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About Lisa Wingate
Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award. Wingate lives in the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas.
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“An absorbing historical . . . enthralling.”—Library Journal
Bestselling author Lisa Wingate brings to life startling stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as newly freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold away.
Louisiana, 1875: In the tumultuous era of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Hannie, a freed slave; Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now destitute plantation; and Juneau Jane, Lavinia’s Creole half sister. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following roads rife with vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of stolen inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and siblings before slavery’s end, the pilgrimage west reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope.
Louisiana, 1987: For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt—until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Mississippi River town. Augustine, Louisiana, is suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled live oaks and run-down plantation homes lie the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.
“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain
Look for Lisa Wingate’s powerful new historical novel, The Book of Lost Friends, available now!
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.
Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
Publishers Weekly’s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017 • Winner of the Southern Book Prize • If All Arkansas Read the Same Book Selection
This edition includes a new essay by the author about shantyboat life.
Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola's walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola's youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper--the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.
When Kate Bowman temporarily moves to her grandmother’s Missouri farm with her husband and baby son, she learns that the lessons that most enrich our lives often come unexpectedly. The family has given Kate the job of convincing Grandma Rose, who’s become increasingly stubborn and forgetful, to move off her beloved land and into a nursing home. But Kate knows such a change would break her grandmother’s heart.
Just when Kate despairs of finding answers, she discovers her grandma’s journal. A beautiful handmade notebook, it is full of stories that celebrate the importance of family, friendship, and faith. Stories that make Kate see her life—and her grandmother—in a completely new way....
Twenty-year-old Jenilee Lane, whose dreams are as narrow as the sky is wide, doesn’t imagine any good could come out of the tornado that has ripped across the Missouri farmland where she makes her home. But some inner spark compels her to take action. To rescue her elderly neighbor Eudora Gibson from the cellar in which she’s been trapped. To make her way to the nearby town of Poetry, where the townspeople have begun to gather in the only building left standing. To collect from the devastated landscape fragments of life that lie strewn about in the tornado’s wake: letters, photographs, and mementos that might mean something to people who have lost everything.
Eudora Gibson didn’t think Jenilee had it in her. But the girl she’s hardly noticed for years is now surprising her—stepping forward with a bravery that inspires Eudora to face her own bitter past. Brought close by tragedy, the two will learn lessons about the resilience of the human spirit and the ties that make a community strong. And together, they will travel to a place that once lay beyond their dreams.
Once a gifted ballet dancer, Julia Costell understands the joy of body and soul lost in a perfect moment. But after buckling under the demands of a professional dance career, she’s landed with a thud in an unglamorous job as a guidance counselor at a performing arts school. Living back home with her parents and feeling lost, Julia is afraid she’ll never soar again—until the day young Dell Jordan is sent to her office.
In Dell’s writing, Julia recognizes not only her own despair, but also luminous sparks of hope. But as Julia fights to forge a brighter future for one disadvantaged student, she is drawn into startling undercurrents of conflict and denial within the academy. Now, as she is tested in ways she never imagined, Julia begins to discover that even though her life has seemed off course, she’s been on the right path all along...
From modern-day Roanoke Island to the sweeping backdrop of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Roosevelt’s WPA folklore writers, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny.
Restaurant owner Whitney Monroe is desperate to save her business from a hostile takeover. The inheritance of a decaying Gilded Age hotel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may provide just the ray of hope she needs. But things at the Excelsior are more complicated than they seem. Whitney’s estranged stepfather is entrenched on the third floor, and the downstairs tenants are determined to save the historic building. Searching through years of stored family heirlooms may be Whitney’s only hope of quick cash, but will the discovery of an old necklace and a Depression-era love story change everything?
Karen Sommerfield has been hiding from the big questions of her life—the emotional distance in her marriage, her inability to have children, and her bout with cancer. Getting lost in her high-powered career provides the sense of purpose she yearns for. Until the day she’s downsized out of her job and the doctor tells her the cancer may be back. It’s a double blow that would send anyone reeling.
It sends Karen to Grandma Rose’s old farm, where her sister has made a seemingly perfect life. Opening herself to the unexpected, Karen finds a lonely child in need of nurturing and insights into her family’s past. In the quiet of the Missouri Ozarks, where the sycamore leaves whisper their soft, secret language, she begins to discover answers—and a joy to make her life complete.
Once trapped in a world of poverty and neglect, Dell Jordan knows she was one of the lucky ones. Adopted at thirteen, she was loved, mentored, and encouraged to pursue her passion for music. By twenty, her future has expanded in exciting new directions—a year abroad with a traveling symphony, teaching music to orphans in Ukraine, and applying for a scholarship to Julliard. But underneath Dell’s smoothly polished surface lurk mysteries from the past. Why did her mother abandon her? Who was her father? Are there faces somewhere that look like hers—blood relatives she’s never met?
Determined to find answers, and unable to share her emotional uncertainty with her adoptive family, Dell sets off on a secret journey into Oklahoma’s Kiamichi Mountains. Drawn by the only remaining link to her origins—a father’s Native American name on her birth certificate—she travels into quiet wooded valleys, into the heart of the modern Choctaw Nation. There she will find connections to a long and proud heritage and begin to answer the questions of her heart. In the voices of her ancestors, she’ll discover the keys to a future unlike anything she could have imagined.
From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents—hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.
The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.
Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.
Advance praise for Before and After
“In Before and After, authors Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate tackle the true stories behind Wingate’s blockbuster Before We Were Yours, of the orphans who survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. With a journalist’s keen eye and a novelist’s elegant prose, Christie and Wingate weave together the stories that inspired Before We Were Yours with the lives that were changed as a result of reading the novel. Readers will be educated, enlightened, and enraptured by this important and flawlessly executed book.”—Pam Jenoff, author of The Orphan’s Tale and The Lost Girls of Paris
With her adopted son missing and the rest of her family increasingly estranged, SandraKaye Darden is drawn to the little pink house where her Uncle Poppy once provided security. But what begins for Sandra as a simple painting project to help sell the house becomes a secret venture that starts to change everything...
Cass Blue is having trouble keeping food on the table since her mother died. When Sandra shows up with sandwiches for the neighborhood kids one day, Cass has no way of knowing that the meeting will lead to the creation of a place of refuge that could reunite a divided community.
In this moving story of second chances, two unlikely allies realize their ability to make a difference...and the power of what becomes known as the Summer Kitchen to nourish the soul.