“Before We Were Yours” Summary: Based On The US Biggest Child Trafficking Scandal

Not only a story about family bonds, “Before We Were Yours” retells the biggest child trafficking scandal in the US. The novel has sat on my recommended list for so long, yet I was always hesitant to give it a go due to its grief-stricken content. But no time like summer break to try something out of your comfort zone! Jobandedu was so excited to read the book and give you a detailed “Before We Were Yours” summary.

“Before We Were Yours”: Synopsis

Memphis, 1939

Rill Foss, 12, and her 4 little siblings share a wonderful childhood on their parents’ Mississippi River boat. But, when her dad gets called away to take her mom to the ICU on a rainy night, the children are left alone, and some outsiders break in with force.

Pulled away from everything dear and tossed into the Tennessee Children’s Home Society institution, the Foss siblings are promised to be reunited shortly with their mom and dad – but they gradually discover the harsh reality. Rill tries to keep her siblings close in a society of threats and unknown at the whim of the facility’s ruthless manager.

Aiken, South Carolina, Current Time

Avery Stafford appears to have everything: a thriving position as a federal attorney, a charming fiancé, and an extravagant wedding in the future.

However, a coincidental incident provokes unnerving thoughts when Avery returns to care for her dad during a medical emergency. It drives her to embark on an adventure through her family’s long-hidden past, a journey that may eventually result in desperation or reconciliation.

The “Before We Were Yours” true story is based on one of America’s most controversial political scandals, in which Georgia Tann, the manager of a Memphis-based adoption institution, captured and traded lower-class kids to affluent parents across the nation.

Lisa Wingate’s spellbinding, heartbreaking, and this ultimately inspiring story teaches us that, while the tracks we follow can open the way to different locations, our heart never loses where we belong.

“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat; it is as ever-present as a pulse.” 

“Before We Were Yours” Summary: The Main Plot 

The plot opens in 1939, after Christine, a young mother, delivers a stillborn baby. The doctor suggests an adoption service in Memphis.

The setting switches to the current time, when Avery, Senator Wells Stafford’s child, is prepared to take up her dad’s congressional seat owing to his ongoing fight with illness. Avery then gets accosted by an old woman, May Crandall, who nicknames herself “Fern” during one of their campaigning rallies at a nursing facility.

Afterward, Avery receives a call from that care facility, revealing that May stole Avery’s bracelets after their first encounter, and she now has it. When Avery first encounters May at the care facility, she notices a portrait of a woman who looks like her granny Judy Stafford, whom May calls “Queenie.”

Avery, puzzled as to how the 2 knew one another, searches Judy's things and discovers the contact information of Trent Turner. Unfortunately, he is deceitful and declines to hand her a packet of Judy's files. On the other hand, Avery discovers some documents related to the Tennessee Children's Home Society (TCHS).
“Before We Were Yours” tackles the most prominent child trafficking in the US. – The Everyday Mom Life 

Avery, puzzled as to how the 2 knew one another, searches Judy’s things and discovers the contact information of Trent Turner. Unfortunately, he is deceitful and declines to hand her a packet of Judy’s files. On the other hand, Avery discovers some documents related to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS).

She uncovers this shady adopting service that kidnaps underprivileged kids from their parents. Avery finds out that Judy was snatched and traded to Christine’s household as a replacement for their dead baby. The scene returns to Judy’s kidnapping and imprisonment in the adoption center.

Avery eventually uncovers that May and Judy are twin girls auctioned to different homes by the organization. She brings the 2 girls back together and develops a love connection with Trent.

“Before We Were Yours” Review: A Cruel Social Reflection And A Heartwrenching Journey 

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power…Rill’s utterly singular voice will stay with you long after the last page is turned, as will Wingate’s courage to follow her anywhere…Vivid and affecting.” – Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun.

Overall Thoughts 

Like everybody else, I fell in love with this charming story. I enjoyed it right away, but it wasn’t until around 1/3 of the way through that I couldn’t take my eyes out of the pages. 

I expected to have that feeling from the beginning, but it took a while for me to feel it. Yet, once the story got me, there was no way to back out from the pages.

“Before We Were Yours” received 4.5 stars from me. It leaves you heartbreaking and disgusted to imagine what occurred to all those kids, yet you can’t help feeling happy towards the end. I appreciated the slight touch of romance and was thankful for the happy ending. That’s being said, for romantic works, “Before We Were Yours” and “Under The Oak Tree” novel have no ways of disappointing you in the me-time.


