Before We Were Yours: outlet online sale outlet online sale A Novel outlet online sale

Before We Were Yours: outlet online sale outlet online sale A Novel outlet online sale

Before We Were Yours: outlet online sale outlet online sale A Novel outlet online sale
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From the Publisher




More From Lisa Wingate

___________________________________________________________

The Books of Lost Friends Before and After

Description

Product Description

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

Look for Lisa Wingate’s powerful new historical novel, The Book of Lost Friends, available now!

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain


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 Bestseller of 2017  Winner of the Southern Book Prize  If All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection

This edition includes a new essay by the author about shantyboat life.

Review

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

Before We Were Yours is sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . [Lisa] 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

“One of the year’s best books . . . It is almost a cliché to say a book is ‘lovingly written’ but that phrase applies clearly to Lisa Wingate’s latest novel, Before We Were Yours. This story about children taken from their parents through kidnapping or subterfuge and then placed for adoption, for a price, clearly pours out of Wingate’s heart. . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near-perfect novel. It invades your heart from the very first pages and stays there long after the book is finished. Few novelists could strike the balance this story requires but Wingate does it with assurance. There are a lot of books that will catch your eye this summer, some from our best storytellers. Make sure this one is on your radar. It should not be missed.” The Huffington Post

“[An] affecting new novel.” The New York Post

“Every now and then a novel comes along that sweeps me off my reading feet. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is such a book. . . . It’s a great book-club read, one of those books that teaches you something, gives you lots to discuss and even more to think about. . . . Take note: This may be the best book of the year.” Shreveport Times

“This story is heartfelt and genuine, especially as Wingate explores the idea of home and family from a youngster’s point of view.” Historical Novels Review

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power. That Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society could actually exist, unraveling the lives of countless children, stealing their pasts and changing their futures, will give you chills. But the real feat of this stirring novel is how deeply Wingate plunges us into the heart and mind of twelve-year-old river gypsy Rill Foss. Rill’s utterly singular voice will stay with you long after the last page is turned, as will Wingate’s courage to follow her anywhere. . . . Vivid and affecting.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun

“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 bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

About the Author

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Wingate lives in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

PRELUDE 

Baltimore, Maryland

 
AUGUST 3, 1939
My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon. The room takes life only in my imaginings. It is large most days when I conjure it. The walls are white and clean, the bed linens crisp as a fallen leaf. The private suite has the very finest of everything. Outside, the breeze is weary, and the cicadas throb in the tall trees, their verdant hiding places just below the window frames. The screens sway inward as the attic fan rattles overhead, pulling at wet air that has no desire to be moved.

The scent of pine wafts in, and the woman’s screams press out as the nurses hold her fast to the bed. Sweat pools on her skin and rushes down her face and arms and legs. She’d be horrified if she were aware of this.

She is pretty. A gentle, fragile soul. Not the sort who would intentionally bring about the catastrophic unraveling that is only, this moment, beginning. In my multifold years of life, I have learned that most people get along as best they can. They don’t intend to hurt anyone. It is merely a terrible by-product of surviving.

It isn’t her fault, all that comes to pass after that one final, merciless push. She produces the very last thing she could possibly want. Silent flesh comes forth—a tiny, fair-haired girl as pretty as a doll, yet blue and still.

The woman has no way of knowing her child’s fate, or if she does know, the medications will cause the memory of it to be nothing but a blur by tomorrow. She ceases her thrashing and surrenders to the twilight sleep, lulled by the doses of morphine and scopolamine ad- ministered to help her defeat the pain.

To help her release everything, and she will.

Sympathetic conversation takes place as doctors stitch and nurses clean up what is left.

“So sad when it happens this way. So out of order when a life has not even one breath in this world.”

“You have to wonder sometimes . . . why . . . when a child is so very wanted . . .”

A veil is lowered. Tiny eyes are shrouded. They will never see.

The woman’s ears hear but cannot grasp. All slips in and slips away. It is as if she is attempting to catch the tide, and it drains through her clenched fingers, and finally she floats out along with it.

A man waits nearby, perhaps in the hallway just outside the door. He is stately, dignified. Unaccustomed to being so helpless. He was to become a grandfather today.

Glorious anticipation has melted into wrenching anguish.

“Sir, I am so terribly sorry,” the doctor says as he slips from the room. “Rest assured that everything humanly possible was done to ease your daughter’s labor and to save the baby. I understand how very difficult this is. Please offer our condolences to the baby’s father when you are finally able to reach him overseas. After so many disappointments, your family must have held such great hope.”

“Will she be able to have more?”

“It isn’t advisable.”

“This will be the end of her. And her mother as well, when she learns of it. Christine is our only child, you know. The pitter-patter of little feet . . . the beginning of a new generation . . .”

“I understand, sir.”

“What are the risks should she . . .”

“Her life. And it’s extremely unlikely that your daughter would ever carry another pregnancy to term. If she were to try, the results could be . . .”

“I see.” The doctor lays a comforting hand on the heartbroken man, or this is the way it happens in my imaginings. Their gazes tangle.

The physician looks over his shoulder to be certain that the nurses cannot hear. “Sir, might I suggest something?” he says quietly, gravely. “I know of a woman in Memphis. . . .”

Chapter 1
Avery Stafford
present day. Aiken, South Carolina

I take a breath, scoot to the edge of the seat, straighten my jacket as the limo rolls to a stop on the boiling-hot asphalt. News vans wait along the curb, accentuating the importance of this morning’s seemingly innocuous meeting.

But not one moment of this day will happen by accident. These past two months in South Carolina have been all about making sure the nuances are just right—shaping the inferences so as to hint, but do no more.

Definitive statements are not to be made.

Not yet, anyway.

