Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate Book Summary


THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain

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.

Publishers Weekly’s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017Winner of the Southern Book PrizeIf All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection

This edition includes a new essay by the author about shantyboat life.

Before We Were Yours Book Details

Book Name Before We Were Yours
Genre Historical
Author Lisa Wingate
Published 06 June 2017, Tuesday
Price $8.99
E-Book Size 7.42 MB

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate Book Reviews

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GG Runner

Before We Were Yours. Even though this story was incredibly sad, it was written in riveting fashion. I couldn’t put it down!


The story of the past vs. present. I loved the story from the past. Remarkable tale of the lengths that love will go to. However the present day characters were so flat and unlikeable. Even the ones I was supposed to like had me skimming the present day chapters to get back to the past.


One of the best books I’ve read to date. Truly heart-wrenching but extremely well-researched and written. Couldn’t put it down. I loved the fictionalized story used to tell the true events of this atrocity in history to make for a smooth cohesive read. So incredibly changed by this story and book. A must read.


Very moving story. The characters come alive in this moving novel that takes place 80 years ago and in the present day.


OMG. What a piece of work, must read for everyone


Amazing Book. I wasn’t able to put this book down. The tale is incredible yet heartbreaking but so very well written! I’ve found a new author to follow!

Fish Hands

Before We Were Yours. Oh my. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I was swept away by Rill and Averys’ stories.


Excellent story only sad to know it is based on true events.. The story is captivating. A must read

Lainie Amethyst

A book I’ll never forget. This story is disturbing and heartbreaking and something I’ll think about for a long time. I rarely give books 5 stars but this one is very deserving. I highly recommend this book!!


Truth is stranger than fiction. If it was not true , it would have been too hard to believe. What some people have gone through!


Absolutely enjoyed this book. This book was very well written and had me captivated beginning to end. I highly recommend you take a chance on this wonderful story

Big Sweet NV

Before We were yours. Great book!

Pittsburgh Girl 1966

Before We Were You. Love the book!!! You will also!


Before We Were Yours. A perfect way to connect with and learn from the past.


When We Were Yours. Poignant, personal tragedy that happened during this time period. The characters love for one another shone brightly through the rough times in which they lived.


Love it. This book was amazing and it shocked me also it’s a must read for sure


Phenomenal!. This book sucked me in from the very beginning! Every page leaves you wanting more! This has now become one of my favorite books!


Page Turner. Heartbreaking story, beautifully written.


Before we were yours. I tried to buy the book, they had it listed for $3.99 but changed the price to $12.99 when I tried to buy it. Sorry, didn’t fall for the upcharge.


MUST READ. Amazing book!!


Amazing book. The only down side of this book is you can’t put it down. You can’t stop reading it. So don’t start if you have things to do. It is been a while since I clicked with the book. English is my second language, so sometimes it is hard for me to get in to the reading, but this book... I can “see and feel it”.


A must read!. Wow. Best book I have read in years. Incredibly moving. An unbelievable story.


Loved it. I loved this book!


Good quick read. I really liked this book can’t say it’s super memorable but it was an easy read and it was written well.


Sad. This book is well written and tells a heartbreaking story of loss and fear it does have parts of child abuse and I felt just sad and sickened while reading

Kim Guined

Incredible read!!. I could not put this book down. Simply amazing.


Too Slow an not intriguing enough.. This book although I tried over and over again to really feel the characters OI just could not get through most of it. I eventually stopped reading it because it put me to sleep. Sorry I spent the money for it.


Wow. Excellent book. Sad that it’s so close to the truth.


Wow. What an amazing book.


Very engaging!. Hard to put it down. Beautifully written!


Captivating. Emotionally gripping. Learning that the fictional characters in this book were based on real events in the not-too-distant past made this book more powerful to me even after reading it. It’s written in chapters that alternate two of its character’s POV, each in different generations. It was sometimes hard not to skip over a chapter in order to find out right away what happened after the end of the last one. Each chapter left me wanting to know what happened next, most particularly with those told by Rill.

Grandmother Joyce

Heartbreakingly real. ‘Before We Were Yours’ reached into my soul and horrified me, then raised me up to hope that our world can be better. The Georgia Tanns of this world must be stopped. Awareness of how far people selfishly go for their own benefit is vital to eradicating such evils. Sadly human trafficking is still in our news every day. Adoption is beautiful when done to truly help children. Thank you for a gripping story, though fiction, that reminds us to be aware and alert to such wrong doing.


