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Before We Were Yours

A Novel
Length: 14 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4.5 out of 5 stars (59,129 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

 THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT - A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Best Seller

For listeners of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking [and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart...based on a notorious true-life scandal.”

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 Best Seller of 2017 

Winner of the Southern Book Prize 

If All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection 

“A [story] of a family lost and found...a poignant, engrossing tale about sibling love and the toll of secrets.”(People)

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year.... Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.” (Parade

©2017 Lisa Wingate (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"This heartbreaking story is also heart-mending - a powerful tale of family, of sisters, of secrets kept and secrets shared. I absolutely loved this book. I'm still basking in the afterglow, in shock at the true-crime elements, in awe at the journey of these characters who seem to have immortal souls." (Jamie Ford, New York Times best-selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost)

"This captivating novel will quite likely break your heart, but because it's Lisa Wingate at the helm, you will not be left broken. She is a master storyteller and never fails to get to the heart of what makes us hold on to hope despite the worst that can be done to us. An unforgettable read." (Susan Meissner, author of Secrets of a Charmed Life)

"Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber are polished narrators who give us sympathetic, memorable characters whose voices are age appropriate and conventionally Southern.... This story is well presented - perfectly paced and emotionally satisfying." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    47,275
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    9,387
  • 3 Stars
    1,851
  • 2 Stars
    375
  • 1 Stars
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Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
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    1,758
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    370
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Story

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    43,219
  • 4 Stars
    8,065
  • 3 Stars
    1,682
  • 2 Stars
    353
  • 1 Stars
    214

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

I was rivetted, finished in three days.

From a person who has read Orphan Train and started reading The Lost generation, this book had my attention right from the start and I quickly became engrossed in the story line. It is hard to read or hear about the abuse of the innocent, but the story line balances the tragedy of the terrible criminal acts with the strength, courage, resilience and tanasity of human nature walk forward and eventually over coming the past. I really wanted to know what happened to the 10 year old and the two little boys, but I do not want to spoil the story. I could not put it down. Very very well constructed and performed. The characters were very well developed, and even though it is based on true circumstances but not necessarily these people and outcomes, I cannot help but to hope that one day, all of these stolen people are somehow found, and reunited with their families or their information reunited with the descendants of the families they were stolen from. I did do some research on Georgia Tann, what an evil demon of a woman. But what a lovely outcome in the story for this young woman and family. I do not like stories that lay out too much abuse and terrible hardship, this story does not do that, it is worth reading, I highly recommend it.

486 of 513 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic book and narrator!

Out of the 15-20 audiobooks I've listened to so far this year, this one is the best! Heart-wrenching at times but not over the top as to make you feel the book is a task to get through. Not at all. It was tastefully done with plenty of happiness, too. The story gripped me from the beginning! You'll not want to put it down! 5 stars!

293 of 313 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Gut Wrenching Life Journey

From the first page this story takes over your life. So full of love, hardships, life struggles and endurance. I was totally consumed. Also, a grim reminder of real life histories, poignant love.

126 of 138 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • p
  • 08-04-17

Good

I couldn't put it down. I listened every chance I could. Id have to say my favorite so far

67 of 75 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Painfully distracting narration...

You only have to listen to a few audio books to learn that the narration can either make or break the whole experience. Before buying "Before We Were Yours" I read the reviews and so I can't claim ignorance to the many complaints of Avery's narration -- but the overall reviews were so good, and the "sample" listen sounded endurable, so I gave it a shot. Well...I very nearly returned this book after the first couple of chapters because the narration for Avery's segments of the story were truly almost too painful to listen to. The narrator's emphasis was all over the place, and rarely on point. I found her male characterizations slightly easier to listen to, but her Avery was slow, superficial and bloodless. Worst of all, her breathy, whispery dips for dramatic emphasis made my skin crawl and cast the character in a haze of mopey melodrama. It totally detracted from the story.

