that it happened HERE.

Memorable Quotes:

“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever present as a pulse.”

“Well, that’s one of the paradoxes of life. You can’t have it all. You can have some of this and some of that or all of this and none of that. We make the trade-offs we think are best at the time.” 

“Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.” 

Go grab a copy, read it, and tell me exactly what you think!


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One thought on “Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: Review

  1. Scott L Hayden says:

    Jordan, I hate to tell you this, but you did not meet my expectations that I had for you. You way exceeded those expectations. Both you and your sister have made me the proudest papa imaginable and continue doing so every day. God has blessed your mother and I with great children as he has blessed you with also. Keep blowing my mind.


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