About the Book

Book Protagonist: Avery Stafford
Publication Date: 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Character List

Before We Were Yours

By Lisa Wingate

‘Before We Were Yours’ sees Lisa Wingate use a specialized character-builder technique - which results in some principal characters having double persona; the first being a younger version of themselves from years ago, and the latter being their present day self.

The characters in Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’ are mixed with different idiosyncrasies; some are brisk and energetic, and others are passionless and depressed. This attribute is very vital for each of the characters to fully live up to their specific role. Let’s analyze the characters and how they play out in the book.

Avery Stafford

Avery Stafford is considered the protagonist of Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours.’ Her disposition and perseverance make her the life of the novel – as well as the reason the Foss family secret is solved. Avery is one of the narrators with which Lisa Wingate opts to see and tell the captivating stories in ‘Before We Were Yours.’

Avery is a young woman in about her thirties, and poised to have a good life ahead of her; she has a career as a vibrant lawyer, her father’s a wealthy senator, and she has Elliot – her beloved fiancé with which she is to settle down with soon. However, Avery is drawn into a new trajectory when she learns of a generation-old family secret from a strange woman called May after she returns home to replace her sick father in the US Senate.

Judy Stafford

Judy Stafford is the grandmother to Avery Stafford and the mother to Wells Stafford – a United States senator. Judy is one of the twin children delivered by Queenie Foss. Following the laborious delivery, Queenie and her husband Briny are lied to by a doctor that their twin babies Judy and Arthur are born dead, but they are in fact stolen and sold to a wealthy family.

Not knowing who are real family is, Judy grows up in a wealthy family, becomes established in life, and marries a senator from the prominent Stafford family. She will later find out who she really is thanks to Trent Turner Senior – who helps her reunite with her eldest sister – Rill, along with a few other siblings.

Rill Foss

Rill Foss, also known as May, is the eldest of Queenie and Briny Foss’ children. At 12 years old, Rill becomes responsible for her junior siblings when her mother, Queenie (heavy with twin), is taken to the hospital by her father, Briny, and neighbor – Old Zede. A young man, Silas, is left at the Foss family’s shanty to offer extra protection for Rill and her siblings.

Shortly after, a few strange people including a police officer comes to the boat and lie that they’ve come to take Rill and her siblings to meet with their parents, but instead whisked them away to Memphis where they are given new names and put up for sale to those who could afford them.

Briny Foss

He is the real father to Rill and her six siblings, and the husband to Queenie. Briny loves his wife and children and does everything he could to protect and take care of them. Due to the dynamic economic condition, Briny has his family live on a shanty boat as this way it feels easier to move to a different location in the event of a harsh living.

Things get quickly bad for Briny and his family when he accompanied his pregnant wife to the hospital for delivery – leaving his five children behind on their shanty boat. Briny life will never be the same again as he loses all his five children – including the twin his wife gives birth to as he is told they are stillborn.

Perhaps spurred by grief, Briny becomes an alcoholic and loses his wife to blood poisoning. And although two of his children – Rill and Fern – later return, Briny is too far gone for redemption and kills himself by mistakenly capsizing his shanty boat.

Queenie Foss

She is the wife to Briny, and the mother to all seven children stolen and sold away. She elopes and marries Briny at a very young age and loves every bit of it. When she was due for her twin, the delivery becomes so complicated that she is taken to the hospital.

After her hard delivery, Queenie is heartbroken after being told her twin are born dead, and shortly after – finds out her remaining five children are missing. Queenie soon falls sick and dies from blood complications.

Camellia Foss

Camellia is Rill’s junior sister, ten years old at the time of their kidnap. She is strong, resilient, and stands up for what is right. At Memphis camp, Camellia is taken away and remains missing for her stubbornness and uncooperativeness. Rumor has it she is murdered and thrown away by the roadside.

Honeybee Stafford

Is the wife to Wells Stafford and mother to Avery, Missy, and Allison. She is probably the person Missy takes after as she is also viewed as a perfectionist. She is loved by Wells resulting in her pet name Honeybee. Readers don’t get to find out what her real name is – as she gets called that by everyone, including her children.

