Category: Bucket List Book Club

Review: Before We Were Yours


Before We Were Yours

I hold Huckleberry Finn real tight against my chest and start across the yard. Now we can leave this place behind anytime we want. All we gotta do is join up with Huckleberry Finn. There’s room on his raft for all five of us, I’ll bet. Maybe we’ll find the Arcadia out there somewhere.

I sat for a good 20 minutes trying to figure out what to say to convince you all to read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, and there just aren’t enough words for it. If you haven’t read it yet, please, please read it! This is historical fiction based on the true story of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that operated in the early half of the twentieth century. It is shocking, heartbreaking, important, and, at its heart, hopeful. This was our Bucket List Book Club selection for May, and I am so, so glad that I read it.

The story is told in alternating chapters. It begins in Memphis in 1939 with Rill Foss and her 4 brothers and sisters. They live on a boat in the Mississippi River with their parents, but when their mom must be rushed to the hospital during a difficult birth, the 5 remaining children are taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in order to be placed (sold) with other (wealthy) families who are looking to adopt. In present day Aiken, South Carolina, Avery Stafford is busy building her career as a lawyer, taking care of her ailing politician father, and figuring out if she really wants to be with her fiancé. When a chance encounter with an elderly woman in a nursing home, she begins to look into her family’s past and discovers some secrets she’s not sure if she’s ready to find out. The two stories weave themselves together and illustrate the truth behind the Children’s Home: families were torn apart, siblings were separated, and it was by pure luck if they were able to find each other again later in life.

There is a mystery in the novel, namely the journey the Foss kids went through, how they were separated, and where they all ended up. While this particular story is made up, it is heavily rooted in truth. Children were taken from their families (always poor families who were unable to fight and get their kids back) and sold to wealthy families who wanted to adopt. My heart broke for the children in this novel (who represent real people). They had no one to advocate for them, and were expected to trust the adults in the orphanage and do what they said, even though all of the adults involved continued to let them down. The amount of strength they showed, particularly Rill, was incredible. Avery’s storyline in the present was just as compelling, in a different way. She was so busy with everything going on in her life, and finally slowed down to investigate her family’s past. She managed to make time for that, showing that we all have time for things we think are important. (And how telling it is what we choose to make time for.)

Before We Were Yours is an amazing book. So well written, so well researched, and so important. Before this book, I was unaware of this part of American history, and I can’t believe I didn’t know the story. This storyline is sad and heartbreaking, but also interesting from a historical standpoint, and the ending is uplifting. The alternating chapters do a nice job of breaking up the sadness of the past story, and it will make you want to read more about Georgia Tann. (She was really unbelievable.) Let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought!!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Bucket List Book Club: Before We Were Yours


Before We Were Yours

Our Bucket List Book Club pick for May is Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate! This is a fictionalized telling of the real life Georgia Tann and her Tennessee “adoption” agency. (Hint: she didn’t exactly have legal adoptions going on.)

Description from the publisher:

“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.”

I am so, so excited for this one. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about both the story and the writing.

If you want to join in, we’ll be reading it throughout the month of May, with a discussion on June 3 at 2PM CST on my Instagram page!

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we read Before We Were Yours.

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading!

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Bucket List Book Club: My Brilliant Friend


My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One

Ok, Bucket List Book Clubbers! Book 3 is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante! It is the first in a trilogy and has been sitting on my unread shelf for several years since I bought it at Costco. (Because I buy everything at Costco…) I also just found out it’s going to be a series on HBO, so this is great timing to read before that comes out.

Description from the publisher

“Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.

Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.”

I’m all in for a saga, and I love book series, so I can’t wait to finish this one! I’ve been told that the narrator for the audiobook for My Brilliant Friend is great as well!

If you want to join in, we’ll be reading it throughout the month of April, with a discussion in early May. (If you’re interested, our discussion of My Brilliant Friend will be Sunday, May 6, at 2PM CST on my Instagram page!)

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we read My Brilliant Friend.

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading!

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Review: Castle of Water


Castle of Water: A Novel

I usually start my reviews with a quote from the book. I couldn’t this time, for two reasons. One, I read the book so voraciously that I hardly took any notes because I didn’t want to stop reading. Two, I would really like to quote the entire book. It is that good.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge was our March selection for the Bucket List Book Club, and I’m so glad it was. This has been sitting on my nightstand since last year when Madeleine at Top Shelf Text implored everyone to read it. I wish I had listened sooner. This is one of the best, funniest, and most heartbreaking novels I’ve ever read, and you’d better believe I will be first on the pre-order list for whatever his next book is.

Barry, a New Yorker who has just quite his job in finance, and Sophie, a French architect on her honeymoon, are both on the same tiny plane to visit the small island of Hiva-Oa in the Marquesas, for very different reasons. When the plane crashes and everyone, including Sophie’s new husband, except Sophie and Barry perishes, the two survivors must find a way to live together on a small deserted island. They have to not only survive the island, but each other. Stranded on an island with very little hope of rescue, Barry and Sophie must learn to trust each other in order to persevere and survive the island, and everything it throws at them.

Huckelbridge has an almost journalistic style of storytelling, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading fiction. He manages to put two characters into an almost unbelievable situation and make all of it very believable. I really knew Barry and Sophie, and understood why they made certain choices. (Even if I didn’t always agree with them.) Watching them get to know each other, and to see who they really are at the core, was an amazing experience. The level of detail included in the story was absolutely wonderful. I won’t give it all away, but one detail that Huckelbridge included throughout was Barry’s contacts, one of the few things to survive the crash. Here he is, on an island, with nothing, but he still has his routine of putting his contacts in in the morning and taking them out at night. It was so interesting to see what normal routines were included in the story, and how they would play out in this situation. The author is also just plain funny, and I laughed out loud several times throughout the novel. (Except for the last ten pages, which I won’t talk about, but you’ll understand once you read it.)

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say that romance is definitely not at the heart of this novel, and I really appreciated that. It would have been so easy to have them be romantically involved early on, but the author portrayed them accurately-they really aren’t huge fans of each other at the beginning, and they have to work around that. It made the book more interesting, more honest, and more heartfelt in the end. (In which my heart was ripped out.) This is no Gilligan’s Island with a bar, tikki huts, and romance around every palm tree. This is about real people, and how they would really act.

Dane Huckelbridge has said that his intention for this book was to write “literary fiction that’s actually enjoyable to read.” Castle of Water more than accomplishes this. This is definitely literary fiction, but it’s not highbrow, or fancy, or unrelatable to certain groups of people. It’s an extremely well-written book with characters you root for and care about, and I cannot recommend it enough to everyone who loves a good story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Bucket List Book Club: Castle of Water


Castle of Water

Alright, friends! Book two for the Bucket List Book Club is here! For March I chose Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge from my unread shelf for our buddy read. I picked this one because it’s been sitting on my shelf since last year and it’s a quick read. Not to mention the stellar reviews I’ve been reading about it everywhere!

Two people, strangers to each other, survive a plane crash in the South Pacific. They must learn to survive together on a small island and, you know, actually get to know each other.

I am so, so excited to finally read this book! If you want to join in, we’ll be reading it throughout the month of March, with a discussion in early April. (If you’re interested, our discussion of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will be this Sunday, March 4, at 2PM CST on my Instagram page!)

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we read Castle of Water.

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading!

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