Not for a long time, if I have my way about it.

I wish I could forget why I’ve come home, but even the fact that my father isn’t reading his notes or checking the briefing from Leslie, his uber-efficient press secretary, is an undeniable reminder. There’s no escaping the tagalong enemy that rides silently in the car with us. It’s here in the backseat, hiding beneath the gray tailored suit that hangs a hint too loose over my father’s broad shoulders.

Daddy stares out the window, his head resting to one side. He’s relegated his aides and Leslie to another car.
“You feeling all right?” I reach across to brush a long blond hair—mine—off the seat so it won’t cling to his trousers when he gets out. If my mother were here, she’d whip out a mini lint brush, but she’s home, preparing for our second event of the day—a family Christmas photo that must be taken months early… just in case Daddy’s prognosis worsens.

He sits a bit straighter, lifts his head. Static magnetizes his thick, gray hair, so that it’s sticking straight out. I want to smooth it down for him, but I don’t. It would be a breach of protocol.

If my mother is intimately involved in the micro-aspects of our lives, like fretting over lint and planning for the family Christmas photo in July, my father is the opposite. He is distant—an island of staunch maleness in a household of women. I know he cares deeply about my mother, my two sisters, and me, but he seldom voices the sentiment out loud. I also know that I’m his favorite, but the one who confuses him most. He is a product of an era when women went to college to secure the requisite M-R-S degree. He’s not quite sure what to do with a thirty-year-old daughter who graduated top of her class from Columbia Law and actually enjoys the gritty world of a federal DA’s office.

Whatever the reason—perhaps just because the positions of perfectionist daughter and sweet daughter were already taken in our family—I have always been brainiac daughter. I loved school and it was the unspoken conclusion that I would be the family torchbearer, the son-replacement, the one to succeed my father. Somehow, I always imagined that I’d be older when it happened and that I would be ready.

Now, I look at my dad and think, How can you not want it, Avery? This is what he’s worked for all his life. What generations of Staffords have strived for since the revolutionary war, for heaven’s sake. Our family has always held fast to the guiding rope of public service. Daddy is no exception. Since graduating from West Point and serving as an Army aviator before I was born, he has upheld the family name with dignity and determination.

Of course you want this,
I tell myself again. You’ve always wanted this. You just didn’t expect it to happen yet, and not this way, that’s all.

Secretly, I’m clinging by all ten fingernails to the best-case scenario. The enemies will be vanquished on both fronts—political and medical. My father will be cured by the combination of the surgery that brought him home from the summer congressional session early and the chemo pump he must wear strapped to his leg every three weeks. My move home to Aiken will be temporary.

Cancer will no longer be a part of our lives.

It can be beaten. Other people have done it, and if anyone can, Senator Talmage Stafford can.

There is not, anywhere, a stronger man or a better man than my dad.

“Ready?” he asks, straightening his suit. It’s a relief when he swipes down the rooster tail in his hair. I’m not prepared to cross the line from daughter to caretaker.

“Right behind you.” I’d do anything for him, but I hope it’s many more years before we’re forced to reverse the roles of parent and child. I’ve learned how hard that is while watching my father struggle to make decisions for his mother.

My once quick-witted, fun-loving Grandma Judy is now only a ghost of her former self. As painful as that is, Daddy can’t talk to anyone about it. If the media clues into the fact that we’ve moved her to a facility, especially an upscale one, on a lovely estate not ten miles from here, it’ll be a lose-lose situation, politically speaking. Given the burgeoning scandal over a series of wrongful death and abuse cases involving corporate-owned eldercare facilities in our state, Daddy’s political enemies will either point out that only those with money can afford premium care, or they’ll accuse my father of warehousing his mom because he is a cold-hearted lout who cares nothing for the elderly. They’ll say that he’d happily turn a blind eye toward the needs of the helpless, if the profits of his friends and campaign contributors are involved.

The reality is that his decisions for Grandma Judy are in no way political. We’re just like other families. Every available avenue is paved with guilt, lined with pain, and pockmarked with shame. We’re embarrassed for Grandma Judy. We’re afraid for her. We’re heartsick about where this cruel descent in dementia might end. Before the nursing home, my grandmother escaped from her caretaker and her household staff. She called a cab and vanished for an entire day before she was found wandering at a business complex that was once her favorite shopping area. How she managed it when she can’t remember our names is a mystery.

I’m wearing one of her favorite pieces of jewelry this morning. I’m dimly aware of it on my wrist as I slide out the limo door. I pretend I’ve selected the dragonfly bracelet in her honor, but really it’s there as a silent reminder that Stafford women do what must be done, even when they don’t want to. The location of this morning’s event makes me uncomfortable. I’ve never liked nursing homes.

It’s just a meet-and-greet, I tell myself. The press is here to cover the event, not to ask questions. We’ll shake hands, tour the building, join the residents for the birthday celebration of a woman who is turning one hundred. Her husband is ninety-nine. Quite a feat.

Inside, the corridor smells like someone has turned my sister’s triplets loose with cans of spray sanitizer. The scent of artificial jasmine fills the air. Leslie sniffs, then offers a nod of approval as she, a photographer, and several interns and aides flank us. We’re without bodyguards and security for this appearance. No doubt they’ve gone ahead to prepare for this afternoon’s town hall forum. Over the years, my father has received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and minutemen militia groups, as well as any number of crackpots claiming to be snipers, bio- terrorists and kidnappers. He seldom takes them seriously, but his security people do.

Turning the corner, we’re greeted by the nursing home director and two news crews with cameras. We tour. They film. My father amps up the charm. He shakes hands, poses for photos, takes time to talk with people and bend close to wheelchairs, and to thank nurses for the difficult and demanding job they pour themselves into each day.
I follow along and do the same. A debonair gentleman in a tweed bowler hat flirts with me. In a delightful British accent, he tells me I have beautiful blue eyes. “If it were fifty years ago, I’d charm you into saying yes to a date,” he teases.

