Before We Were Yours Summary 📖

‘Before We Were Yours’ by Lisa Wingate is a polyvocal narrative that switches between two central characters to nail the mystery behind the infamous George Tann’s illegal adoptions and child trafficking scandals in Memphis.

Before We Were Yours

Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours’ follows the story of a young, vibrant protagonist and lawyer – Avery Judith Stafford – whose life takes a new turn after her meeting with the old and mysterious May Crandall. Avery is entrapped by the spine-chilling utterances of the strange women – as she follows her guts to uncover one of the greatest child trafficking scandals in all of the United States.

‘Spoiler Free’ ‘Before We Were Yours’ Summary

The plot is introduced by an uncharacterized voice recalling a gruesome child delivery of a woman and it doesn’t end well. Then there’s a fast-forward to the present day where the young and vibrant lawyer daughter of a senator, Avery Stafford, comes home – leaving her work and fiancé Elliot behind – to replace her chronically ill father in the US senate.

While home, Avery is concerned her grandmother is increasingly growing senile and is afraid of losing her. She and her father attend this event in a nursing home where an old, strange woman calls her Fern and steals her grandmother’s-given bracelet. This piques her interest – and coupled with her grandmother’s constant jabbering about her secret identity, she decides to investigate the connection between her grandmother and the strange women.

Her inquiry leads her to Trent Turner, who holds part of the secrets. Together they work to uncover the truth that Avery’s grandmother and the strange woman from the nursing home are sisters – among the seven children born to Queenie and Briny but stolen and sold by child trafficker Georgia Tann and Co. more than fifty years ago.

Before We Were Yours’ Summary

Spoiler alert: Important details of the novel are revealed below

The plot starts with a flashback where to 1939, in Baltimore, Maryland, as Rill Foss, in her imagining, recalls a painful child delivery of a woman called Christine – who is from a wealthy family and has come with her father who stands in for her husband who’s out of town. After all the courage and push, she delivers a stillborn. The doctor breaks the sad news to Christine’s father and talks about a woman in Memphis who gas a solution to the problem.

Chapter two brings readers to present-day Aiken, South Carolina, to the world of Avery Stafford, a young and intelligent lawyer and daughter of senator Wells Stafford. She is attending an event at a nursing home with her father. Avery had traveled several miles – temporarily leaving her job and fiancé, Elliot – to be with her family and care for her chronically ill father with the intent to replace him in the US senate should the illness persist.

At the event, Avery is accosted by a strange old woman whose name is May Crandall (and Rill her birth given name) who calls her by the name Fern and steals her dragonfly bracelet given to her by Judy Stafford, her grandmother. Avery doesn’t notice, but when she gets home she realizes it’s missing.

Soon, she gets a call from the nursing home telling her they found a bracelet in May’s possession which they think may belong to her. Avery is curious and goes to retrieve the bracelet, but while there, she enters and around May’s room and finds a family picture with someone that looks strikingly like Judy – her grandmother. When May catches her, she tells her she knows Judy from a guild way back.

Avery goes with a snap of the picture to the nursing home where Judy is staying. On seeing it Judy screams “Queenie!” ( as quoted from Before We Were Yours’), and mutters about a secret story, and makes Avery promise not to say a word she has heard to anyone. Avery grows even more curious and decides to investigate.

One time, she secretly searches through Judy’s diary and finds a phone number belonging to Trent Turner Sr., but when she traces it, she meets his grandson – Trent Turner Jr.; his grandfather had passed away a few days ago. After a series of uncooperativeness from Trent, both later start working together to unravel the mystery connecting Judy and May.

Avery discovers Judy was researching about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS) from the last entry on Judy’s old typewriter She stumbles upon the name Georgia Tann. Trent, on the other hand, retrieves a document belonging to his grandfather which reveals the true nature of the adoption of Shad Arthur Foss.

Avery researches the background of Georgia Tann and discovers that she was a serial child kidnapper who controlled the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and acquired more than five thousand kids by illegal means. They soon find that Trent’s grandfather was one of the kids, but Avery is still not satisfied with their discovery so far.

With a trip to the nursing home, May tells them that she knew Trent’s grandfather (who was called Stevie back then) and even took care of him and a few other children. Later, Avery and Trent trail a car to Augusta after they see it parked at Judy’s house. They go in, snoop around and see a family photo with four women all wearing identical bracelets. Avery recognizes Judy and May in the picture.

The housekeeper’s son catches and takes them to meet with his mother, Hootsie. After listening to them, she brings out an old memo belonging to Judy; in it lies the secret which would answer all of Avery’s questions. Judy is one of the twin babies delivered by Queenie – the other is Shad Arthur, a son. The memo shows proof of how Judy was taken and sold to Christine’s father after Christine had delivered a stillborn.

The following chapter is a flashback where Rill (as a 12-year-old) cares for her four siblings while their father, Briny, is at the hospital for Queenie’s child delivery. Shortly after, Rill is subtly kidnapped with her sisters and taken to Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis, where they are then sold each for a high price.

On hearing the news – and that her twin was stillborn, Queenie suffers health complications and dies shortly. Briny is devastated and turns into an alcoholic who later causes his own death and destroys the shanty boat home.

In the present day, Avery is now clear on the mysteries. She now knows that May and Judy are the children of Queenie and Briny. She seeks to reunite the two sisters and tells her father about it. Avery then reevaluates her personal life and decides to break up with Elliot to date Trent – who has a young toddler son. She gets a job working with a law firm in the neighborhood and rejuvenates her career.


How many chapters is Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours?

Before We Were Yours’ has a total of twenty-six chapters – including its prelude.

How many pages is Lisa Wingate’s ‘Before We Were Yours’?

There is a total of 384 pages in Lisa Wingate’s book ‘Before We Were Yours’.

Does ‘Before We Were Yours’ have a sequel?

Lisa Wingate released a sequel to her bestseller ‘Before We Were Yours’ with the title ‘Before and After’ – which, unlike ‘Before We Were Yours’, is a real-life documentary about the actual victims of Georgia Tann’s child trafficking scandals.

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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