Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Lisa Wingate did a superb job on this book. She started by thoroughly researching her topic. A common error in historical fiction is to dump all that research on the reader, when much of it isn't really necessary for the story. Instead, Wingate used that knowledge to create a realistic fictional environment and characters to draw the reader into that time period, into those circumstances.
Her primary narrator is a little girl in 1939. The girl is not really sure what is going on at first when policemen come and take her and her younger siblings to a house full of children. The reader comes to understand the situation through her experiences.
Her second narrator is contemporary - the little girl's adult granddaughter. This character has her own issues but starts to suspect her grandmother has a secret and eventually realizes the shocking truth - that her grandmother was one of many children stolen and adopted by people willing and able to pay for them. Wingal also winds in a romantic thread for the contemporary character that makes complete sense with the circumstances of the story.
The balance between the characters serves two key purposes:
The contemporary character's chapters give the reader some relief when times are bleak for the little girl, and let us know she will be okay eventually.
The contemporary character uncovers some of that research and gives the reader just enough to make it clear this story is larger than the characters.
If you’re considering writing historical fiction or just enjoy good writing, I strongly suggest Lisa Wingal’s Before We Were Yours.