“I think you already have,” I answer and we laugh together.

One of the nurses warns me that Mr. McMorris is a silver-haired Don Juan. He winks at the nurse just to prove it.
As we wander down the hall to the party for the hundredth birthday, I realize that I am actually having fun. The people seem content here. This isn’t as luxurious as Grandma Judy’s nursing home, but it’s a far cry from the under-managed facilities named by plaintiffs in the recent string of lawsuits. Odds are, none of those plaintiffs will ever see a dime, no matter what kind of damages they’re awarded by the courts. The moneymen behind the nursing home chains use networks of holding companies and shell corps they can easily send into bankruptcy to avoid paying claims.  Which is why the uncovering of ties to one of my father’s oldest friends and biggest contributors has been so potentially devastating. My father is a high-profile face upon which public anger and political wrath can be focused.

Anger and blame are powerful weapons. The opposition knows that.

In the commons room, a small podium has been set up. I take a spot off to the side with the entourage, positioned by the glass doors that open into a shady garden where a kaleidoscope of flowers bloom despite the beastly summer heat.

A woman stands alone on one of the sheltered garden paths, seemingly unaware of the party. Her hands rest over a cane. She wears a simple cream-colored cotton dress and a white sweater, despite the warm day. Her thick, gray hair is braided and twisted around her head, and that, combined with the colorless dress, makes her seem almost ghostlike, a remnant of some long-forgotten past. A breeze rustles the wisteria trellis but doesn’t seem to touch her, adding to the illusion that she isn’t really there.

I turn my attention back to the nursing home director. She welcomes everyone, touts the reason for today’s gathering—a full century of life is not achieved every day of the week, after all. To be married most of that time and still have your beloved by your side is even more remarkable. It is, indeed, an event worthy of a senatorial visit.

Not to mention the fact that this sweet couple has been among my father’s supporters since his days in South Carolina’s state government. Technically, they’ve known him longer than I have and they’re almost as devoted. Our honoree and her husband hold their thin hands high in the air and clap furiously as my father’s name is mentioned.

The director tells the story of the sweet-looking couple perched at the center table. Luci was born in France when horse carriages still roamed the streets. It’s hard to even imagine. She worked with the French resistance in the Second World War. Her husband, James, a fighter pilot, was shot down in combat. Their love story is like something from a film—a sweeping romance. Part of an escape chain, Luci helped to disguise him and smuggle him out of the country, injured. After the war, he went back to find her. She was still living on the same farm with her family, holed up in the only remaining building, a storage cellar.

The events these two have weathered cause me to marvel. This is what’s possible when love is real and strong, when people are devoted to one another, when they’ll sacrifice anything to be together. This is what I want for myself, but I sometimes wonder if it’s possible in our modern generation. We’re so distracted, so… busy.
Glancing down at my engagement ring, I think, Elliot and I have what it takes.

We know each other so well. We’ve always been side-by-side….

The birthday girl slowly pushes out of her chair, taking her beau’s arm. They move along together, stooped and crooked and leaning. The sight is sweet and heart-tugging. I hope my parents live to this ripe old stage of life. I hope they’ll have a long retirement… someday… years in the future when my father finally decides to slow down. This disease can’t take him at fifty-seven. He’s too young. He’s too desperately needed, both at home and in the world. He has work to do yet, and after that my parents deserve a retirement with quiet days and time to spend together.

A tender feeling settles in my chest, and I push away the thought. No overwhelming displays of emotion in public, Leslie’s frequent reminder. Women can’t afford it in this arena. It’s seen as incompetence, weakness.

As if I didn’t know that already. A courtroom isn’t much different. Female lawyers are always on trial in more ways than one. We have to play by different rules.

My father salutes James as they meet near the podium. The man stops, straightens and returns the gesture with military precision. Their gazes meet and the moment is pure. It may look perfect on camera, but it’s not for the camera. My father’s lips press into a tight line. He’s trying not to tear up.

It isn’t like him to come so close to letting it show.

I swallow another swell of emotion. Air shudders past my lips. I press my shoulders back, turn my eyes away and focus on the window, studying the woman in the garden. She’s still standing there, gazing off. Who is she? What is she looking for?

The boisterous chorus of Happy Birthday seeps through the glass and causes her to slowly turn toward the building. I feel the tug of the song and the fact that the cameras are likely to sweep my way, and I’ll look distracted, but I can’t quite extricate myself from the path outside. I want to see the woman’s face, at least. Will it be as blank as the summer sky? Is she merely addled and wandering, or has she skipped the festivities on purpose?

Leslie yanks my jacket from behind and I snap to attention like a schoolgirl caught talking in line.

“Happy Birth… focus,” she sings close to my ear, and I nod as she moves off to gain a better angle for snapping cell phone photos that will go on my father’s Instagram. The Senator is up with all the latest social media, even though he doesn’t know how to operate any of it. His latest social media manager is a whiz.

The ceremony continues. Flashbulbs erupt. Happy family members wipe tears and take videos as my father presents a framed congratulatory letter.

The cake is wheeled up, a hundred candles blazing.

Leslie is delighted. Happiness and emotion swell the room, stretching it like the skin of a helium balloon. Any more joy and we’ll all float away.

Someone touches my hand and wrist, fingers encircling me so unexpectedly that I jerk away, then stop myself, so as not to cause a scene. The grip is cold and bony and trembling, but surprisingly strong. I turn to see the woman from the garden. She straightens her humped back and gazes up at me through eyes the color of the hydrangeas back home at Drayden Hill—a soft, clear blue with a lighter mist around the edges. Her pleated lips tremble.

