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

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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.

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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: THE SOUND OF GLASS by Karen White

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This one was a Net Galley pick and I had it for a while before I actually got to start reading it!

Here is the description of it from Net Galley:

The New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone now explores a Southern family’s buried history, which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret.

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

Me again!
I have to say that at first I really didn’t care for the character of Merritt. She was rather immature and certainly self-centered and rather unkind. That said, over time she grew on me. Yes, I could see where this was going. Yes, the brother-in-law is super nice and handsome. Yes, Merritt is hiding secrets which have to be revealed in order for her to heal. But, once again, there was an underlying theme of self-forgiveness and if you read me you know that that is one of my favorite themes in literature (well – in life, too).
So if you like a story of a woman finding herself that is full of fun characters (I loved that mother-in-law!), then you should pick this one up.
Thanks to Net Galley and Penguin for my review e-copy!

Review: THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO US by Annie Barrows

I received this from Net Galley a while back – and took my time reading it (it’s a tad long). I loved Annie Barrows’ Guernsey LIterary and Potato Peel Pie novel, so I knew I’d like this one, too.

In this novel, a young woman and senator’s daughter (Layla Beck) is sent to be part of the Federal Writers’ Project and to record the history of the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia. She boards with the Romeyn family, and throughout that hot, sticky summer of 1938, she learns about the town, the family, and herself.

The Romeyn family has a somewhat checkered past. Felix is the head of the household, but he’s a distant and somewhat mysterious man, whose past is shrouded in secrecy. His sister Jottie shares the house with him and cares for his two young daughters, Willa and Bird. Their mother has left them years ago. Jottie has a past herself, marred by tragedy and star-crossed love. Layla finds herself drawn to the family and their other relatives, all the while she is deciding what she really wants to do with her life.

The character of 12-year-old Willa tells the story along with Layla and we sometimes get Jottie’s point of view, too; but the switch is never confusing. I loved the voice of Willa. I loved, too, how Ms. Barrows’s evocative writing moved in parts with the lazy heat of summer. This book oozed with secrets kept right under the surface, and people grown complacent in keeping those secrets. Layla’s feelings and actions moved toward their inevitable conclusion with a slow trickle. The last part of the book moved quickly, though, with the climax and subsequent actions/denouement.

Loved this book – lots to discuss, too!

Find it at an Indie near you – I am an Indie Bound Affiliate.

Thank you, Net Galley and The Dial Press, for my review e-copy!

Find it at an Indie near you! I am an Indie Bound Affiliate.

Cookbook Review: LIGHTEN UP Y’ALL by Virginia Willis

If you read me regularly, you’ll know I’ve been on a cookbook kick. I love to cook and we’ve been trying to eat healthy, tasty recipes this winter.

LIGHTEN UP, Y’ALL has classic Southern recipes which are reworked so they are healthier. Virginia Willis is a Southerner and writer for the Food Network.  She has several other cookbooks out. This was the first one of hers that I’ve gotten.

I’ll be the first to say that I am not a girl of the South. I was born in RI, grew up in CA, and now live in MA. I’m sort of a blend of Yankee pot roast and good wine (and I have a shellfish allergy). But I’ve always been fascinated by Southern food. What exactly is okra? And are grits tasty ?? because they sound horrible. Virginia makes the point that in the past, the South was mostly agricultural, and meals reflected that by having a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits.

First up for us to try will be Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup, Pulled Pork Tenderloin with Red Pepper Vinegar Sauce, and Buttermilk Biscuits with Turkey Sausage Gravy. Mmm-mmm! (Of course these won’t be all on the same night!). The recipes look easy to follow and the pictures are beautiful. But note — there is not one picture for every recipe included (I know that matters to some people. Me – not so much as I’m not very visual).

I look forward to having this book in my collection!

Thank you, Blogging for Books, for my copy!

Find it at an indie bookstore near you — I am an Indie Bound affiliate.


Find it at an Indie!