Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate definitely makes my top three of this summer’s favorite reads.
It’s historical fiction based around Georgia Tann’s Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society which operated between the 1920s through the 1950s. The story follows the fictional Foss children’s story, with a focus on the eldest sister, Rill Foss, who later becomes known as May Weathers.
Rill’s family are river people. They live a simple life on their boat/”kingdom” named the Arcadia along the Mississippi River. Her parents, Briny and Queenie, go to hospital when Queenie has problems delivering twins (their sixth and seventh children). It is at this time when Rill (12 years old) along with her three sisters and toddler brother are abducted and brought to the Children’s Home.
Here they are subjected to inhumane treatment at all levels. I could barely stomach reading the vicious ways that the children were handled by Tann and her employees at the “orphanage.” Rill’s siblings begin to be adopted, and one sister disappears after most likely dying at the hands of staff. Rill and Fern are the final two siblings who are adopted into a musician’s family together. Rill attempts to escape with Fern to her old life, but by this time it’s too late and everything has changed.
Throughout May’s narrative, the reader also follows Avery. Avery turns out to be the granddaughter of one of May’s siblings. Avery works to find her connection to May (Rill) during the course of the story. These stories intertwine perfectly.
This was a book I couldn’t put down, but one that I didn’t want to end. I had to find out how everyone was connected. I only wish there were additional books for every other sibling in order to discover the details of each one’s life; I would read every single one. This is a great story with strong writing to bring every character alive.