Get a free audiobook

Before We Were Yours

A Novel
Written by: Lisa Wingate
Length: 14 hrs and 29 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (478 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 46.31
CDN$ 14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

The blockbuster hit - A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly best seller.

For fans of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking [and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart...based on a notorious true-life scandal”. (Library Journal

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 number three longest-running best seller of 2017.

Winner of the Southern Book Prize.

If All Arkansas Read the Same Book selection. 

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

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year.... 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

©2017 Lisa Wingate (P)2017 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"This heartbreaking story is also heart-mending - 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 best-selling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost)

"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 despite the worst that can be done to us. An unforgettable read." (Susan Meissner, author of Secrets of a Charmed Life)

"Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber are polished narrators who give us sympathetic, memorable characters whose voices are age appropriate and conventionally Southern.... This story is well presented - perfectly paced and emotionally satisfying." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    357
  • 4 Stars
    98
  • 3 Stars
    19
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    2

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    343
  • 4 Stars
    78
  • 3 Stars
    17
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    2

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    337
  • 4 Stars
    78
  • 3 Stars
    17
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    1
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One of THE Best books I have ever read!!

I wish I could have given this book 10 stars! I will definitely be listening to more books by Lisa Wingate! Laughed, cried, sighed! Definitely my next book pick for my book club! Love love love it!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

important story of treachery & sisterly love.

loved it! Truth will always come out! Historical events that need to be told.
wonderful characters. wonderful descriptions of family bonds. Beautiful descriptions of life on the river....of high society and the realistic conflicts.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not as good as expected

The narration was great, the topic compelling and the fiction that was historically based was excellent. The downside was that I found the adult main character, Avery annoying and boring. The author spent too much time on her life, status and especially her inner thoughts and questions. It was hard to relate to her. The other characters, especially Rill were excellent and held my attention. If you like this type of story I recommend, "A Home for Unwanted Girls". It is also historical fiction and I'd give that one 5/5 stars.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent read!

What a heart wrenching story! Hard to put down and kept me wanting more. A great performance by narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing heart wrenching compelling

Well read! Amazingly well written
Compelling and heart wrenching story
Highly recommended for a informative read

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A compelling true story told with heart.

truly captivating true story. much passion in the story-telling and deep sense of place: I could taste the south! narrated skillfully and with sufficient energy and engagement.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

best audio in a long time

couldn't wait for my commute each day...didn't want it to end...shocking story line with truths about the Tennesee Children's home

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

First time listener

Due to an injury, I am not able to read, so was desperate for an alternative. Thank heavens for audible! My first month free credit found me choosing this book, and what a great story. The narrators were perfect, and I was mesmerized by their stories. While I found the added romance a bit cheesy, the underlying story regarding the TCHS had me researching the backgrounds once I finished the book. Highly recommend!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Oh this is good

Oh I can’t believe how this story swept me away. I had a hard time leaving it to do things. It has so many thought provoking thoughts and emotions and so very full characters. I love how it takes a time in history and brings it alive. Thank you for this story and awesome performance.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book.

I found this book interesting. People living on a river boat would be an interesting way of life. these poor kids in an abusive orphanage is a sad story. I'm not sure if this was a true story, but I'm sure places like that existed back then. A good read.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lin Cloward
  • Manti, UT, US
  • 2017-06-26

I was rivetted, finished in three days.

From a person who has read Orphan Train and started reading The Lost generation, this book had my attention right from the start and I quickly became engrossed in the story line. It is hard to read or hear about the abuse of the innocent, but the story line balances the tragedy of the terrible criminal acts with the strength, courage, resilience and tanasity of human nature walk forward and eventually over coming the past. I really wanted to know what happened to the 10 year old and the two little boys, but I do not want to spoil the story. I could not put it down. Very very well constructed and performed. The characters were very well developed, and even though it is based on true circumstances but not necessarily these people and outcomes, I cannot help but to hope that one day, all of these stolen people are somehow found, and reunited with their families or their information reunited with the descendants of the families they were stolen from. I did do some research on Georgia Tann, what an evil demon of a woman. But what a lovely outcome in the story for this young woman and family. I do not like stories that lay out too much abuse and terrible hardship, this story does not do that, it is worth reading, I highly recommend it.

389 of 404 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • American Mom
  • Georgia
  • 2017-07-15

Fantastic book and narrator!

Out of the 15-20 audiobooks I've listened to so far this year, this one is the best! Heart-wrenching at times but not over the top as to make you feel the book is a task to get through. Not at all. It was tastefully done with plenty of happiness, too. The story gripped me from the beginning! You'll not want to put it down! 5 stars!

227 of 239 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Susan
  • 2017-06-09

Gut Wrenching Life Journey

From the first page this story takes over your life. So full of love, hardships, life struggles and endurance. I was totally consumed. Also, a grim reminder of real life histories, poignant love.

114 of 125 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • p
  • 2017-08-04

Good

I couldn't put it down. I listened every chance I could. Id have to say my favorite so far

55 of 60 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • M. Ryder
  • 2017-06-21

Excellent But Disturbing!

