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Before We Were Yours: A Novel

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Lisa Wingate

Narrated By: Catherine Taber, Emily Rankin

Publisher: Random House (Audio)

Date: June 2017

Duration: 14 hours 30 minutes


Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

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.

Advance praise for Before We Were Yours

“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

“An unforgettable read . . . This captivating novel will quite likely break your heart, but because it’s Lisa Wingate at the helm, you will not be left broken. She is a master storyteller and never fails to get to the heart of what makes us hold on to hope.”—Susan Meissner, author of Secrets of a Charmed Life

“Lisa Wingate’s heart-racing tale of a family ripped apart by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal rang so true I couldn’t sleep until I knew their fate. Days later, I’m still haunted by the diabolical plot to steal and sell the most vulnerable children to high bidders, sanctioned by high-ranking officials who looked the other way.”—Julie Kibler, author of Calling Me Home


  • K Bush

    This is one of the best books I have heard in a long time. I truly enjoyed it!

  • Alyce W

    I couldn’t put id down. A truly heart wrenching story. For those of you who have sisters or cherish your female relationships-a must read!..I didn’t want it to end.

  • A Oswalt

    I really enjoyed reading this book! We read it for a college class and I couldn’t put the book down! If you are looking forward to getting into a book then I would choose this one

  • Karen H

    This might be one if the best books I've read! Couldn't stop listening, and felt emotionally attached to the characters. I have been recommending this book to everyone.

  • Nancy R

    Great book! I? loved every minute!

  • K Rose

    I thought this story was amazing! I've bought several copies to give at Christmas!

  • C Johnstone

    Endearing. Touching. Sweet. An interesting and thought provoking tale that is closely related to a true story. I found this book difficult to set aside and hooked several friends while listening.

  • P Thacker

    Deeply moving. Drawn in by the unraveling mystery. Finished the book and immediately started it over again. Couldn’t stand to leave the characters. I have had a bit of experience with elder family members and the horror of losing a child to the false adoption world of the 1940s. Beyond sad. Brought back my Great Grannie’s stories.

  • Tiffany W

    Took a bit for me to be all in, but once I did, I was captivated,

  • Dianna M

    I enjoyed the book and narration. I thought it was well written and the characters were realistic. I thought both characters were realistic and the dialogue genuine.