Before We Were Yours. Can't believe this horrible act happened to children and their families, story broke my heart 😥


Highly recommended. I can see why this book is loved.


Captivating. From the first page I was caught up in the lives of these children. The weaving of the story is excellent and the surprises and historical parallels are captivating. I was born in 1949 on the west coast but my parent’s told stories of people like Georgia. They warned me there were people who would take children for monetary gain. Very interesting as the connections continued over several generations in this well told story based on facts. Loved the painful but positive ending and the love for grandparents .

Vicki LQ

Excellent Book l. This book was very hard to put down! It grabbed me from the get go!


Captivating. You know a book is captivating when it leaves you wanting more. The narration in the story keeps the reader hoping for resolution at each turn.


The best. Loved this book. You can’t stop reading it.

Janie's Library

Intriguing Plot. This twisted plot keeps you wondering until the very end. This is a good read.


Heartbreaking story... I had been wanting to read this book for awhile, the begging was a little slow for me to really get into the book, but finally I was drawn into the characters story and could not wait to see how this book unfolds. It is a very heartbreaking story of children who were born into a poor river family, even though they were poor they were loved and had one another, but the children were basically stolen away, they were abused and tortured by the adults that took them, however this story proves that the love of siblings runs deeper than anything.


What a lovely read! .. I fell in love with the characters from the start, and couldn't wait to see where the story would go. I was not disappointed!


Slow start and then I couldn’t put it down.. A bit of a slow start and then I couldn’t put it down. Good read


Incredibl story that stickers with you over time!!. Loved this Story!


Incredible story. I couldn’t put this book down. Definitely shocked by the incredibly heartbreaking true events on which the book is based.


Disappointed. I like historical fiction but this book falls flat. I found it boring. I was surprised it was so highly rated and and New York Times best seller. it reminds me of a driving miss Daisy and fried green tomatoes but lacking any depth in the characters. It was predictable. It ended exactly the way I thought it would.


Before we were yours. A fantastic heart warming story of family. Skillfully written to capture your interest and then bring a story to life. A book that you can’t put down and never want to end!


A beautifully written book. I had to make myself slow down when reading this very moving and powerful book otherwise I would miss the Author’s incredible use of language. Her phrases, stream of consciousness thinking by her main characters, and description of the surrounding environments are brilliant. While the story is a tragedy in US history, the Author approaches the subject with characters that you can truly feel and just want to embrace. Wonderful and captivating read.

Pitty Pat Gamer

Near to my heart!. My mom was an orphan . Her mother died shortly after her birth from the 1918 flu epidemic. Her father was not well either. He realized he couldn’t care for a newborn baby girl and 4 other older children. Mom was adopted by a local family, while other children were raised in an orphanage. Mom was fortunate because her parents provided her with a wonderful life. This story explained so much of her feelings and the other children. The story is compelling and I love it to the very last page. Highly recommend that you read it. “Dance to your own music in life! “

Exxon retired

Before we were yours. Great book, one of my top 10 list.

Favorite Gps

Loved it!. Fabulous book!

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Love!. This is a sweet easy read!


Heartbreakinf. Based on a true story, which makes it hurt even more. This book will destroy you in ways you never thought a book could, especially if you’re a parent. A must-read, but be prepared. You’ll fall in love with each character and you won’t be the same after reading this.

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Super Read!. Loved this book!


Lovely story of reconnecting. This story is interesting from page one to the end! I am not an avid book reader but this story gripped me in and had me searching for answers. The first person experiences from two characters gave the audience a sense of empathy and understanding. Thank you for writing this story and bringing attention to a hidden devastating event in history.


Incredible!. This book will grab your heart and soul, pull you in, and will not let you go until the last word on the last page. And even then, it will linger. Cancel all appointments, turn off your phone, put out the do not disturb sign, have food and drink ready, and prepare for an incredible journey that will give heart-rending insight into the recent outrageous border family separations. Incredible!


