Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours

Last updated: October 29, 2019

Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours

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We looked at the top Oprah Book Club Books and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Oprah Book Club Book you should buy.

Overall Take

This award-winning novel places its characters squarely in the crosshairs of the Tennessee Children's Home in 1939. It chronicles the practices of Georgia Tan, who used the home as a front for child trafficking. It won the Southern Book Prize in 2017.

In our analysis of 63 expert reviews, the Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours placed 1st when we looked at the top 7 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking [and] complex tale about two families,

Expert Reviews

What experts liked

This character driven book is definitely worth the read. It is compelling and a page-turner. The story line is based on the real historical facts which makes the story interesting.
It is impossible not to get swept up in this near perfect novel. It invades your heart from the very first pages and stays there long after the book is finished.
If you are not sure what you are reading next…make it this. You must. You simply must! I read this book in 2 days, I craved reading it during any free time I had and needed to reach its ending.
Every now and then a novel comes along that sweeps me off my reading feet. “Before We Were Yours,” by Lisa Wingate, is such a book.
THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller.
This was a tragic, and often depressing, story. However, I am so glad that I read it. It is an important story and one that needed to be told. It definitely isn't a rainbows and unicorns type of story, but it will move you and leave a lasting impression.
Wingate is a compelling storyteller, steeping her narrative with a forward momentum that keeps the reader as engaged and curious as Avery in her quest.
It is a gut punching, sad, true life read that you can’t help but end up smiling at the end. Despite the horrible events that happen surrounding children, it still makes you feel good with the present day ending. You won’t regret picking this book up for yourself!
Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book. Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.
Will grip your heart and inspire you to stand up against the social injustices that still define our country far too much.
Adept enough at winding past and present to keep the pages turning. “Before We Were Yours” gives us memorable characters who bring to life a fascinating fictional account of a historical episode that should not be forgotten.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. I really liked Rill’s part of the story. It highlights a part of American history that is less than savory. It is an emotional read.
Readers will be intrigued to see if they can put the pieces of this familial puzzle together before the principals do.
I enjoyed every bit of this book. Rill paints amazing pictures of life around her. I was able to picture, feel, and smell everything.
Elegant prose drives the story deep into the reader's heart. An excellent choice for book clubs who enjoy historical fiction, women's fiction, and literary fiction.
The dual storyline style of writing was necessary to the plot for a dose of lightness amid the darkness of Rill’s story. They were knitted beautifully together to tell us a story about the strength of family bonds, the power of sisterhood, that buried lies will always surface and that love will always trump hate.
Set in two different eras, Before We Were Yours takes a multigenerational look at the reach of family. Based on the infamous Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal, it's filled with infuriating passages, but is, ultimately, an uplifting tale of loyalty and love.

What experts didn't like

I would have trouble with the alternative chapters. I don’t really enjoy them.
Read for a book club, which is the only reason I didn't roll my eyes and toss it aside two chapters in. In different hands, this story may have been compelling, and every now and then, Wingate flirts with a turn of phrase that might even be--dare I say it--evocative, but for every one of those there are 4 ham-fisted metaphors and 3 lengthy, emotional descriptions of what should be obvious.
The feel-good ending can be seen from miles away
Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.
We don’t quite get the depth of emotion that I think the author intended to evoke. The plot here, especially Avery’s budding romance, is predictable and less-than-juicy.
The other annoying part was the romance between Trent and Avery. It felt forced and was unnecessary to the larger story. Even though Avery is 30, she wasn’t portrayed as a 30 year old. I felt like she acted more like a woman in her early 20’s.


Reading more books is a common personal goal, but it’s tough to accomplish without some good recommendations. In 1996, Oprah Winfrey decided that it was time to give her viewers some much-needed guidance on their next book choice.

Oprah’s Book Club started off as a new segment in Oprah’s hit daily talk show. She’d choose one book per month (usually a novel) for her viewers to devour and discuss. The segment was a massive hit, and Oprah’s power in the publishing world remains unsurpassed. One expert estimated that a recommendation by Oprah increased a book’s sales by 20 to 100 times the normal rate. 

During the club’s initial 15-year run, Oprah selected 70 books. They ranged from older classics, like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” to indie titles like Breena Clarke’s “River, Cross My Heart” and Tawni O’Dell’s “Back Roads.”

Oprah shuttered her original book club in 2011, but revived it in 2012 as an online version called Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Even with her long record of excellent recommendations, it might still be tricky to find an amazing book that works for you.

If it’s been a while since you last sat down with a book and you want to get the most for your money, take a hint from Socrates: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Your own interests and life experiences will dictate which books you’re drawn to and which ones you set down after the first chapter.

Do you have children who are growing into young adults (or are you reminiscing about your own adolescence)? A coming-of-age tale among Oprah’s picks might be a good fit for your bedside table. Interested in exploring your family’s roots? Look for a novel featuring people with your background set hundreds of years ago. Itching for a story from a powerful writer? Check out the Classics section on Amazon and immerse yourself in a legendary book. 

Of course, writing and reading are meant to build bridges. You’ll miss out if you only select stories that directly relate to your current or past experiences. Look for Oprah’s Book Club selections by authors from a different race, ethnicity or socioeconomic class to expand your horizons. Stories that you couldn’t even imagine experiencing will open your mind and create empathy for a broader, more inclusive look at the world.

Now that you have an overview of what Oprah’s Book Club was all about (plus some general book-choosing guidelines), trek on over to our Tips & Advice for more detailed information.

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