My favourite type of novel is one that not only involves me emotionally, but also teaches me something new. This book was a perfect example and fully deserved five stars. As with many books these days, it had a dual time frame, but for once, I enjoyed events taking place in the current era as much as those from the past.
Lisa Wingate has highlighted the indiscretions of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanages, who took children from their families from 1922 right through until 1950. These children were then passed on to wealthy families, often for a substantial fee. The birth parents were generally poor and struggling, often illiterate and unaware that they were signing away custody of their children. Other children were simply stolen from the streets. They were then housed under appalling conditions and scrubbed up and prettily dressed for potential adopting parents. Sadly, many children died while in the custody of Tennessee Children’s Home Society and those that survived and were rehomed, had their identities changed so that they could not be traced.
Rill Foss and her four siblings were 'river gypsies', living on a shantyboat on the Mississippi River. Their mother was pregnant with twins and was rushed to hospital when complications arose. Rill was left in charge, but was unable to hold her own against the men who came visiting, uninvited.
Avery Stafford brings us back to the present day. She is a lawyer from a prominent family and returns home to help her father in his political career. During one of their campaign visits, Avery meets a lonely lady in her nineties, who seems to know Avery's grandmother. This sets up a series of questions that Avery is determined to answer.
Beautifully written and totally engaging, I'm not surprised that this book won the GoodReads Choice award for Historical Fiction 2107.
I'd recommend it without hesitation.