Before I can gather my wits, a nurse comes to collect her, taking a firm grip. “May,” she says, casting an apologetic look my way. “Come along. You’re not supposed to bother our guests.”

Rather than releasing my wrist, the old woman clings to it. She seems desperate, as if she needs something, but I can’t imagine what it is.

She searches my face, stretches upward.

“Fern?” She whispers.

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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
34,986 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
No. Just no.
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2019
I am shocked so many people thought this was a good book. The writing is seriously terrible. The author uses the same voice for both the modern-day character and the 1939 character. The metaphors and similes and insanely cheesy writing had me cringing and wondering what I''d... See more
I am shocked so many people thought this was a good book. The writing is seriously terrible. The author uses the same voice for both the modern-day character and the 1939 character. The metaphors and similes and insanely cheesy writing had me cringing and wondering what I''d gotten myself into (I always finish a book, so this was painful). The subject matter is interesting, but I should have just read actual historical accounts from orphans who were victims of Georgia Tann. The whole story was so over-the-top implausible the way it all tied together. None of the modern-day characters were believable nor likable. It cheapened the story of what truly happened to kids who were stolen from their parents in Tennessee back then by being tied into a book that is poorly written chick lit with a schlocky romance thrown in. I need to read some first-rate literature now to cleanse my palate of this garbage. People, please - raise the bar on what you consider a good book. This ain''t it.
741 people found this helpful
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Mary Jane
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Novel built on truth
Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2017
The Tennessee Children''s Home run by Georgia Tann did exist for decades. The stories of children whisked away from poor parents, as they walked to school, were born in hospitals, played on their front porches, is a sad tale of the subterfuge used by this woman who made... See more
The Tennessee Children''s Home run by Georgia Tann did exist for decades. The stories of children whisked away from poor parents, as they walked to school, were born in hospitals, played on their front porches, is a sad tale of the subterfuge used by this woman who made millions on "adoption fees". In many cases, the children were adopted by wealthy parents, satisfied by their obtaining the child they had so wanted. But, there were others, who disappeared forever, were abused in the children''s home, while waiting for a home, or more likely, waiting to go back home to their birth families. Few adoptive parents knew about these terrible conditions, nor did the state, nor the birth families, who were left wondering what happened to their children.

This novel takes the facts and the recounted stories of the children who later were able to locate family members, when the documents were unsealed in 1995 (the home was closed in 1950). Lisa Wingate weaves a plausible story of a group of siblings caught up in this scheme. It is heart breaking to ponder, but presents a real situation that occurred in our country. Read this, along with "The Orphan Train", to get a sense of how fortunate you may be.
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Carrie A. Gallagher
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Children stolen from their homes who had no voice are given justice
Reviewed in the United States on January 10, 2018
This book tells two stories that happen about 70ish years apart. The first story, the story of the Tennessee Home for Children, is quite intriguing. The second story of Avery Stafford and the Stafford family was quite boring. This books focuses on one of the... See more
This book tells two stories that happen about 70ish years apart. The first story, the story of the Tennessee Home for Children, is quite intriguing. The second story of Avery Stafford and the Stafford family was quite boring.

This books focuses on one of the most evil women in American History and what she put countless children through. I am speaking of Georgia Tann, who ran illegal orphanages in Tennessee from the 1930s to 1950. This woman would steal children from poor families, change their names, and adopt them out to prestigious families. The author does an excellent job of writing a historical fiction book about Georgia Tann, and having it be told through the eyes of the children that she abducted. We follow the lives of 5 children who grow up on a shanty on the Mississippi River. They did not have money, but their family had love. That would all end when Georgia Tann sends the police to take the children and bring them to her. You will not believe the horrors that happen inside of the orphanage. It is hard to believe that the children survived at all. This book does justice to all of the children that died while under Ms. Tann''s "care." It gives them a voice.

However, the present day part of the book was not written as well. I got tired of hearing about The Stafford Family and politics. I felt the the author spent too much time in the beginning talking about Avery Stafford''s father and his political career. It never really ties into the story. I felt those were wasted pages that could have been filled up with more details that the author cut short.

The ending was not written well either. All of the sudden the book was done. It was like she got tired of writing it. The part of the ending about the sisters was sweet. The part about Avery was cut short. What happened when she called off her wedding? How did Bitsy react? She makes these issues such a part of the story, yet she never develops them.

All in all I would recommend this book. I couldn''t put it down. I couldn''t wait to get home from work to finish the ending. I just wish the ending was better.
336 people found this helpful
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lucidbooks
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Like a stupid Hallmark movie
Reviewed in the United States on January 1, 2019
I can see the underlying story regarding the crime of human trafficking and I guess it''s a huge revelation to some people. I read it for book club and as a result rethinking the value of this book club in my life. Even tho I flipped thru most of it, it was a waste of... See more
I can see the underlying story regarding the crime of human trafficking and I guess it''s a huge revelation to some people. I read it for book club and as a result rethinking the value of this book club in my life. Even tho I flipped thru most of it, it was a waste of reading time.
160 people found this helpful
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Lisa Kearns
5.0 out of 5 starsVine Customer Review of Free Product
A great read about a shameful past practice
Reviewed in the United States on April 17, 2017
I wasn''t familiar with Lisa Wingate''s books before I read "Before We Were Yours" but I''ll be looking for others now that I''ve read it. I was drawn fully into the story, set in both the 1930s and present day. It follows the story of the Foss children in the ''30s... See more
I wasn''t familiar with Lisa Wingate''s books before I read "Before We Were Yours" but I''ll be looking for others now that I''ve read it. I was drawn fully into the story, set in both the 1930s and present day. It follows the story of the Foss children in the ''30s and Avery Stafford in present day, and brings to light a horrifying and shameful real-life scandal.

