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The Book of Lost Friends: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 387 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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“Emphasizing throughout that stories matter and should never go untold, [Lisa] Wingate has written an absorbing historical for many readers. . . . Enthralling and ultimately heartening.”—Library Journal
“[Lisa] Wingate makes history come alive. . . . Historical fiction fans will appreciate the authentic articles and the connection between modern times and the past, while adventure lovers will enjoy a voyage reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn.”—Booklist
“This is what I love most about historical fiction, the chance to learn things we unfortunately aren’t taught in schools.”—All About Romance
Praise for Before We Were Yours
“A [story] of a family lost and found . . . a poignant, engrossing tale about sibling love and the toll of secrets.”—People
“One of the year’s best books . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near perfect novel. It invades your heart from the very first pages and stays there long after the book is finished. Few novelists could strike the balance this story requires but Wingate does it with assurance.”—HuffPost
“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year . . . [Lisa] Wingate is a master storyteller.”—Parade
“Every now and then a novel comes along that sweeps me off my reading feet. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is such a book. . . . Take note: This may be the best book of the year.”—Shreveport Times
“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power. That Georgia Tann and her Tennessee Children’s Home Society could actually exist, unraveling the lives of countless children, will give you chills. . . . Vivid and affecting.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Love and Ruin
“This heartbreaking story is also heart-mending. I absolutely loved this book. I’m still basking in the afterglow, in shock at the true-crime elements, in awe at the journey of these characters who seem to have immortal souls.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A single ladybug lands featherlight on the teacher’s finger, clings there, a living gemstone. A ruby with polka dots and legs. Before a slight breeze beckons the visitor away, an old children’s rhyme sifts through the teacher’s mind.
Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, and your children are gone.
The words leave a murky shadow as the teacher touches a student’s shoulder, feels the damp warmth beneath the girl’s roughly woven calico dress. The hand-stitched neckline hangs askew over smooth amber-brown skin, the garment a little too large for the girl inside it. A single puffy scar protrudes from one loosely buttoned cuff. The teacher wonders briefly about its cause, resists allowing her mind to speculate.
What would be the point? she thinks.
We all have scars.
She glances around the makeshift gathering place under the trees, the rough slabwood benches crowded with girls on the verge of womanhood, boys seeking to step into the world of men. Leaning over crooked tables littered with nib pens, blotters, and inkwells, they read their papers, mouthing the words, intent upon the important task ahead.
All except this one girl.
“Fully prepared?” the teacher inquires, her head angling toward the girl’s work. “You’ve practiced reading it aloud?”
“I can’t do it.” The girl sags, defeated in her own mind. “Not . . . not with these people looking on.” Her young face casts miserably toward the onlookers who have gathered at the fringes of the open-air classroom—moneyed men in well-fitting suits and women in expensive dresses, petulantly waving off the afternoon heat with printed handbills and paper fans left over from the morning’s fiery political speeches.
“You never know what you can do until you try,” the teacher advises. Oh, how familiar that girlish insecurity is. Not so many years ago, the teacher was this girl. Uncertain of herself, overcome with fear. Paralyzed, really.
“I can’t,” the girl moans, clutching her stomach.
Bundling cumbersome skirts and petticoats to keep them from the dust, the teacher lowers herself to catch the girl’s gaze. “Where will they hear the story if not from you—the story of being stolen away from family? Of writing an advertisement seeking any word of loved ones, and hoping to save up the fifty cents to have it printed in the Southwestern paper, so that it might travel through all the nearby states and territories? How will they understand the desperate need to finally know, Are my people out there, somewhere?”
The girl’s thin shoulders lift, then wilt. “These folks ain’t here because they care what I’ve got to say. It won’t change anything.”
“Perhaps it will. The most important endeavors require a risk.” The teacher understands this all too well. Someday, she, too, must strike off on a similar journey, one that involves a risk.
Today, however, is for her students and for the “Lost Friends” column of the Southwestern Christian Advocate newspaper, and for all it represents. “At the very least, we must tell our stories, mustn’t we? Speak the names? You know, there is an old proverb that says, ‘We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name.’ The first death is beyond our control, but the second one we can strive to prevent.”
“If you say so,” the girl acquiesces, tenuously drawing a breath. “But I best do it right off, so I don’t lose my nerve. Can I go on and give my reading before the rest?”
The teacher nods. “If you start, I’m certain the others will know to follow.” Stepping back, she surveys the remainder of her group. All the stories here, she thinks. People separated by impossible distance, by human fallacy, by cruelty. Enduring the terrible torture of not knowing.
