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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 29 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


  • Cassie S

    This was the most fabulous book and the narration was so touching. I had no idea that this was historical fiction prior to listening to it and recommend this highly! I usually only listen in the car and had to find excuses to get into the car as it neared the end!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful.

  • colleen c

    Fascinating story and scary because it actually happened since many cases. The book was so well-written I felt like I knew these people intimately! I got through it very quickly and was very sad when it was over

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful.

  • Corey R.

    Narration was fantastic and the book was a total "hit"!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Susan W.

    Great narration on this book. The story was split in two time periods going back and forth every other chapter. The earlier time framed chapters were much better written and far more interesting. The reader really made you feel like the child in the story was actually telling you her story from her 12 year old perspective. The later time period chapters sounded like a Hallmark story, unfortunately. But every other chapter was so good, it was well worth the listen. I love historical fiction books and this was a good one!

  • Maggie M.

    Loved the story and the narration!

  • Mallory S.

    could not stop listening to this. the plot and the characters fit together like a puzzle

  • Lynn B.

    A wonderful, eye opening read. I miss the characters now!

  • Angie M.

    This was an interesting and emotional story considering the sad reality that inspired it. It slows down at times, but I thought having two narrators was effective.

  • Inga A.

    One of the BEST books ever! I absolutely loved this heartbreakingly beautiful piece of writing. Highly recommend to everyone!

  • Elaine H.

    This book was touching, horrifying, sad, happy - all in one. I cannot believe that I was not aware of this society and what they did to families/children. I am hoping to find the documentary they discuss at the end of the book. The author wrote in a way that made you feel like you were there watching/witnessing and the narrator did the same. Reminded me of Sarah's Key - have not enjoyed a book as much since that one. A part of history that all should be aware of. Highly recommend.