From the ''30s to 1950, a woman named Georgia Tann, who ran the (Memphis) Tennessee Children''s Home Society, stole poor children from their families and newborn babies from single mothers and sold them to celebrities, politicians and others who could afford them. It was all done under the guise of helping orphaned and abandoned children find good homes, but it was actually human trafficking.

Avery Stafford finds a puzzling photograph that leads her into an ever more confusing story of secrets and lies inside her upright, respected family. Along the way, she starts to question the man her family has picked for her to marry and her expected role within the family. What follows is a heartwarming story of love, betrayal, memories and staying true to your heart. In addition to the well developed characters and background love story, I liked the realistic view into the 1930s.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about a dark time in our history, when being poor was enough to have a family ripped apart forever.
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well written and compelling though a very disturbing event in history
Reviewed in the United States on June 23, 2017
This was one of the hardest books I have ever read. The subject matter is disturbing and unforgettable. It is especially compelling because it is based on something that really happened. That being said, it was well-written and very hard to put down. I appreciated the... See more
This was one of the hardest books I have ever read. The subject matter is disturbing and unforgettable. It is especially compelling because it is based on something that really happened. That being said, it was well-written and very hard to put down. I appreciated the uplifting ending as it somewhat mollifies the agony of the subject matter.
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Jamie Appelbaum
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Beautifully written. Captivating.
Reviewed in the United States on March 24, 2018
This was a beautifully written piece of historical fiction. It touched my heart.
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April Garden
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Unbelievable Miss Tann
Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2017
This is a REAL story. It is poignant, sad, unbelievable and a must read to learn about how families were destroyed and children were mistreated in orphanages prior to 1950. The way children were stolen and placed in homes under cruel caretakers is chilling. Children were... See more
This is a REAL story. It is poignant, sad, unbelievable and a must read to learn about how families were destroyed and children were mistreated in orphanages prior to 1950. The way children were stolen and placed in homes under cruel caretakers is chilling. Children were stolen, warehoused in homes until they could be adopted into "high class" families. The family story centered in Lisa Wingate''s book describes five children and their parents who live on a river houseboat on inlet to Mississippi River. They are close to lowest of socio-economic status possible. But,they dearly care for one another, especially the children and their mother. At term with pregnancy for twins when the midwife is unable to deliver the mother, the midwife insists the father take her to a hospital. They are told the twins do not survive, but the mother does. When the mother and father return to their houseboat the other five children have been stolen by the authorities. How the children survive their existence under the ugly supervisor, Miss Tann, their separate adoptions and how they manage to regain contact with each other is an unbelievable story. Andy was not stopped until 1950.
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Lisa Adams
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I Couldn''t Put it Down
Reviewed in Canada on January 28, 2019
In Memphis during the Depression, Rill Foss and her four younger siblings are kidnapped from their loving, but poor, Riverboat parents and are sent to the Tennessee Children''s Home Society orphanage. Told their parents will soon be coming to get them, Rill soon suspects the...See more
In Memphis during the Depression, Rill Foss and her four younger siblings are kidnapped from their loving, but poor, Riverboat parents and are sent to the Tennessee Children''s Home Society orphanage. Told their parents will soon be coming to get them, Rill soon suspects the truth and fights, unsuccessfully, to keep her family together. In present day South Carolina, Avery Stafford, the privileged daughter of high society parents, stumbles across a long-held family secret and is compelled to uncover the truth. Going in, I had no idea this book was inspired by actual events. Partway through, I was struck by the intricate detail and decided to check it out. I was horrified. Georgia Tann, who ran the Tennessee Children''s Home Society, stole 5,000 children between 1924 and 1950, mostly from poor parents. About 500 children - 10%! - died in her care. Those who survived were adopted out at exorbitant fees, and at times she blackmailed the adoptive parents into paying even more and threatening to take back the children if they didn''t. She had judges, police and various political officials in her pocket - at times, she accomplished this by giving them children! Happily, she did get caught and all of her crimes exposed. Sadly, she died before she could face justice. The case did prompt a whole raft of legislation designed to eliminate corruption in adoption, it''s just too bad it took such horror for legislators to clue in that a free-for-all market in children was a bad idea. Anyhow, regardless of the truth in the writing, the book itself is outstanding. The parallel, time-jumping storylines is becoming standard for a reason - because it''s effective and Wingate nails it. The characters are so nuanced and complex I felt like they were real people. The suspense had me hanging on every word. I actually read most of it in an entire day spent curled up in a chair because I couldn''t put it down.
33 people found this helpful
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Westcountryman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 18, 2018
Excellent book on a tough subject.
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Dragonlady
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Teeny tiny print
Reviewed in Canada on July 5, 2020
I''m only about 50 pages into this book, and enjoying the story thus far, but just wanted to mention that the paperback is smaller than it looks in the photo, and the print inside is very, very tiny. If you''re an older reader or have any issues reading printed material, get...See more
I''m only about 50 pages into this book, and enjoying the story thus far, but just wanted to mention that the paperback is smaller than it looks in the photo, and the print inside is very, very tiny. If you''re an older reader or have any issues reading printed material, get the Kindle version instead. I wish I had.
9 people found this helpful
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tammy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 8, 2018
wonderful book!
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 9, 2017
Absolutely heartbreaking! Excellent read
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  • Novels Books




More From Lisa Wingate

___________________________________________________________

The Books of Lost Friends Before and After

Description

Product Description

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

Look for Lisa Wingate’s powerful new historical novel, The Book of Lost Friends, available now!

