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12 / 30 books. 40% done!

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28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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22 / 50 books. 44% done!

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48 / 50 books. 96% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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25 / 100 books. 25% done!

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64 / 104 books. 62% done!

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43 / 52 books. 83% done!

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69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Friday, December 08, 2017

Based on Real-Life Events, Historical Novel Tells a Fascinating, Moving Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tennessee, 1939—Life for the Foss family is hardly glamorous, but they get by as best they can.  Living on a shantyboat on the Mississippi, they take what the river provides, carving out a life among the colorful riverfolk.  Members of the makeshift community stick to their own.  It's only when Queenie Foss' labor goes awry, progressing beyond what the local midwife can handle, that the family has to seek help elsewhere.  With Queenie and her husband in a Memphis hospital, it's up to 12-year-old Rill to keep her four younger siblings in line until their parents return.  When several days pass with no word from her folks, Rill starts to worry.  Then strangers come to the boat, snatching up all five kids.  Thrust into an orphanage under the tyrannical rule of a woman both cunning and cruel, Rill is terrified.  How could Queenie and Briny have abandoned their children?  What will happen to Rill and her siblings now?

South Carolina, Present Day—The daughter of a wealthy, well-respected senator, 30-year-old Avery Stafford is poised to follow in her father's footsteps.  Not sure how she feels about the prospect or about her upcoming nuptials, she's already a bit rattled.  A chance encounter with a nursing home patient who calls her "Fern" leaves Avery feeling even more unmoored.  She's never questioned her place in the world, or the word of her highly regarded family, but now she's forced to ask a troubling question: Who is Avery Stafford, really?

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a fascinating novel based on the real-life antics of Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children's Home Society from the 1920s through the 40s.  After brokering thousands of adoptions, Tann became the focus of a legal investigation that found her guilty of unethical and illegal behavior, which included fraud, kidnapping and child-trafficking.  Although the orphanage was shut down in 1950, Tann died before charges could be brought against her.  Through the fictional Foss family, Wingate brings the horrors wrought by Tann to vivid life.  What results is a riveting novel that is both compelling and touching.  Despite the disturbing subject around which the story rotates, it's a moving, hopeful tale with a predictable, but very satisfying ending.  I loved Before We Were Yours and I'm not the only one—the novel just won the Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction.  If you enjoy engaging historical fiction, you don't want to miss this one.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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Reading

<i>Reading</i>
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

Listening

<i>Listening</i>
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain



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