I am often skeptical of books that have thousands of reviews and still have over four stars. So, this book languished on my e-reader for months.
Taking her cue from history, Lisa Wingate tells the story of 5 river children stolen from their parents and taken to a monstrous children’s home in Tennessee in 1939 (Tennessee Children’s Society in Memphis). While their beloved mother was having twins in a hospital with their father by her side, the children were snatched. The oldest child at age 12 could not protect the little ones from their fate. The author didn’t share a lot about how devastated the parents must’ve been, but the reader could only imagine.
This story goes back and forth in time. The present-day protagonist is a young female attorney, Avery Stafford, who has returned to her home in South Carolina to take care of some family business. Her father is a well-known and well-connected politician. She’s been slated to run for his seat when he retires (or dies–He’s suffering from cancer.). Coincidentally (and perhaps too much so), Avery meets an elderly woman in a nursing home who starts her on a quest to learn more about her family’s history.
Going from Avery’s quest to the plight of the children in the past, the reader has little doubt that the 5 children have some connection to Avery Stafford’s current family.
There’s not a lot of mystery in this story. From the start it’s clear that Avery’s grandmother and the children snatched in 1939 have some connection. By the end of the story, I’d pretty much worked it all out. Nonetheless, I wanted to see it through. The characters are well drawn and the story moves fast enough to keep the reader turning pages.
My one complaint is that the end dragged and I got extremely annoyed with Avery’s mother. Much of that could have been edited out and moved this book into the range of excellent.
Nonetheless, this is a must-read. Unfortunately the children’s home the author described was plucked directly from history. The facts she describes are true. That’s heartbreaking to say the least. At the end of the book, the author explains her research and what finally happened to that horrid place.