Sorrowful and Gripping. Before We Were Yours is an emotional read. It is especially poignant given that it is based on historical events. The story is told by two narrators in different time periods; the story lines eventually intersect. Ms. Wingate’s story is powerful. Her twelve-year-old narrator, Rill Foss tells the heart-wrenching story of the impact of the Georgia Tann/Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal on her family. Juxtaposed to the abject poverty of the depression-era Foss family is the present day affluence of the Stafford family. While Avery Stafford is being groomed to follow in her family’s political footsteps as well as become the perfect southern wife, she is busy discovering her grandmother’s secrets. Along the way, Avery discovers a few things about herself, the person she wants to be, and the sort of person who deserves her partnership in life. I loved Rill Foss’ story. Life on the river is simple, but her loving parents make it seem grand for her and her siblings. It is a compelling tale not only of family but also a widely unknown part of the Great Depression. I found present-day Avery Stafford’s story less interesting primarily because I would have expected a former federal prosecutor to have more sleuthing and deducing skills. Avery spends a lot of time perplexed by the evasive answers she receives from her grandmother and a mysterious senior in a nursing home. Avery also spends a great deal of time passively pondering her engagement to her childhood friend. I found this well-educated woman of means to be highly frustrating even though I know Avery’s story is drawn out to allow sufficient time for the Foss family drama to play out. It is not until Avery meets Trent Jr. that the modern day suspense builds to the point of almost equaling the heart-wrenching 1939 saga. The historic facts are well researched, and the plot flows easily. The meddling moms are a fun addition to the modern day story. Fact and fiction are wonderfully woven together, and Ms. Wingate provides several research resources for readers who would like to investigate the historical aspects of this book further. Before We Were Yours is ultimately redemptive, but the book as a whole is sad and mournful. The story continues to haunt me, and I’m sure Before We Were Yours will long be a book I use as a comparison for future reads. #MustRead2018 The audiobook is fantastically narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber.

Nancy Virginia

Before We Were Yours.. So sad. I cried many times while reading this book. It’s hard to grasp that, although this book is fiction, there are many real stories connected to this book.


Who was judy. Cannot figure out who Judy was and how connected


Beginnings don’t determine the outcome. Heart wrenching story of children in orphan care and the secrecy and shame of their beginning. The determination to live a life keeping the beginning hidden.


A complete WASTE. Had to stop torturing myself and gave up reading early in the book. Cannot believe I paid for this! If you’re considering buying this - DON’T.


Love it. This book was amazing and it shocked me also it’s a must read for sure


Before We Were Yours review. Love this book. The content was disturbing but I could not put it down. A very sad time in history but a very good read.


Moving story about how time and distance can’t keep sisters apart. I stared this book a while back and set it aside partway through. It didn’t grab me in that initial sitting. I picked it back up a,d couldn’t put it down. Very compelling historical fiction.


Terrific Book!. I could not put it down. I read it in 3 days. Absolutely loved it. Moved me in so many ways. Love love loved it.


Before We Were Yours. Fabulously written loved it

Mouse jane

Before we were yours. Slow to get started, confusing at the beginning. But I really liked it and enjoyed the characters towards the middle and end. I would recommend this book to most of my friends.


A Great read. What a wonderful find! This book is so engrossing I couldn’t put it down. The story is so compelling and well written. It is one of my favorite books of the summer. I didn’t know the story behind this novel and it just mind blowing what these kids and families went through and how it went on for so long with out the public knowing or caring. It is really heartbreaking. I highly recommend this novel, can’t stop thinking about it.


Okay. Could have been a good story, but to many wholes


LOST IN THIS BOOK. I absolutely loved this book. Very well written and extremely informative. Recommend it highly!!!!


Before We Were Yours. I really enjoyed this book based on a true story of poverty, abuse, family secrets and love. I read it for bookclub and glad that I did.


Couldn’t put it down!. This isn’t my normal go to thriller but it was recommended to me. The book goes back and forth between time lines telling stories. I thought this would bother me but I loved it! Couldn’t wait to get back to each story and find out what happens next. The stories have mystery, adventure, love and also pulled at my heart strings. There was never a dull moment in this book as I was always wanting to know what happened next.


Before we were Yours. AMAZING!!!!!!

Discriminating Reader

Before We Were Yours. Wow! What a story! Thank you Lisa Wingate for writing this powerful tale so very well.


Before we were yours. Very mixed up and way to many characters in this. I will try to get my money back from my Apple Acct For my iPad reading this week. Had no understanding and I felt it was a mess. I night 4 books in two weeks and loved them all. i hope apple will refund this one book.


Couldn’t put it down!. I don’t have a lot of time to read, so when I do, I don’t want to waste it on a so-so book. This was a good one to read on my short vacation. I couldn’t put it down!

Nifty Nine

Before We Were Yours. This book captivated me. The horrors of the children were just unimaginable, but the entwined story of mystery and romance kept me glued to it. I read it at the beach! A perfect vacation book because I could read for hours and hours!


