“No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.”
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.
Before We Were Yours is written by Lisa Wingate and is based off of a real-life child adoption ring, where Georgia Tann, the director of an adoption organization based in Memphis, would kidnap poor children from their families and sell them to wealthy families all over the country. Reading the accounts of the children living in dirty, unsanitary, and precarious situations was heartbreaking. Rill is forced to grow up so quickly, and as much as she fights to save her siblings and keep them close, something always comes up against her.
Reading this brought up some big feelings for me for two reasons:
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After I posted about Lilac Girls, SO many of you messaged me and told me I should really read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I have always loved any books that have to do with World War II, and especially those that tell the plight of everyday people. The Nightingale follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac, who live in France during World War II. Vianne lives with her husband Antoine and their daughter in a small village named Carriveau. Her husband is called to the front lines and she is left behind to care for her daughter. She doesn't believe that their lives will change very much, but soon enough, trucks and tanks appear, and a German soldier takes up residence in her home. She must decide whether she will live with the enemy, or risk losing everything.
Isabelle is young and rebellious, and she wants to have a purpose in the wat. She meets a man named Gäetan and falls hopelessly in love with him. When he betrays her, she joins the Resistance and risks her life repeatedly to save others.
While the sisters paths and experiences are totally different, their resilience and love for their country and family is threaded in everything they do. They make choices that so many of us couldn't even dream of making, and they continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
I was completely heartbroken by this book, time and time again. And while I would like to remind myself that it is a work of fiction, the truth of the matter is that there were so many who lived stories like this. It was so well written and every detail was a thread in this beautifully woven tale. As heartbreaking as it was to read, it also gave me tremendous hope that there were SO many people in the world who are willing to risk everything for what is right.
Would I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly. I've mentioned it before, but I think that every story to come out of the Holocaust, World War II, and the fight against Nazi occupation and the genocide of so many is a story that needs to be told. Because when we don't remember history, we allow it to repeat itself.
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The Giver of Stars is set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.
The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.
What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved how the women, a group of unlikely companions, all deemed misfits in different ways, banded together a formed a sisterhood. It's a beautiful story of what happens when we support the women around us, and it really shows the power of kindness and friendship.
The beginning of the book was a tiny bit slow for me - there was a lot of backstory and there are a lot of characters. But I have enjoyed a few of Moyes's books already and I like her style of writing. Once the story picked up, I had a hard time putting it down, and found myself reading well into the night. Towards the end, I found myself weepy at a few points, and the ending is an ending that brings hope.
I also had no idea about the Packhorse Librarians and Eleanor Roosevelt's initiative to bring books to some of the more remote areas of the country. So historical fiction wins for me yet again!
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“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you—whether because you didn't get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
This book was a little difficult for me to get through. It's about a fragile family dynamic. The Lee family is Asian-American, and the story takes place in the 1970s in a small town in Ohio. There is a lot of discrimination against Asians, and the Lee family puts a lot of their focus into Lydia, their middle (and favorite child). Lydia is the favorite because of some deep-rooted childhood trauma and a promise she made to herself to always do everything her mother asked her to. Because she doesn't look as "oriental" as her siblings, her father favors her because she can be popular and well-liked in ways that he was unable to.
As a parent, it was difficult to see the parents basically discarding their other children while favoring Lydia so much. It did make me take a good, hard look at my own relationship with my two children and wonder if I could be causing some of those same issues in them. So while it was difficult, I guess it was a good way of examining some of the things we do ourselves.
It is well-written and the characters are developed. There is not huge "plot twist" or crazy revelation, but a pretty nuanced layering of the characters. It was emotional, but not thrilling, if that makes any sense.
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I've already talked about why I love reading so much, but I'm not sure I've mentioned just how much I love my Kindle. I have always been an avid reader, but when I would go on trips, I definitely did not enjoy the added baggage of books. For a few years, I used an iPad mini, but I hated the glare when I tried to read outside, and I felt it was so expensive for a reader. When Amazon came out with the Kindle Paperwhite, Eddie got me one and I haven't looked back since. I've had the same one since 2016, going on four years now. It still works perfectly, and it is in great shape. But you want to know why I love it?
I often get asked where I get my books from. A while back, I had someone tell me about Libby, an app through Overdrive, from the public library system. All you need is a library card, and you can borrow books from the app just like you do at the library. You can browse thousands upon thousands of books, including kids' books. You can browse new releases, popular books, and available books. Just like with physical books, the library has a set number of copies they loan out, so you may have to join waiting list and put a hold on your book. You can have holds on up to 10 books at a time, and you can have up to 10 loans at a time. When you borrow a book, you borrow it for 21 days. It is delivered to the device you choose, and will appear there for 21 days until your loan is up, or until you return your copy early.
It's completely free, and by using Libby, I have saved HUNDREDS of dollars on books in the last year. Friends, you cannot afford to not get this! I initially spent money on my Kindle, but over the long run, I have definitely saved money by using this app! If you go ahead and do this, let me know how you like it.
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