Rill's narrator, on the other hand, did a great job. Her cadence and accent flowed perfectly, and she created clear and believable distinctions between characters. But to be honest, Rill's overall story line was simply more enjoyable and compelling than Avery's. Its really as though two different authors wrote the two story-lines -- and Avery's just failed on so many levels. While Rill was a compelling and sympathetic character navigating through interesting and engaging experiences, Avery's story was kind of flat and her character came off as pouty, spoiled, weak and annoying.

Although I think I might have enjoyed this book a bit more if I had read the physical book for myself, I wasn't super impressed with any part of it. I was initially torn between giving the audio book two and three stars, but I went with three for the sake of Rill's story-line and narration, and because I did actually wind up listening to the whole thing. But I have to say that I'm a little bit baffled by all of the four and five star reviews out there. Overall the story felt like a cross between YA fiction (which I don't knock, by the way) and a flimsy Romance novel. In the end the actual history behind the book was worth learning and, like I said, Rill's story line was pretty good. So I can't say it was a complete waste of 14 hours...but I just can't recommend "Before We Were Yours" to anyone.

107 of 123 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent But Disturbing!

Story was well written and told. Kept me glued, and wanting to learn more about Georgia Tan and if the children ever reunite with their families, even in adulthood. Had never heard of her, and extremely sad how she managed to get away with what she was doing for so many years. Really loved the narrators, especially the one who performed the parts of the big sister (May) and her siblings. Her southern drawl and ability to sound young was pretty impressive. Must say that I had a difficult time listening to this book, only due to the terrible treatment which was described throughout. An eye opener for sure!

47 of 54 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Was heartwrenching but could have been better...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend this book to a friend, but I really think this story, while good, could have been great. Specifically, I found Avery's narration a bit irritating and her character dull and one dimensional.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Rill. Her character and story brought me to tears at times, which is rare for me. You could feel how much she loved her siblings.

Any additional comments?

I loved the story that this book told. I had never heard about Georgia Tann or the Tennessee Children's Home and although the details are disturbing, the author does a great job of revealing the horror without getting into gory specifics.

I also thought the way May and Judy's relationship was revealed was a little confusing...

58 of 68 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

The backstory is great, but the present day story…

The premise, basing a historical novel on the Tennessee children's home, is fascinating. The chapters of this book devoted to The experience of the children kidnapped by Georgia tans Agency are beautiful, sad, moving, disturbing. But the present day story, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't match up to the events from the past. Avery, the protagonist, is a nice young woman, Who has integrity and curiosity, and wants to do the right thing. But she goes through virtually no pain in this book, and although she grows by the end of the story, she is so privileged, seemingly has never made a mistake in her life, has so many advantages, that I have a hard time finding her sympathetic. Then, she acts as if the discovery that her aunt and grandmother were victims of the children's home scandal is a big deal. Well it's certainly interesting as a piece of family history, I really don't understand why she sees it as such a potential political scandal for her family. She also spends an off a lot of time wondering what if it hadn't happened, what if things were different. It feels as if the book is trying way too hard to make this story from the past relevant to present day issues, but ultimately, fails to convince. I was tempted to skip over the chapters taking place in the present day and I feel that this novel would actually be better if those chapters didn't exist.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Couldn't put it down

LOVED this book. Was recommended if I like The Nightingale and The Orphan Train.I loved both those books and this was just as good. Narrators really got into character. Story goes between 1940s and present. Each time it switches you wish you could stay in that era and then in no time you're totally engrossed and don't want to switch back! I love historical fiction and can't believe I didn't know about this. Made me want to be more informed. Great book. Highly recommend.

51 of 61 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

5 Stars if you Skip Half the Chapters

Rill’s chapters made for a great story. 1.25x speed is perfect. Last Avery chapter was needed to piece together some of what was meant for proper tie-in. Performance was dragged by the poor inflection for the character’s dialect. Worth downloading. Probably better read, as one’s imagining of the characters’ voices would bring better life to the story.

36 of 43 people found this review helpful