Couldn’t put it down.. I was in such a rut reading such horrible books and this was like a breath of fresh air. I fell in love with the characters and thought about them all day. I’m so sad the story is over

Burry R

Before we were yours. Interesting and haunting story of Tennessee adoption agency.


Before We Were Yours. Excellent book. Loved the way the author wrote the story...easy to follow and the timelines flow seamlessly..hard to put down.


Before we were yours. This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. Every page was captivating. I couldn’t put it down.

Carol reads

Before we were yours ...Lisa Wingate. Terrific read. Hard to finish as the book is based on a true story and it’s hard to leave the characters.

Oregon Book Worm

Before We Were Yours. This book was so interesting, I couldn’t put it down. So sad knowing that children were stolen from their parents and treated so poorly. Very good read, I highly recommend this book!


Before we were yours. Wonderful book couldn’t put it down

Cut wood

Very good. Interesting story, developed characters, and nice writing style. Highly recommended.


Before We Were Yours. What a great read. Loved the writing and all of the characters. My only ended too soon.


Page turner from start to finish!!!!!. One of the best books I have ever read!! It’s one you can’t put down......reading well into the night......and picking back up first thing in the morning over coffee!! What a story!! I feel so connected with the characters and their lives! Fluids of emotions! Didn’t want to book to end! ❤️❤️❤️


Loved it!. Heartbreaking beautifully written story.


Good. This was a very good book. I would recommend it.


Slow start, but keep reading!. Slow start, but very good!


Before we were yours. Amazing based on horrible tragedies committed against orphans and poor children for over two decades. I could not put it down. Literally cried boohoo tears and that has t happened in a long time. Wonderfully written. Thank you for this important story.


Could not put it down!. The underlying theme of sisters is heart warming. The audio was nicely done.


Before We Were Yours. This book is really a 10 star book. Yes, the characters are fiction but have been put into a story that is , sickeningly, all too real. Unaware of any of this history prior to reading this book, I am awed by the writing, devastated by the reality, heartened by the hope and humbled by the idea of the music that we all live by. The references to the ‘ music’ of our pasts, present and future, are breathtaking. To ms. Wingate, thank you for writing this story.


Before we were yours. My hear raced as I read each page, anxious to know what was next for the children. Heart wrenching story written so well.


A must read. This story is everything other reviewer says: powerful, eye opening, amazing. I cried all day while reading it.

Dingle Fringle

Great read. Interesting, sad, and well written,


Amazing!. I loved this book so much.


Shush SJSU’s she. Kandisjndksjndskndwkjdnwkjndwkdij


Excellent!. Loved it! Great story, was surprised to read that it had some factual background. Well done!


Couldn’t stop listening!. A great story! A perfect example of what storytelling should be all about.


River Gypsies. This book is captivating with a mystery at every turn. The fact that it is Historical fiction tells the tale of the River Gypsies who lived on the river during the depression. They had no property to live on so they moved to the River and literally lived on the water in a shanty. I learned about a culture I never knew existed. Multiple orphanages in the black market and how it affected so many lives. This was definitely a good read.


Compelling. As the story unfolds, going from the late 1930’s to the present, I found myself pulled into each of the characters. The author gives a face to a horrible time of injustice for the children in orphanages.


Truly Wonderful. What a treat to read such a well-crafted story. The writing is rich with imagery. At times it is gripping and suspenseful and at others poignant and poetic. Tragedy, suspense, insight and wisdom intertwine creating a complex and moving song that squeezes ones heart.

Lisa Wingate - Before We Were Yours Comments

5 Books like Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate)

About Author "Lisa Wingate"

Lisa Wingate (born 1965 in Germany) is an American writer. Biography When she was younger, Lisa was inspired by a teacher who said she could expect to be a writer someday. Lisa lives and writes in Texas. Before We Were Yours remained on the New York Times bestseller list for fifty-four weeks and has sold over two million copies. Wingate has penned over thirty novels. The Tennessee Children's Home Society's scandal which involved the kidnapping of children and their illegal adoptions is the subject of her 2017 novel, Before We Were Yours. In October 2019, Wingate and Judy Christie released the book Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society. It is a nonfiction companion to Wingate's novel. Awards Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize. Oklahoma Book Award. RT Booklovers Reviewer's Choice Award. 2017 Goodreads Choice Award winner for historical fiction for Before We Were Yours. Before and After was a finalist for the 2019 ....

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