• Barb Siegman

"Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate


Hug your kids now! I am serious, once you read this historical fiction tale of how children are essentially

kidnapped from their parents, hauled away to an orphanage, abused, sold for large sums of money to

the wealthy and privileged while the authorities turn their heads, you will never allow your children to

leave your house again!


Two of the book clubs that I participate in chose this book to read and provided interesting discussions.


Based on real circumstances that started in the late 1930’s and lasted until about 1950, 'Before We Were

Yours' tells a story of a grim life for many children that ultimately were sold or died after they were taken from their parents.


The children were taken while poverty-stricken parents in Tennessee were away from home. Or in some cases, mothers giving birth in hospitals were told that their babies were born dead, when in fact they were not. Mothers and fathers signed papers while under duress, giving their children away to local authorities without realizing what they were doing.


I had heard that this was a real story (thought the characters in the book and the story Lisa Wingate crafted are totally fictional) and I read up on it after I read the author’s notes and

researched it myself. That’s why I like historical fiction; you are learning about history while reading a good fiction story.


Lisa Wingate makes certain that the story of Nill and her siblings are woven with a story about a current day woman, Avery, who is trapped in a relationship, brought on by family, politics and power, while investigating some strange circumstances with her grandmother and May, an elderly woman in a nursing home, put there by her family who no longer wants to deal with her.


Grandma Judy is losing her memory and kept a secret that binds these two women together. The two stories wind up connecting at the end of the book, the secret uncovered by Avery, which was satisfying to read at the end.


Many fiction novels are currently written in this method where one story from the past and one story in current times are told, going back and forth chapter by chapter. Some of them can get tiresome, but Wingate holds your interest with two stories that rock all of these families to the core and brings it home at the end.

I refer to this book as a page turner. You really don’t want to put the book down, waiting and wanting to see what is going to happen next to these unfortunate children and how their lives come together when they thought all was lost.



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