Becker • Big Lake • Clear Lake • Elk River • Princeton • St. Cloud • Zimmerman

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS
BY LISA WINGATE
REVIEWED BY 
LINDA WICKLUND

This is a story based on the unbelievable true events that transpired in this country from the 1920's through 1950. The story of babies and older children who were either kidnapped or taken from their parents under false pretenses. This book tells how the Tennessee Children's Home Society and Georgia Tann, it's director, sold these children for profit and her own greed. Blond children in particular were popular and at greater risk if born to poor families, single mothers, or those needing help from the welfare services. The fictional Foss children, were such a poor family who dearly loved their children, but were taken from their parents by "authorities" who were on her payroll. Ms. Tann had a high-profile list of people who illegally adopted these children including politicians, Hollywood celebrities and other wealthy individuals.

The story is told from two perspectives - the first from present day and the character's name is Avery Stafford. She is from a prominent family in Aiken, South Carolina. Avery has returned home from Washington, D.C. to help with her father's re-election campaign. Her father is not well and going through cancer treatment while trying to appear in public as strong and capable as before his diagnosis.

While in Aiken, Avery meets an elderly woman named May Crandall, who is drawn to her and who seems to have a connection to her grandmother and causes her to look into her grandmother's past which seems somewhat mysterious and leads to long kept secrets.

The other perspective is from twelve year old Rill Foss. The year is 1939, and she lives on a river boat with her parents. Rill is the oldest of five children and she helps care for her four younger siblings. They are known as Shanty boat kids and their entertainment comes from the river and the woods that surround them. When Rill's mother and father need to leave the boat for the hospital, the "authorities" swoop in and take the children away.

The book then has alternating chapters telling the story of Avery's family and Rill's which the author beautifully weaves into one tale of finding the truth of her grandmother's past and for Rill trying to survive, while holding onto her family.

When Avery is told that her bracelet, a family heirloom from her grandmother, was found with May at the care facility, she returns to visit May and retrieve her bracelet. She's told that May is having a difficult time adjusting to leaving her home and is a bit "confused". It's during this visit that Avery becomes even more curious. A very old photograph of a young handsome couple sits on May's night stand and the woman in the photo has a striking resemblance to her grandmother. Is she imagining this connection to her family?

The other story line, as I mentioned is about Rill Foss and her siblings who have been taken from their home on the river by officers claiming their Mamma and Daddy are waiting for them. They hope if they cooperate things will be alright... A quote from the book tells us why this is considered by at least by one other reviewer as one of the best books you'll read this year. "The abduction of the five little river gypsies who suffered at the hands of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society deserve to have their stories carried forward." At the end of this book there's a note from the author. Ms. Wingate gives us many references that verify the abuse and cruelty that actually happened in our country "that in this land of the free and home of the brave there is a great baby market?". A quote from the Saturday Evening Post, February 1, 1930.

I hope you enjoy this story of a family who are separated as children, but by mere chance are able to find their way back together.

Happy reading!

                                  

 

 


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