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain


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 Bestseller of 2017  Winner of the Southern Book Prize  If All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection

This edition includes a new essay by the author about shantyboat life.

Review

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

Before We Were Yours is sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . [Lisa] 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

“One of the year’s best books . . . It is almost a cliché to say a book is ‘lovingly written’ but that phrase applies clearly to Lisa Wingate’s latest novel, Before We Were Yours. This story about children taken from their parents through kidnapping or subterfuge and then placed for adoption, for a price, clearly pours out of Wingate’s heart. . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near-perfect novel. It invades your heart from the very first pages and stays there long after the book is finished. Few novelists could strike the balance this story requires but Wingate does it with assurance. There are a lot of books that will catch your eye this summer, some from our best storytellers. Make sure this one is on your radar. It should not be missed.” The Huffington Post

“[An] affecting new novel.” The New York Post

“Every now and then a novel comes along that sweeps me off my reading feet. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is such a book. . . . It’s a great book-club read, one of those books that teaches you something, gives you lots to discuss and even more to think about. . . . Take note: This may be the best book of the year.” Shreveport Times

“This story is heartfelt and genuine, especially as Wingate explores the idea of home and family from a youngster’s point of view.” Historical Novels Review

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power. That Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society could actually exist, unraveling the lives of countless children, stealing their pasts and changing their futures, will give you chills. But the real feat of this stirring novel is how deeply Wingate plunges us into the heart and mind of twelve-year-old river gypsy Rill Foss. Rill’s utterly singular voice will stay with you long after the last page is turned, as will Wingate’s courage to follow her anywhere. . . . Vivid and affecting.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun

“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 bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

About the Author

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Wingate lives in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

PRELUDE 

Baltimore, Maryland

 
AUGUST 3, 1939
My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon. The room takes life only in my imaginings. It is large most days when I conjure it. The walls are white and clean, the bed linens crisp as a fallen leaf. The private suite has the very finest of everything. Outside, the breeze is weary, and the cicadas throb in the tall trees, their verdant hiding places just below the window frames. The screens sway inward as the attic fan rattles overhead, pulling at wet air that has no desire to be moved.

The scent of pine wafts in, and the woman’s screams press out as the nurses hold her fast to the bed. Sweat pools on her skin and rushes down her face and arms and legs. She’d be horrified if she were aware of this.

She is pretty. A gentle, fragile soul. Not the sort who would intentionally bring about the catastrophic unraveling that is only, this moment, beginning. In my multifold years of life, I have learned that most people get along as best they can. They don’t intend to hurt anyone. It is merely a terrible by-product of surviving.

It isn’t her fault, all that comes to pass after that one final, merciless push. She produces the very last thing she could possibly want. Silent flesh comes forth—a tiny, fair-haired girl as pretty as a doll, yet blue and still.

The woman has no way of knowing her child’s fate, or if she does know, the medications will cause the memory of it to be nothing but a blur by tomorrow. She ceases her thrashing and surrenders to the twilight sleep, lulled by the doses of morphine and scopolamine ad- ministered to help her defeat the pain.

To help her release everything, and she will.

Sympathetic conversation takes place as doctors stitch and nurses clean up what is left.

“So sad when it happens this way. So out of order when a life has not even one breath in this world.”

“You have to wonder sometimes . . . why . . . when a child is so very wanted . . .”

A veil is lowered. Tiny eyes are shrouded. They will never see.

The woman’s ears hear but cannot grasp. All slips in and slips away. It is as if she is attempting to catch the tide, and it drains through her clenched fingers, and finally she floats out along with it.

A man waits nearby, perhaps in the hallway just outside the door. He is stately, dignified. Unaccustomed to being so helpless. He was to become a grandfather today.

Glorious anticipation has melted into wrenching anguish.

“Sir, I am so terribly sorry,” the doctor says as he slips from the room. “Rest assured that everything humanly possible was done to ease your daughter’s labor and to save the baby. I understand how very difficult this is. Please offer our condolences to the baby’s father when you are finally able to reach him overseas. After so many disappointments, your family must have held such great hope.”

“Will she be able to have more?”

“It isn’t advisable.”

“This will be the end of her. And her mother as well, when she learns of it. Christine is our only child, you know. The pitter-patter of little feet . . . the beginning of a new generation . . .”

“I understand, sir.”

“What are the risks should she . . .”

“Her life. And it’s extremely unlikely that your daughter would ever carry another pregnancy to term. If she were to try, the results could be . . .”

“I see.” The doctor lays a comforting hand on the heartbroken man, or this is the way it happens in my imaginings. Their gazes tangle.

The physician looks over his shoulder to be certain that the nurses cannot hear. “Sir, might I suggest something?” he says quietly, gravely. “I know of a woman in Memphis. . . .”

Chapter 1
Avery Stafford
present day. Aiken, South Carolina

I take a breath, scoot to the edge of the seat, straighten my jacket as the limo rolls to a stop on the boiling-hot asphalt. News vans wait along the curb, accentuating the importance of this morning’s seemingly innocuous meeting.

But not one moment of this day will happen by accident. These past two months in South Carolina have been all about making sure the nuances are just right—shaping the inferences so as to hint, but do no more.

Definitive statements are not to be made.

Not yet, anyway.

Not for a long time, if I have my way about it.

I wish I could forget why I’ve come home, but even the fact that my father isn’t reading his notes or checking the briefing from Leslie, his uber-efficient press secretary, is an undeniable reminder. There’s no escaping the tagalong enemy that rides silently in the car with us. It’s here in the backseat, hiding beneath the gray tailored suit that hangs a hint too loose over my father’s broad shoulders.

