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 that the truth is much darker. 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 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—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.
This historical fiction book perfectly weaves two time periods together to tell a story of love, family, and perseverance.
It’s 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee. Queenie and Briny Foss have five children and Queenie is about to give birth to not just one, but two more. The family lives on their shantyboat, the Arcadia, along the Mississippi River. Queenie needs to be rushed to the hospital, leaving their oldest daughter Rill in charge of the other four kids. The police came knocking early the next morning and things would never be the same.
In the present day Avery Stafford is being groomed to potentially take over her dad’s Senate seat. While visiting a nursing home with her dad, Avery loses her dragonfly bracelet. She doesn’t realize it is gone until the nursing home calls her and informs her May Crandall, one of the residents, has found it. It is a sentimental heirloom from her Grandma Judy and she wants to thank May in person for finding it. This visit to May sets Avery on an unforgettable mystery that has the potential to change everything she has ever known.
This book alternates chapters from the present day, told from the perspective of Avery, and the past (1939 Memphis, Tennessee) told from Rill’s perspective. The two time periods have a much different feel. The present day reads like a mystery, with some family drama, and a bit of romance. The past is very much the opposite with heart-wrenching details of children being taken from their parents and being mistreated all for the almighty buck.
This book was based on actual events that took place at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage from the 1920’s through 1950. In A Note from the Author – Lisa Wingate tells us that the characters in this book are fictional, but their experiences mirror those reported by children who were taken from their families. The injustices these children suffered went unquestioned for years.
When writing a review for a book that is partially about the mistreatment of children, it sounds odd to say how much I loved the book. In the end it is an extremely heart-warming story about perseverance and never giving up. It will no doubt be one of my favorite books this year!
Thank you NetGalley, Ballantine Books, and Lisa Wingate for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.
My Rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 6/6/2017
Pages: 352 (eBook)