Story was well written and told. Kept me glued, and wanting to learn more about Georgia Tan and if the children ever reunite with their families, even in adulthood. Had never heard of her, and extremely sad how she managed to get away with what she was doing for so many years. Really loved the narrators, especially the one who performed the parts of the big sister (May) and her siblings. Her southern drawl and ability to sound young was pretty impressive. Must say that I had a difficult time listening to this book, only due to the terrible treatment which was described throughout. An eye opener for sure!

36 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • J. OBrennan
  • Denver, Colorado USA
  • 2018-01-08

Painfully distracting narration...

You only have to listen to a few audio books to learn that the narration can either make or break the whole experience. Before buying "Before We Were Yours" I read the reviews and so I can't claim ignorance to the many complaints of Avery's narration -- but the overall reviews were so good, and the "sample" listen sounded endurable, so I gave it a shot. Well...I very nearly returned this book after the first couple of chapters because the narration for Avery's segments of the story were truly almost too painful to listen to. The narrator's emphasis was all over the place, and rarely on point. I found her male characterizations slightly easier to listen to, but her Avery was slow, superficial and bloodless. Worst of all, her breathy, whispery dips for dramatic emphasis made my skin crawl and cast the character in a haze of mopey melodrama. It totally detracted from the story.

Rill's narrator, on the other hand, did a great job. Her cadence and accent flowed perfectly, and she created clear and believable distinctions between characters. But to be honest, Rill's overall story line was simply more enjoyable and compelling than Avery's. Its really as though two different authors wrote the two story-lines -- and Avery's just failed on so many levels. While Rill was a compelling and sympathetic character navigating through interesting and engaging experiences, Avery's story was kind of flat and her character came off as pouty, spoiled, weak and annoying.

Although I think I might have enjoyed this book a bit more if I had read the physical book for myself, I wasn't super impressed with any part of it. I was initially torn between giving the audio book two and three stars, but I went with three for the sake of Rill's story-line and narration, and because I did actually wind up listening to the whole thing. But I have to say that I'm a little bit baffled by all of the four and five star reviews out there. Overall the story felt like a cross between YA fiction (which I don't knock, by the way) and a flimsy Romance novel. In the end the actual history behind the book was worth learning and, like I said, Rill's story line was pretty good. So I can't say it was a complete waste of 14 hours...but I just can't recommend "Before We Were Yours" to anyone.

56 of 63 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Cyndi
  • Beautiful Michigan
  • 2018-09-25

✫✫ 5 Stars ✫✫

This was a great audiobook with so much feeling, heartbreak and courage all mixed into one amazing book about a very real topic. This is not a true story but a story based on the real life events caused by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Society. I didn't know that going in and I have to say I was appalled that these situations really did happen. This author pulled me in from the beginning and I didn't stop until it was over. The story of Rill Foss and her siblings is a heartbreaking one but thankfully with a semi happy ending. The authors writes this in the past & present which lends another level to this story in my opinion. This is a book I highly recommend!

The narration was perfect, I thought the accents and child like voices made this book even better.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Callio
  • 2017-09-10

One Narrative Solid, One, Weak.

Would you listen to Before We Were Yours again? Why?

No, I can't say I would. Avery's speaker didn't swallow regularly. My pronunciation pickiness may be harsh, but hearing saliva arrive along with P's and B's ruined the listen for me. So, that was a bummer.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I liked May as a child best. She was a complex character who's voice was rich with childhood misconceptions, and mistakes. I enjoyed her perspective shifts and thought process.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Yes.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was upset by the abuse, and during several accounts, stopped to take a break.

Any additional comments?

Avery's character was weak and brought the book down for me. Even though her character does all of the investigative work and we're supposed to imagine her like her grandmother Judy, the spirited firecracker, she's not. All these things happen, and she maintains a room-temperature response with a monotone internal dialog. Nothing about her made me like, or not like her trajectory. She was merely a blank slate when all this rich text is happening - even leaving a serious relationship for another - new - one! Her father on the brink of death, a domineering mother and PR person,etc., and her color doesn't change.

35 of 41 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ava
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • 2017-08-03

Was heartwrenching but could have been better...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend this book to a friend, but I really think this story, while good, could have been great. Specifically, I found Avery's narration a bit irritating and her character dull and one dimensional.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Rill. Her character and story brought me to tears at times, which is rare for me. You could feel how much she loved her siblings.

Any additional comments?

I loved the story that this book told. I had never heard about Georgia Tann or the Tennessee Children's Home and although the details are disturbing, the author does a great job of revealing the horror without getting into gory specifics.

I also thought the way May and Judy's relationship was revealed was a little confusing...

54 of 64 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-06-26

Couldn't put it down

LOVED this book. Was recommended if I like The Nightingale and The Orphan Train.I loved both those books and this was just as good. Narrators really got into character. Story goes between 1940s and present. Each time it switches you wish you could stay in that era and then in no time you're totally engrossed and don't want to switch back! I love historical fiction and can't believe I didn't know about this. Made me want to be more informed. Great book. Highly recommend.

49 of 58 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DelphineD
  • 2017-11-29

loved it

very good story. the author was able to keep the suspense going. we really fall in love with Evry and May!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andréa Veiga
  • 2017-09-28

Absolutely marvellous

I read and listen to audio books regularly. "Before We Were Yours" touched me profoundly. It is beautifully written and interpreted in such a sensitive way by the reader. I highly recommend it 👍🏼