“Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate

Wingate has conjured a moving tale from the horrific headlines of yesteryear. Set during the Great Depression, it pits the rich and powerful against the poor and powerless, aided by a truly malignant force by the name of Georgia Tann.

Tann was, unfortunately, a real person, and the true extent of her cruel crimes will never be known. Though her victims in this book are fictional, you can be certain the events depicted only scratch the surface of the suffering she caused.

Those of us who have dabbled in genetic genealogy wince at how Tann’s outright kidnapping and high-dollar adoptions must affect descendants of those very real children today. Finding out there is a “non-parental event” in one’s family tree (just a little marital infidelity, for example) would pale next to the realization your entire family history stems from criminal barbarity.

The protagonist is 12-year-old Rill Foss, the oldest daughter of a couple who have chosen to survive the depression in the Mississippi River gypsy-boat camps. When Rill’s parents must go to Memphis for her mother, Queenie, to birth twins, Rill and her younger siblings are rounded up and taken to a home in the Tennessee Children’s Home Society network, run by Georgia Tann.

Tann and her employees show little regard for the health and welfare of their charges. For the youngest and cutest, she arranges adoptions to the wealthy and well-connected. Some of the rest simply disappear.

In the present day, we meet attorney Avery Stafford, the daughter who is being groomed to replace her senator father. Her grandmother Stafford is living in an upscale facility, suffering from Alzheimer’s. When Avery meets another patient at a nearby nursing home, she realizes there must be a link between the two women.

Follow along as Rill attempts to survive and protect her younger siblings from Tann’s clutches. And learn how Rill’s fate is linked to a prominent political family in present-day South Carolina.


  1. We read this for book club awhile back (it seems like you’re reading the same thungs as my book club!) this was such a tragic and sad story if I remember it correctly

    Liked by 1 person

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