Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

A Novel

eBook - 2017 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family's Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility's cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty. Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption. Based on one of America's most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate's riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780425284698
Branch Call Number: E-BOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource (342 pages)
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 12, 2018

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS is absorbing historical fiction that is based upon the horrific true-life events involving the Tennessee Children’s Home Society of the 1930s. Author Lisa Wingate beautifully intertwines 2 alternating storylines set in the past and present to tell this unforgettable tale of corruption, greed, power, long-buried secrets, and the strength of familial bonds. I find this book to be all the more relevant and troubling for today’s world given our government’s current policy of separating immigrant families at the border.

Sep 20, 2018

An awesome book, that is impossible to put down. Start this book when you have time to read it and finish it. So many twists and turns in the story, it keeps you engaged the entire book.

ArapahoeAnnaL Sep 17, 2018

This historical novel dramatizes a shameful episode in American history where children from low income families were stolen and sold on the black market. "It’s estimated that over 5,000 children were stolen by (Georgia) Tann and the (Tennessee Children's Home) Society between 1924 and 1950 and that some 500 died at the society’s hands as a result of poor care, disease and, it is suspected, abuse.." - New York Post.

There are two plots, one takes place in 1939 in Tennessee and the other in present day North Carolina. There is some satisfying mystery and suspense as the connections between the two plots are revealed. Character development was less satisfying but the story is dramatic and absorbing.

Sep 12, 2018

Story of a family of blonde blue eyed children being torn from their family, some sold to wealthy families wanting children, others unknown where they ended up. Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society went unchecked for 30+ years, stealing and abusing children, while getting rich in the process. She had a judge in her pocket too, making the process easier for her. Heartbreaking.

Sep 10, 2018

A story where fiction delivers the painful truths of
The state sanctioned theft of children ; a practice
so insidious it is allowed to continue for decades.
Shameful parallels to the wholesale ‘sixties scoop’of indigenous
children from their homes to residential schools come to mind.

Aug 23, 2018

Kidnapping children is as old as time, at least most of them at this time had a chance.

ArapahoeDianeM Aug 18, 2018

I Really liked this book --- read it in two nights -- couldn't put it down. Great historical fiction -- going back & forth between the Present & 1939 in Tennessee --- and the current mystery of Avery, one of the main characters, trying to find out about her grandmother & family history.
The children who are in the orphanage are treated very poorly & sometimes I had to skim through portions because it was so tragic. A great Mystery and loved the ending.
At the end of the book, the author has included a summary of the true events of the Tennessee Children's Home during the 1939 to 1950 time period.

Aug 17, 2018

Lisa Wingate. I shall not forget her name nor the astonishingly descriptive, beautifully haunting and heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by greedy, unscrupulous people and those in authority who gave license to the people who stole so many children away from their biological families leaving them with no knowledge of their original heritage. It has been a while since a book grabbed me and drew me in the way “Before We Were Yours” did. I was both happy and sad to turn the last page.

Aug 05, 2018

Story of two sisters who were stolen from a poor black family in Tennessee. The orphanage that "sold" them to white rich families. HOrrible conditions and ultimate joy.

Jul 27, 2018

Enjoyed reading "Before We Were Yours" and learning about the history of adoption in our country. As an adoptive mother my heart broke as the story progressed in learning the fate of the Foss children and all children removed from their families by Miss Tann. There were many life lessons throughout the book on families, love, relationships, hardship, trusting, and determination. In the end, it was good to know Rill understood an adoptive family can be loving and nurturing to those they care for, but it can't take away the pain of losing your parents and siblings in a tragic way. So happy the two sisters were brought together in the end.

View All Comments


Add a Quote

Oct 12, 2018

“We plan our days, but we don’t control them.” - p. 95

Oct 12, 2018

“The argument ends where all arguments do—on the altar of compromise.” - p. 255

Oct 12, 2018

“I learned that you need not be born into a family to be loved by one.” - p. 314

Oct 12, 2018

“A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she
chooses. Her own music. - p. 317

ArapahoeMaryA Jun 13, 2017

I clench my teeth so hard the pain travels all the way to the top of my head. I'm glad for it - it's just a little ache and I know where it comes from. I can stop it anytime I want. The one in my heart is way bigger. I can't fix it no matter how hard I try. It scares me so much that I can't even breathe.

"…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.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

Jan 20, 2018

Mya614 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Sep 26, 2017

BRUCE PILCHER thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top