I borrowed this one on Libby, I wish I would have known about the app sooner!
Rill lives on a riverboat with her parents, her 3 sisters and her brother, and her mother is expecting another baby. After she’s rushed to the hospital, the authorities come in and take all the children to the Tennesee Children’s Home Society under the guise they will be there until their parents are out of the hospital. Only, their mother has been tricked into signing away the children and they are awaiting adoption. Told in alternating viewpoints from Rill in the past, and then Avery in the present, we slowly learn what Avery has to do with this atrocity that was committed in the past.
First, let’s talk about Avery’s viewpoint. Her grandmother is in a care facility as her memory continues to get worse. Her facility is a much nicer facility than most and Wingate talks about the disparages between the homes for the wealthy and those that are not. Avery meets May in one such facility where the care is less than stellar. Her friendship with May opens doors into learning about the past Avery previously wasn’t privy to, because the general consensus was “Bygones are a bit like collard greens. They tend to taste bitter.” Avery’s relationship with her fiance is at the backburner of the story and her fiance isn’t all that supportive of Avery’s quest to discover her family’s history.
Rill’s story, told in the late ’30s, was sadly very typical of the environment at the time. The woman at the center of all of this, Georgia Tann, is best labeled a monster. She tricked women into signing over their children, she stole newborns, she profited off human suffering. The Children’s Home barely clothed and fed the children, their health wasn’t a priority, and conditions weren’t safe for the girls. This process tore apart families, it dragged in unwitting accomplices desperate for children. My heart endlessly broke for Rill and her siblings.
Before We Were Yours is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction. It’s emotional and heartbreaking. I felt Rill/May was a bit naive in her thinking, as things continued to get worse, it just wasn’t clicking in her head what was going on. Her trust in adults was so sadly misplaced and my heart broke for her. Overall, a very well-written piece of history that’s a must read.