Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours

Last updated date: October 29, 2019

DWYM Score
9.5


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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 138 expert reviews, the Lisa Wingate Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours placed 1st when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note November 4, 2019:
Checkout The Best Oprah Book Club Book for a detailed review of all the top oprah book club books.

Expert Summarized Score
9.2
17 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.4
11,251 user reviews
Our Favorite Video 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.
- Arlene's Book Club
May 31, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Huff Post
June 6, 2017 | Full review
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.
- Saturday Nite Reader
January 4, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Shreveport Times
April 19, 2017 | Full review
THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller.
- Penguin Random House
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.
- Good Reads
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.
- Publishers Weekly
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!
- Book In The Bag
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.
- Kirkus Reviews
March 21, 2017 | Full review
Will grip your heart and inspire you to stand up against the social injustices that still define our country far too much.
- Peggy's Hope 4U
June 30, 2018 | Full review
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.
- The Post and Courier
August 20, 2017 | Full review
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.
- Occasionally Scientific
May 22, 2018 | Full review
Readers will be intrigued to see if they can put the pieces of this familial puzzle together before the principals do.
- Chanticleer Book Reviews
I enjoyed every bit of this book. Rill paints amazing pictures of life around her. I was able to picture, feel, and smell everything.
- The Everyday Mom Life
March 22, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Library Thing
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.
- Good Book Fairy
June 8, 2017 | Full review
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.
- Wiki EZ Vid
June 13, 2019 | Full review
What experts didn't like
I would have trouble with the alternative chapters. I don’t really enjoy them.
- Saturday Nite Reader
January 4, 2018 | Full review
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.
- Good Reads
The feel-good ending can be seen from miles away
- Publishers Weekly
Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.
- Kirkus Reviews
March 21, 2017 | Full review
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 Post and Courier
August 20, 2017 | Full review
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.
- Occasionally Scientific
May 22, 2018 | Full review

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,

Overall Product Rankings

1. Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours
Overall Score: 9.5
Expert Reviews: 17
2. Ernest J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying
Overall Score: 9.2
Expert Reviews: 9
3. K.L Randis Spilled Milk
Overall Score: 9.2
Expert Reviews: 4
4. Pearl S. Buck The Good Earth
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 7
5. Wally Lamb She’s Come Undone
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 9
6. Tayari Jones An American Marriage
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 29
7. Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex
Overall Score: 8.8
Expert Reviews: 7
8. Imbolo Mbue Behold the Dreamers
Overall Score: 8.6
Expert Reviews: 23
9. Inglath Cooper That Month in Tuscany
Overall Score: 8.3
Expert Reviews: 6
10. Lisa Grunwald Time After Time
Overall Score: 7.2
Expert Reviews: 10

An Overview On Oprah Book Club Books

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.

DYWM Fun Fact

Oprah’s Book Club reignited a love of reading for millions of people. However, things got tense for OBC fans in 2006. Oprah selected James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” for her club in September 2005, and readers couldn’t get enough of Frey’s memoir. It was a true account of his life as a drug addict, criminal and jailbird — or so Oprah thought. 

A few months after her stamp of approval (and after his book sold several million copies), critics began questioning Frey’s stories about his time in rehab and jail. As more accusations surfaced, Winfrey brought Frey back on her show in January 2006 and confronted him. After an intense exchange, Frey admitted that he’d lied about his time in jail and was unsure about other large sections of the book. Oprah also confronted Frey’s publisher Nan Talese on air, forcing her to admit that she hadn’t fact-checked Frey’s account. 

Oprah’s audience booed Frey, and she said that she felt “duped” and apologized to her viewers. However, Winfrey made a personal phone call to Frey in 2008 and apologized for the on-air brawl. The bad book blood was put to bed, but viewers never forgot “Frey Day.”

The Oprah Book Club Book Buying Guide

  • Making room in your life for more reading is admirable, but life doesn’t always want to cooperate. Take a realistic look at how much free time you have before you invest in a 500-page novel. It’s better on your psyche (and your wallet) if you choose a shorter book that you actually have time to complete.
  • That being said, a book’s physical length isn’t always the best indicator of how much time you’ll have to devote to reading it. Short books with complex language, difficult vocabulary and challenging themes can take much longer to read than lengthy books with shorter sentences and quicker action. You can get a sense of a book’s difficulty from the free, short samples that Amazon provides for most of its books.
  • A great book combines a riveting plot with deep, well-developed characters, but many stories lean more heavily on one of those components than the other. Books that are more driven by plot usually (but not always) move a little faster as you read them. Books that lean on character development and move forward by drawing you into the fold of a character’s mind might seem a bit slower. Many readers prefer one over the other, but both types of literature become riveting in the hands of a deft author.
  • Oprah’s recommendations are meant for adults, so the language and themes might not be appropriate for younger readers. If you’ve got kids in the house, give them age-appropriate books so you can bond over reading without exposing them to a book they’re not ready for. 
  • To ebook or not to ebook? That’s the eternal question of the digital age. Choosing an Oprah’s Book Club title in ebook form has a lot of benefits. You can tote it around with your entire library of books in one slim e-reader, so it’s much easier to take with you while traveling. It won’t take up tons of space in your home either — that’s a relief for anyone who’s tried to pack and move shelves full of books. You’ll also save some paper by forgoing a traditional book. However, you might want to go for a physical copy if you have a job that requires staring at a screen all day. Your eyes get tired without a break from screens, and you’ll do your vision a favor by reading a paper book. Traditional books also look lovely in your home.