“Before We Were Yours” captivated me from its opening pages, with the dual POV protagonists and a time-twisting storyline.

It is unusual for a writer to publish a novel with 2 central storylines presented beside one another that do not overpower each other. And that is what happens here since Avery’s story is just as intriguing as Rill’s.

Although they occur in 2 separate timelines, the connection between the 2 ladies and the traits they possess becomes clearer and more evident as the pages turn.

Lisa Wingate possesses the ability to tell this tragic story compassionately. She can immerse you in the brains of both Avery and Rill and convey their objectives. - before we were yours summary
The main characters are truly fascinating. – Pinterest  

Lisa Wingate possesses the ability to tell this tragic story compassionately. She can immerse you in the brains of both Avery and Rill and convey their objectives.

Avery is a lady on a quest for the answers, and Rill is a young woman attempting to hold her family together. The book’s pleasure stems from discovering where these 2 storylines cross.

Along the journey, Avery also discovers an essential revelation about herself and develops, establishing new events that better represent her true nature.

Narrative And Plotline

These back-and-forth storylines were simple to grasp, and both plots were intriguing. However, Rill’s parts were shocking and devastating, and this novel comes with a strong content alert.

It was frustrating to read episodes of torture (physical, emotional, and sexual), negligence, and disgusting behavior toward kids.

The events were not too detailed, yet they were horrifying and nasty, and they were adamant about reading. If those scenes disturb you, you might want to skip these pages because the cruelty and despair seemed never-ending at points.


However, in my opinion, this book bears a few shortcomings.

First and foremost, too many sections in the 1st half go into too much information regarding the tortures the Foss kids had while waiting for rescue. For someone who despises child abuse like me, I find it hard to keep reading through those cruel, nasty, and haunting events.

Moreover, some parts in the 2nd section aren't appropriately detailed enough to sit with the kids' plot. Specifically, the impact of revealing their true origin would have on the Stafford family, and Avery's choice of who to wed isn’t “there” yet, leaving me pretty upset. - before we were yours summary
“Before We Were Yours” has a few minor flaws. – She Just Loves Books 

Moreover, some parts in the 2nd section aren’t appropriately detailed enough to sit with the kids’ plot. Specifically, revealing their true origin would have an impact on the Stafford family, and Avery’s choice of who to wed isn’t “there” yet, leaving me pretty upset.

Furthermore, due to all of the tragedies and abuse of kids, as well as the essence of the novel, certain subplots are left unanswered. A few characters simply vanish, and the readers never learn what happened to them.

This vexed me since I’m curious about what occurred to specific characters! Instead, they tell us what occurs to a few but not everyone, making me feel cheated.

Numerous personal events add nothing to the characters’ growth or story progression. More detailed proofreading would have turned this remarkable book into a classic.

About The Author 

Lisa Wingate is a renowned novel writer and journalist. She believes that books have the power to make a difference. 

Before becoming a motivational speaker and famous author, Lisa was a journalist; now, she is a novelist, and many of her pieces have received or been shortlisted for accolades. Some of her awards include:

  • the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize. 
  • The Oklahoma Book Award.
  • The Utah Library Award.
  • The Carol Award. 
  • The Christy Award. 
  • The RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. 

Today, Lisa is the author of about 30 books, of which “Before We Were Yours”, and The Book of Lost Friends were both New York Times top sellers. Her works have also been translated into multiple languages, gained an international best-seller reputation, and been chosen as classic picks. 

Lisa Wingate’s books in order are:

Wrapping Up

If you’re searching for a novel to update from your childhood favorites of Naruto manga or the Sailor Moon series to something more “mature” and “meaningful,” this best-selling Lisa Wingate book is perfect. 

Hopefully, our Jobandedu’s “Before We Were Yours” summary and review have lent you helpful insight and helped you understand what you’re about to experience. Good luck!  

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Ava Isabella

Author Ava Isabella has grasped the art of writing and using words to perfect her writing. Nothing seems to beat the blend of far-out ideas and a passion for striving for the best work. On top of that, to become an expert in the industry, Isabella did undergo countless hurdles and challenges. She moves mountains and nails them with flying colors and she's strongly inspired by Arthur who gave a born to the masterpiece Empire of Pain - a portrait of the excesses of America’s second Gilded Age and super elite involved. Hopefully, her great fortunes with in-depth understanding can help more and more readers on the go of finding bliss or just letting off steam.