Before We Were Yours

This book by Lisa Wingate was a historical/contemporary story, switching back and forth between present (with Avery Stafford, a lawyer who’s come home to help her senator dad through cancer treatments), and past (with Rill Foss, a swamp gypsy girl of twelve who is captured with her five siblings by the police and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home while her dad is at the hospital with her mom who is in labor).

Rill and her siblings are swindled from their parents, who are tricked into signing papers, supposedly to have the state pay for their hospital visit, but instead it gives their kids up to the State’s custody. They live through a hell from Mrs. Tann, the owner of the foundling home, that runs on very corrupt tactics. Tricks, deceits, abuse of all kinds, and murder of orphans.

Avery, in the present, discovers a picture at an old folk’s home from a lady who reminds her of her grandmother. As she tries to figure out the pieces of the past and how they connect to her family’s life, she slowly unravels the horror that happened to Rill and her siblings when they were stolen from their parents in the Depression era.

This book was riveting, since it’s based on true events. There really was a Mrs. Tann who ran the Tennessee Children’s Home and worked with law enforcement and higher ranking leaders to take children from the poor and give them to the rich. She probably did give homes to many children who wouldn’t have had them otherwise. But the atrocities she committed over the decades she ran this orphanage were appalling. So much abuse. So much unethical acts. So much hate and dishonesty.

Once I got into this book, it was a hard one to put down. I kept reading to figure out the mystery of where Rill and her siblings ended up, what happened to her poor parents, what happened to the rich people who adopted Rill, and so forth. It was a super well-written story. So sad that this kind of thing ever happened, and probably still happens in nefarious ways by people who have no heart and are corrupted by money and power. I highly recommend this one. It was really thought-provoking.

Happy reading.