Daddy stares out the window, his head resting to one side. He’s relegated his aides and Leslie to another car.
“You feeling all right?” I reach across to brush a long blond hair—mine—off the seat so it won’t cling to his trousers when he gets out. If my mother were here, she’d whip out a mini lint brush, but she’s home, preparing for our second event of the day—a family Christmas photo that must be taken months early… just in case Daddy’s prognosis worsens.

He sits a bit straighter, lifts his head. Static magnetizes his thick, gray hair, so that it’s sticking straight out. I want to smooth it down for him, but I don’t. It would be a breach of protocol.

If my mother is intimately involved in the micro-aspects of our lives, like fretting over lint and planning for the family Christmas photo in July, my father is the opposite. He is distant—an island of staunch maleness in a household of women. I know he cares deeply about my mother, my two sisters, and me, but he seldom voices the sentiment out loud. I also know that I’m his favorite, but the one who confuses him most. He is a product of an era when women went to college to secure the requisite M-R-S degree. He’s not quite sure what to do with a thirty-year-old daughter who graduated top of her class from Columbia Law and actually enjoys the gritty world of a federal DA’s office.

Whatever the reason—perhaps just because the positions of perfectionist daughter and sweet daughter were already taken in our family—I have always been brainiac daughter. I loved school and it was the unspoken conclusion that I would be the family torchbearer, the son-replacement, the one to succeed my father. Somehow, I always imagined that I’d be older when it happened and that I would be ready.

Now, I look at my dad and think, How can you not want it, Avery? This is what he’s worked for all his life. What generations of Staffords have strived for since the revolutionary war, for heaven’s sake. Our family has always held fast to the guiding rope of public service. Daddy is no exception. Since graduating from West Point and serving as an Army aviator before I was born, he has upheld the family name with dignity and determination.

Of course you want this,
I tell myself again. You’ve always wanted this. You just didn’t expect it to happen yet, and not this way, that’s all.

Secretly, I’m clinging by all ten fingernails to the best-case scenario. The enemies will be vanquished on both fronts—political and medical. My father will be cured by the combination of the surgery that brought him home from the summer congressional session early and the chemo pump he must wear strapped to his leg every three weeks. My move home to Aiken will be temporary.

Cancer will no longer be a part of our lives.

It can be beaten. Other people have done it, and if anyone can, Senator Talmage Stafford can.

There is not, anywhere, a stronger man or a better man than my dad.

“Ready?” he asks, straightening his suit. It’s a relief when he swipes down the rooster tail in his hair. I’m not prepared to cross the line from daughter to caretaker.

“Right behind you.” I’d do anything for him, but I hope it’s many more years before we’re forced to reverse the roles of parent and child. I’ve learned how hard that is while watching my father struggle to make decisions for his mother.

My once quick-witted, fun-loving Grandma Judy is now only a ghost of her former self. As painful as that is, Daddy can’t talk to anyone about it. If the media clues into the fact that we’ve moved her to a facility, especially an upscale one, on a lovely estate not ten miles from here, it’ll be a lose-lose situation, politically speaking. Given the burgeoning scandal over a series of wrongful death and abuse cases involving corporate-owned eldercare facilities in our state, Daddy’s political enemies will either point out that only those with money can afford premium care, or they’ll accuse my father of warehousing his mom because he is a cold-hearted lout who cares nothing for the elderly. They’ll say that he’d happily turn a blind eye toward the needs of the helpless, if the profits of his friends and campaign contributors are involved.

The reality is that his decisions for Grandma Judy are in no way political. We’re just like other families. Every available avenue is paved with guilt, lined with pain, and pockmarked with shame. We’re embarrassed for Grandma Judy. We’re afraid for her. We’re heartsick about where this cruel descent in dementia might end. Before the nursing home, my grandmother escaped from her caretaker and her household staff. She called a cab and vanished for an entire day before she was found wandering at a business complex that was once her favorite shopping area. How she managed it when she can’t remember our names is a mystery.

I’m wearing one of her favorite pieces of jewelry this morning. I’m dimly aware of it on my wrist as I slide out the limo door. I pretend I’ve selected the dragonfly bracelet in her honor, but really it’s there as a silent reminder that Stafford women do what must be done, even when they don’t want to. The location of this morning’s event makes me uncomfortable. I’ve never liked nursing homes.

It’s just a meet-and-greet, I tell myself. The press is here to cover the event, not to ask questions. We’ll shake hands, tour the building, join the residents for the birthday celebration of a woman who is turning one hundred. Her husband is ninety-nine. Quite a feat.

Inside, the corridor smells like someone has turned my sister’s triplets loose with cans of spray sanitizer. The scent of artificial jasmine fills the air. Leslie sniffs, then offers a nod of approval as she, a photographer, and several interns and aides flank us. We’re without bodyguards and security for this appearance. No doubt they’ve gone ahead to prepare for this afternoon’s town hall forum. Over the years, my father has received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and minutemen militia groups, as well as any number of crackpots claiming to be snipers, bio- terrorists and kidnappers. He seldom takes them seriously, but his security people do.

Turning the corner, we’re greeted by the nursing home director and two news crews with cameras. We tour. They film. My father amps up the charm. He shakes hands, poses for photos, takes time to talk with people and bend close to wheelchairs, and to thank nurses for the difficult and demanding job they pour themselves into each day.
I follow along and do the same. A debonair gentleman in a tweed bowler hat flirts with me. In a delightful British accent, he tells me I have beautiful blue eyes. “If it were fifty years ago, I’d charm you into saying yes to a date,” he teases.

“I think you already have,” I answer and we laugh together.