Georgia Tann

She is the mastermind behind the child trafficking and abuse cases totaling more than five thousand children who are illegally taken from their parents and homes. Although Tann is a character in Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’, she is also a true person who perpetrated those crimes years ago.

Trent Turner Jr.

Trent is the grandson of Stevie or Trent Turner Senior. Trent is a single father to a son Jonah. His best part in Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’ is assisting Avery Stafford to unlock the mysteries surrounding the generation-old child abuse scandal carried out by Georgia Tann and partners. In the end, Trent begins a romantic relationship with Avery- who breaks up with her fiancé – Elliot.

Wells Stafford

Wells is the father of Avery Stafford and the son of Judy Stafford. Wells develops a terminal illness and needs to step down from the US Senate for his daughter to be in his stead. He is married to Honeybee Stafford and has other daughters aside from Avery.


Leslie is Wells’s personal assistant, who is described as being very competent at the job. Leslie sometimes combines the management and assistant roles of Avery with that of her father, and occasionally farms duties out to Ian, her assistant.


Elliot is a fiancé to Avery. Just like Avery, he is an established lawyer himself and has been with Avery since childhood- starting out as friends and then morphing into a romantic relationship. Although the couple loves each other, there isn’t really much passion attached to it aside from each other’s moms trying to control things and make it work by all means. He later breaks up with Avery – who moves into another relationship with Trent.

Missy Stafford

Missy is the eldest of Wells and Honeybee’s children. She and Avery – and probably Allison – don’t get along very well as they see her as a perfectionist who is always strict and formal.

Allison Stafford

Allison is a senior sibling to Avery and has four children; triplet boys, and a girl Courtney about her 10th year. Allison and Avery share a close sisterly bond as the former sees the latter as a good distraction from raising a home full of kids.


She is the 10-year-old daughter of Allison and a friend to Avery – who would always come around to chat and play with her.


Christine is the actual woman who delivers a stillborn from the start of the book. Christine and her husband are wealthy and have everything except for the one thing that brings her joy; children. Her husband does everything he can to console her and bring a baby home – even if that baby is illegally taken away from their parents.

Trent Turner Sr.

Trent Turner Sr, or Stevie, is one of the children unlawfully taken from his real parents to the Memphis children camp. He is one of the children that Rill Foss takes care of and becomes friends with. They both stay in touch even after the Memphis orphanage and hold the secret of their identity close to their hearts.

Sherry Turner

She is the sister of Trent Turner Sr. Both kids are abducted and taken to Memphis orphanage home while they are walking by the roadside – and probably heading home.

Old Zede

Old Zede is a friend and close neighbor to Briny Foss. When Queenie is pressed for her twin baby, Zede assists to transport her to the hospital for delivery. He also assigns Silas to protect the Foss children, but even his good gestures couldn’t save the children from being stolen, abused, and sold.

Mr. Riggs

A scary middle-aged man, Mr. Riggs is a caretaker for Georgia Tann and Ida Murphy at the Memphis orphanage.

Ida Murphy

This man is a shareowner – together with Georgia Tann – of the orphanage home.


Silas is the kid tasked by Zede to stay with and protect the Rill and her siblings. He does his best trying to keep them safe, but things go out of hand when the strangers come demanding he gives them the hiding place of the children. Rill eventually comes out willing, forcing her other siblings out the moment she hears of one of the men sound like an officer of the law.


How many children does Queenie and Briny have in Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’?

A total of seven children are born to Queenie and Briny Foss: Rill, Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion being the first five. After the twin delivery, they become seven – including Judy and Arthur. The doctors lie about the last two being stillborn.

What really happened to Camellia in Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’?

Camellia is a vibrant, energetic, and fearless ten-year-old of the Foss family. Georgia Tann and her team find her a threat because she doesn’t cooperate like the other kids and put her away from where no one sees or hears anything again from her.

Why did Avery and Elliot break up in Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours?

In Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours,’ Avery and Elliot break up because Avery follows a different path, and meets, and later falls in love with Trent, a single father.

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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