- Read Date: September 30th, 2019
- Rating: 3.5/5
- Format: Print Book
Avery Stafford, daughter of a prominent South Carolina senator, discovers a cryptic family secret and is determined to work to the bottom of it. When Avery’s dragonfly bracelet ignites a spark of recognition in a stranger in a nursing home, Avery compiles a few seemingly small details that hearken back to a broken story of displacement and mistreatment in 1939 Baltimore. But what do that story and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society have to do with the Stafford family? Avery will find out.
Before We Were Yours is told in split narrative from Avery’s point of view and from that of Rill Foss, who was twelve years old when she and her siblings were removed from her river home and put into the care of the state. Rill tells of the cruelty and horrible conditions the Foss kids endured at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, and bit by bit, Avery comes to discover them in the present day as she finds these details strewn about her grandmother’s cottage home. Knowing her grandmother was connected to this society but not knowing why, she digs deeper into the history.
Wingate’s writing in the 1939 portions is descriptive and lyrical and transports the reader to the very place; characters are beautifully defined and developed. Unfortunately, the present day narrative lacks those elements. Almost everything occurring present day– complete with a long-distance engagement that Avery begins to reconsider, another handsome gentleman entering the scene, and our main character being groomed to take over the family legacy– seems a bit cliched. I’d heard such high praise of this novel, and, while the story itself is interesting, I found it to be filled with other unnecessary elements. Just one example: the fiancé need not even have existed, as he added almost nothing to the story except the idea that Avery was confused, which she could easily have discovered in plenty of other situations anyway.
Though there seemed to be a few superfluous additions (to me!), I enjoyed the story and the new discoveries that were made along Rill’s journey. Piecing things together and ultimately being able to anticipate how everything would culminate was very satisfying, and wrapped the story up in a very touching way.
Find Before We Were Yours here or at your local library.