For My Ears: BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate – Read by Emily Rankin

51qUEEH95YL._AA300_

Wow! This story was recommended online in the blogisphere, and I thought I might enjoy it, but I was blown away by this story of a family torn apart and the young girl who tries to keep her siblings together against all odds.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for fans 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.

***************************************************

While these children weren’t real, this is based on true events, and you will be forever haunted at the shocking and terrible things that happened to poor families in the Depression and post-Depression era South. Normally I don’t like disturbing books centered on children, but this story was so compelling, and I loved the character of Rill so much, along with the fact that the present day protagonist was unraveling the mystery of the family tree, I just could not stop listening!

Beautifully narrated, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.

I used my audible credit for this one.

Review: EVERGREEN by Rebecca Rasmussen

I was a big fan of Rebecca Rasmussen’s first book, THE BIRD SISTERS, so I was excited to see that she had written another novel. I was also able to get an ARC through Edelweiss (yeah!).

EVERGREEN follows three generations of women, starting in the 1930’s in Minnesota. Eveline is a young and naive bride who comes to live with her German immigrant husband in the backwoods. She grows to love the woods, nature, and her baby boy, but sadly an unspeakable act of violence occurs when her husband is away, and her life is changed forever.

Naamah is the child that Eveline abandons at an orphanage. Sadly, Naamah suffers much abuse at the hands of the zealot nun who runs the orphanage. When she is fourteen, she leaves to be on her own, scraping a living from working at the lumber camps as a prostitute.

Eveline’s son, Hux, learns of his sister’s existence as his mother is dying, and makes it his quest to find her and be her family. What follows is a heartbreaking story of a kind-hearted man who tries to tame a solitary girl who is pretty much feral. The last section of the novel is told from Naamah’s daughter’s perspective.

I really enjoyed this novel! My favorite section was  Eveline’s story, and while I’m sure it was necessary to move on with the plot, I missed reading from her perspective again while she was older or dying. How much did she think about that baby girl and did she ever look for her? I would have liked to have read that. I also liked how this novel ended on a note of self-acceptance and reconciliation.

Throughout, Ms. Rasmussen’s writing is so lovely and flowing. It’s an easy read and one that sucks you in, not ending on a happy note, per say, but a positive one.

Thanks, Edelweiss and Random House, for my copy!

Here’s Rebecca chatting about her book (Norwegian edition) via You Tube –