Staff Picks: Before We Were Yours

By Catherine Coles
Coles Notes

Marg Wood of the Napanee Branch of the County Libraries recently enjoyed one of the biggest new releases in historical fiction. “I love historical fiction especially when it is grounded in fact!” she says. “Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is based on a real-life scandal that occurred in the southern states between the late 1930s and the early 1950s. Georgia Tann was the director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, which was responsible for the kidnapping and sale of children from underprivileged families to wealthy families all over the country.

“In the center of this story is the Foss family, a family of five children and their loving parents Queenie and Briny. For years they have travelled the Mississippi on their shanty riverboat enjoying life despite the fact that they live in poverty. Complications arise when Queenie goes into labor with latest pregnancy and has to be rushed to seek medical assistance leaving 12-year-old Rill in charge of her younger siblings. Scouts working for Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society board the boat and kidnap the children telling them that their mother has died in childbirth and their father can no longer care for them. The beautiful Foss children are ideal candidates to be sold to prospective new parents who will spare no expense to adopt. They are taken to an orphanage where they face numerous acts of cruelty as they await adoption. Tragically, as with the fictional Foss children, many real-life families were torn apart by the horrific acts of Georgia Tann and others who worked with her.

“Years later we discover what happened to the Foss children when a US senator’s daughter Avery Stafford has a chance encounter with an elderly woman in a nursing home. Avery discovers that there is a family connection between May Crandall and her own grandmother, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and unfortunately is unable to answer the questions Avery has. She will not rest until she has the answers she seeks despite the fact that her high-profile political family may not want to know what occurred all those years ago.

Before We Were Yours is a heart-wrenching, emotional and well written book,” Marg concludes. “The author, Lisa Wingate, brings these characters to life and as for location, I practically felt like I was on the Mississippi riverbank! I would recommending this poignant story to people who have enjoyed books such as The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe, The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff or Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.”

Reserve it today in a variety of formats from your branch of the County of Lennox and Addington Libraries or online at

Catherine Coles is the Manager of Library Services for L&A County.

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