One of the nurses warns me that Mr. McMorris is a silver-haired Don Juan. He winks at the nurse just to prove it.
As we wander down the hall to the party for the hundredth birthday, I realize that I am actually having fun. The people seem content here. This isn’t as luxurious as Grandma Judy’s nursing home, but it’s a far cry from the under-managed facilities named by plaintiffs in the recent string of lawsuits. Odds are, none of those plaintiffs will ever see a dime, no matter what kind of damages they’re awarded by the courts. The moneymen behind the nursing home chains use networks of holding companies and shell corps they can easily send into bankruptcy to avoid paying claims.  Which is why the uncovering of ties to one of my father’s oldest friends and biggest contributors has been so potentially devastating. My father is a high-profile face upon which public anger and political wrath can be focused.

Anger and blame are powerful weapons. The opposition knows that.

In the commons room, a small podium has been set up. I take a spot off to the side with the entourage, positioned by the glass doors that open into a shady garden where a kaleidoscope of flowers bloom despite the beastly summer heat.

A woman stands alone on one of the sheltered garden paths, seemingly unaware of the party. Her hands rest over a cane. She wears a simple cream-colored cotton dress and a white sweater, despite the warm day. Her thick, gray hair is braided and twisted around her head, and that, combined with the colorless dress, makes her seem almost ghostlike, a remnant of some long-forgotten past. A breeze rustles the wisteria trellis but doesn’t seem to touch her, adding to the illusion that she isn’t really there.

I turn my attention back to the nursing home director. She welcomes everyone, touts the reason for today’s gathering—a full century of life is not achieved every day of the week, after all. To be married most of that time and still have your beloved by your side is even more remarkable. It is, indeed, an event worthy of a senatorial visit.

Not to mention the fact that this sweet couple has been among my father’s supporters since his days in South Carolina’s state government. Technically, they’ve known him longer than I have and they’re almost as devoted. Our honoree and her husband hold their thin hands high in the air and clap furiously as my father’s name is mentioned.

The director tells the story of the sweet-looking couple perched at the center table. Luci was born in France when horse carriages still roamed the streets. It’s hard to even imagine. She worked with the French resistance in the Second World War. Her husband, James, a fighter pilot, was shot down in combat. Their love story is like something from a film—a sweeping romance. Part of an escape chain, Luci helped to disguise him and smuggle him out of the country, injured. After the war, he went back to find her. She was still living on the same farm with her family, holed up in the only remaining building, a storage cellar.

The events these two have weathered cause me to marvel. This is what’s possible when love is real and strong, when people are devoted to one another, when they’ll sacrifice anything to be together. This is what I want for myself, but I sometimes wonder if it’s possible in our modern generation. We’re so distracted, so… busy.
Glancing down at my engagement ring, I think, Elliot and I have what it takes.

We know each other so well. We’ve always been side-by-side….

The birthday girl slowly pushes out of her chair, taking her beau’s arm. They move along together, stooped and crooked and leaning. The sight is sweet and heart-tugging. I hope my parents live to this ripe old stage of life. I hope they’ll have a long retirement… someday… years in the future when my father finally decides to slow down. This disease can’t take him at fifty-seven. He’s too young. He’s too desperately needed, both at home and in the world. He has work to do yet, and after that my parents deserve a retirement with quiet days and time to spend together.

A tender feeling settles in my chest, and I push away the thought. No overwhelming displays of emotion in public, Leslie’s frequent reminder. Women can’t afford it in this arena. It’s seen as incompetence, weakness.

As if I didn’t know that already. A courtroom isn’t much different. Female lawyers are always on trial in more ways than one. We have to play by different rules.

My father salutes James as they meet near the podium. The man stops, straightens and returns the gesture with military precision. Their gazes meet and the moment is pure. It may look perfect on camera, but it’s not for the camera. My father’s lips press into a tight line. He’s trying not to tear up.

It isn’t like him to come so close to letting it show.

I swallow another swell of emotion. Air shudders past my lips. I press my shoulders back, turn my eyes away and focus on the window, studying the woman in the garden. She’s still standing there, gazing off. Who is she? What is she looking for?

The boisterous chorus of Happy Birthday seeps through the glass and causes her to slowly turn toward the building. I feel the tug of the song and the fact that the cameras are likely to sweep my way, and I’ll look distracted, but I can’t quite extricate myself from the path outside. I want to see the woman’s face, at least. Will it be as blank as the summer sky? Is she merely addled and wandering, or has she skipped the festivities on purpose?

Leslie yanks my jacket from behind and I snap to attention like a schoolgirl caught talking in line.

“Happy Birth… focus,” she sings close to my ear, and I nod as she moves off to gain a better angle for snapping cell phone photos that will go on my father’s Instagram. The Senator is up with all the latest social media, even though he doesn’t know how to operate any of it. His latest social media manager is a whiz.

The ceremony continues. Flashbulbs erupt. Happy family members wipe tears and take videos as my father presents a framed congratulatory letter.

The cake is wheeled up, a hundred candles blazing.

Leslie is delighted. Happiness and emotion swell the room, stretching it like the skin of a helium balloon. Any more joy and we’ll all float away.

Someone touches my hand and wrist, fingers encircling me so unexpectedly that I jerk away, then stop myself, so as not to cause a scene. The grip is cold and bony and trembling, but surprisingly strong. I turn to see the woman from the garden. She straightens her humped back and gazes up at me through eyes the color of the hydrangeas back home at Drayden Hill—a soft, clear blue with a lighter mist around the edges. Her pleated lips tremble.

Before I can gather my wits, a nurse comes to collect her, taking a firm grip. “May,” she says, casting an apologetic look my way. “Come along. You’re not supposed to bother our guests.”

Rather than releasing my wrist, the old woman clings to it. She seems desperate, as if she needs something, but I can’t imagine what it is.

She searches my face, stretches upward.

“Fern?” She whispers.

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