REVIEW: BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, BY LISA WINGATE

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.

My Thoughts: The alternating narrators in Before We Were Yours kept me intrigued throughout. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to get back to Rill’s storyline in the 1930s, as there was a lot of intensity as she described the horrors of her life in the orphanage.

But then I became caught up in Avery’s story as she began to put the pieces together and discover the connections between the past and the present.

How is May Crandall connected to Avery’s Grandma Judy? What brought them together, and what tore them apart?

As more and more discoveries are unveiled, I could not stop reading. A story that resonated, since I spent years as a social worker putting families back together again. Families torn asunder always tug at my heartstrings. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: GLITTER & GLUE, BY KELLY CORRIGAN

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A story like Kelly Corrigan’s Glitter and Glue: A Memoir is a journey to the heart of family. The unique connections between parents and children, mothers and daughters, and siblings with one another, are the basis for what makes family work.

And when those connections are broken through loss, we realize in the depths of our souls how necessary they are.

From the very first page, I was totally engaged with the author’s story, beginning with her travels as a young person, when she spent a few months in Australia as a nanny for a motherless family, to her settling into her own independent life on the West Coast afterwards while her family of origin continued to live across the country. We come to know her own mothering experiences and how they reflected what she had learned in her relationship with her mother, and even with her father, and how, when life hit her hard during a health crisis, the first person she wanted to call was her mother.

I loved how, in the beginning of this tale, the author quoted her mother when she described the differences between the playful, fun father she enjoyed and the mother who set the rules and the boundaries: “he’s the glitter and I’m the glue.”

Who hasn’t realized how the dynamics are different between fathers and daughters and mothers and daughters? While our own families may have been structured in other ways, we learned early on in our lives just what defined us as opposed to others. What makes us unique, and what forms the basis for our security later in life.

This delightful story felt like a nice long chat with a best friend. Someone who could sum up how one feels when faced with one’s own mortality, that the important things in life are “here, in this house, with these people.” I loved this book! Five stars.