I received this book free from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 7, 2020)
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new historical novel: the dramatic story of three young women searching for family amid the destruction of the post–Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who learns of their story and its vital connection to her students’ lives.
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.
Meet the author - Lisa Wingate
Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and ForeWord Magazine refers to as "Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction's Top 10, RT Booklover's Reviewer's Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.
IN THE WRITER'S OWN WORDS: A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, made a writer out of me. That may sound unlikely, but it's true. It's possible to find a calling when you're still in pigtails and Mary Jane shoes, and to know it's your calling. I was halfway through the first grade when I landed in Mrs. Krackhardt's classroom. I was fairly convinced there wasn't anything all that special about me... and then, Mrs. Krackhardt stood over my desk and read a story I was writing. She said things like, "This is a great story! I wonder what happens next?"
It isn't every day a shy new kid gets that kind of attention. I rushed to finish the story, and when I wrote the last word, the teacher took the pages, straightened them on the desk, looked at me over the top, and said, "You are a wonderful writer!"
A dream was born. Over the years, other dreams bloomed and died tragic, untimely deaths. I planned to become an Olympic gymnast or win the National Finals Rodeo, but there was this matter of back flips on the balance beam and these parents who stubbornly refused to buy me a pony. Yet the writer dream remained. I always believed I could do it because... well... my first grade teacher told me so, and first grade teachers don't lie.
So, that is my story, and if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, or ever loved a special teacher, I salute you from afar and wish you days be filled with stories worth telling and stories worth reading.
I don't know if there is a book of Lisa's that I have not liked. I really liked Benny and enjoyed reading about her trying to get through to the kids she was teaching and what she did to make that happen. I also liked Hennie and cheered her on through her journey. I liked the symbol of the three blue beads and what they stood for. I thought the ending was appropriate although I would have loved to know just a little more about what happened with Benny and Nathan. Of course I loved the historical part of this book as well. History is my favorite thing. It is nice that Lisa brings these little now historical tidbits to life in her fiction stories that people may not have heard about otherwise. There is something about Lisa's books that you connect with the characters on a deeper level than most book. They always seem to bring some memory of your life to the surface and make you think. A great storyteller.