Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate was a gripping historical fiction novel about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The organization would abduct children from poor family’s and then have the children adopted by wealthy or famous families. They would charge families huge sums of money to adopt children who were ‘given up’ by families who could not care for them. They would create a fake paper trail or trick parents.

The book is fictional story that follows a family of four children who are abducted by the organization when their parents leave them to go to the hospital to have a child. One child is adopted out immediately. The other three struggle to survive. the story jumps to present day where a woman is discovering her own families ties to The Tennessee Children’s Home Society. While the story is fiction, all stories are based on things that have been documented to have happened to children in the home and the lasting effects after they left.

The book was very engaging. It was very interesting to read the fictionalized account and then research what actually happened. It made me think about how we have repeated this scenario again. The children of immigrants who have been deported are being adopted out because the government didn’t keep good enough records to reunite families. Instead of an organization being the bad actor, it’s now the government. It’s actually horrifying that this is happening again.

As fate would have it, as I was voting on my Goodreads best books – Before and After is up for the best history book. It is an actual research book that tells the stories of real victims of the Tennessee Children’s Society Home.

Who has read this book? I loved talking about it with my book club. I’d recommend adding this to your book club list. It’s a great discussion book and has a lot different topics for the group to examine.

The Age of Light

The Age of Light is an intriguing historical fiction novel based on the life of Lee Miller. The novel focuses on her life in Europe. Miller first arrives in Europe and begins working as a photographer. She meets Man Ray on her travels through Paris and becomes his apprentice and later, business partner and lover.

The book focused a lot on Lee Miller’s relationship with Man Ray which I found to be puzzling. She only spent three years with him before moving on to become an accomplish photographer and war correspondent. Miller spent her entire life attempting to get out of Man Ray’s shadow. The story weaves between the past and her present (1960s) when she has been asked to produce a piece for Vogue about the art they created together.

The book explores the galleries, the parties, the sexual experimentation and drug experimentation that was pervasive in 1920 Surrealism circles. It was a bit raunchy at times to read and I’m not sure how much it added to the story. However, I don’t know much about these artists. This may have been a tame retelling of their actual lives.

The big takeaway from the book was that Lee Miller was a powerful woman. She had adversity her entire life. Men were constantly trying to sabotage her or hurt her but she never allowed them to derail her. She lived her life on her own terms.

The Age of Light is Whitney Scharer’s debut novel. This was the 2019 February selection for the Odyssey Bookshop First Edition Book Club.

The Plot Against America By Philip Roth

Dystopian fiction everyone! Who doesn’t love a little bit of alternative history? I have always enjoyed the genre. I find myself reading more of it lately. There are definitely a lot more of it being published in the Trump era but there is a plethora of ones that a couple of years older but still strike a cord in today’s environment. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a great example of that.

The Plot Against America was published in 2004. Written as if it were an autobiography of his life, Roth tells the tale of what happened to himself and his family when Charles Lindburgh beat FDR and became the President of the United States in 1940. It is a fascinating examination of how quickly life as we know it can dissolve into something totally and completely unrecognizable.

14 years later and his story still resonates with a reader. I found it particularly relevant in America’s current political climate.The book brings into sharp focus how much politics plays a role in our daily life. I found myself comparing the fictional America that Roth created and the America that is happening here now. I find a lot of glaring similarities between President Lindburgh’s America and President Trump’s America. Citizens are constantly asking themselves, can he do this? Is this legal? It was all done under the idea of protecting the US citizens.

The questions that I kept asking throughout the novel were: Who does this make it safer for? Who gets to decide what is safe and what isn’t? Why do the Jewish neighborhoods have to be broken up but not the Italian or the Irish? Why are the Jews labeled an unAmerican but not any other group. Roth describes the effect of ‘othering’ and the wide ranging effects it has. His novel paints a realistic picture of America’s slow descent into a  nation that allows for the ostracism of its own citizens. The notion that it can happen here creeps into the readers mind and does not leave. There is no big event, it is the accumulation of all these actions that land the characters in an unrecognizable America.

Final thought and takeaways from the book: It’s important to pay attention to the little actions our leaders take. It is the sum of all the little actions that will have the biggest impact on our country. The book was dense. It took awhile for me to get through the book but as always Roth created an intriguing and engrossing read.

With Election Day being tomorrow, I thought this review was timely. This book shares the message loud and clear that elections have consequences. Maybe if more people read Philip Roth’s book before 2016 we wouldn’t be in this current situation. Sadly, we can’t go back but only go forward so get out and exercise your right to vote!

 

 

 

The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant

**SPOILER ALERT: This blog post has spoilers**

I have absolutely no idea how this book ended up on my library queue. It showed up at the library and I read the back and I was flummoxed. Nothing rang a bell. It didn’t even seem like a book I would typically read.

The Daisy Children follows three generations of women but told from the perspective of Katie and Margaret. Katie is Margaret’s grandchild. The story is told between Katie and Margaret’s perspective. Margaret was the replacement child her parent’s had after her sister was killed in a tragic accident. Katie is Margaret’s grandchild. At it’s heart, the novel is a romance story.

Katie is a thirty something woman, unhappily married, when her estranged grandmother, Margaret, passes away and names her in the will. Katie is brought back to her home state of Texas and meets her cousin Scarlet. Together, the cousins discover their shared past and begin to take steps to empower themselves to live a better life. Because it is a romance novel, Katie ends up finding out her husband is having an affair and decides to take up with the handsome wounded vet who is Margaret’s neighbor.

The novel uses a real life accident that occurred in Texas as a focal point of the story. It is the thing that connect all the characters together. However, the idea of the daisy children or the replacement children is completely a work of the author’s imagination. Using this accident as the point that ties the novel together was interesting even thought the novel as a whole was pretty shallow.  The characters didn’t have a lot of depth and it was very transparent how everything was going to end up. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book and I wouldn’t recommend picking it up unless you are a serious Romance genre fan.