And though she’d rather not—she’d give anything if not—she imagines her own scar. One hidden beneath the skin where no one else can see it. She thinks of her own lost love, out there. Somewhere. Who knows where?
A murmur of thinly veiled impatience stirs among the audience as the girl rises and proceeds along the aisle between the benches, her posture stiffening to a strangely regal bearing. The frenzied motion of paper fans ceases and fluttering handbills go silent when she turns to speak her piece, looking neither left nor right.
“I . . .” her voice falters. Rimming the crowd with her gaze, she clenches and unclenches her fingers, clutching thick folds of the blue-and-white calico dress. Time seems to hover then, like the ladybug deciding whether it will land or fly on.
Finally, the girl’s chin rises with stalwart determination. Her voice carries past the students to the audience, demanding attention as she speaks a name that will not be silenced on this day. “I am Hannie Gossett.”
Hannie Gossett—Louisiana, 1875
The dream takes me from quiet sleep, same way it’s done many a time, sweeps me up like dust. Away I float, a dozen years to the past, and sift from a body that’s almost a woman’s into a littlegirl shape only six years old.
Though I don’t want to, I see what my little-girl eyes saw then.
I see buyers gather in the trader’s yard as I peek through the gaps in the stockade log fence. I stand in winter-cold dirt tramped by so many feet before my own two. Big feet like Mama’s and small feet like mine and tiny feet like Mary Angel’s. Heels and toes that’s left dents in the wet ground.
How many others been here before me? I wonder. How many with hearts rattlin’ and muscles knotted up, but with no place to run?
Might be a hundred hundreds. Heels by the doubles and toes by the tens. Can’t count high as that. I just turned from five years old to six a few months back. It’s Feb’ary right now, a word I can’t say right, ever. My mouth twists up and makes Feb-ba-ba-ba-bary, like a sheep. My brothers and sisters’ve always pestered me hard over it, all eight, even the ones that’s younger. Usually, we’d tussle if Mama was off at work with the field gangs or gone to the spinnin’ house, cording wool and weaving the homespun.
Our slabwood cabin would rock and rattle till finally somebody fell out the door or the window and went to howlin’. That’d bring Ol’ Tati, cane switch ready, and her saying, “Gonna give you a breshin’ with this switch if you don’t shesh now.” She’d swat butts and legs, just play-like, and we’d scamper one over top the other like baby goats scooting through the gate. We’d crawl up under them beds and try to hide, knees and elbows poking everywhere.
Can’t do that no more. All my mama’s children been carried off one by one and two by two. Aunt Jenny Angel and three of her four girls, gone, too. Sold away in trader yards like this one, from south Louisiana almost to Texas. My mind works hard to keep account of where all we been, our numbers dwindling by the day, as we tramp behind Jep Loach’s wagon, slave chains pulling the grown folk by the wrist, and us children left with no other choice but to follow on.
But the nights been worst of all. We just hope Jep Loach falls to sleep quick from whiskey and the day’s travel. It’s when he don’t that the bad things happen—to Mama and Aunt Jenny both, and now just to Mama, with Aunt Jenny sold off. Only Mama and me left now. Us two and Aunt Jenny’s baby girl, li’l Mary Angel.
Every chance there is, Mama says them words in my ear—who’s been carried away from us, and what’s the names of the buyers that took them from the auction block and where’re they gone to. We start with Aunt Jenny, her three oldest girls. Then come my brothers and sisters, oldest to youngest, Hardy at Big Creek, to a man name LeBas from Woodville. Het at Jatt carried off by a man name Palmer from Big Woods. . . .
Prat, Epheme, Addie, Easter, Ike, and Baby Rose, tore from my mama’s arms in a place called Bethany. Baby Rose wailed and Mama fought and begged and said, “We gotta be kept as one. The baby ain’t weaned! Baby ain’t . . .”
It shames me now, but I clung on Mama’s skirts and cried, “Mama, no! Mama, no! Don’t!” My body shook and my mind ran wild circles. I was afraid they’d take my mama, too, and it’d be just me and little cousin Mary Angel left when the wagon rolled on.
- File Size : 15487 KB
- Publication Date : April 7, 2020
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 387 pages
- Publisher : Ballantine Books (April 7, 2020)
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B07ZC727WV
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #248 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The stories of Hannie Gossett and Benedetta Silva connect beautifully, forming the best example of a split time novel I've seen from Lisa Wingate. The stories feed into each other, showing how the past informs the present and the present influences past choices so that future generations can have positive experiences. Within that, the diversity of human experiences shines more than in most books I've read lately. In one book, we get the stories of an ex-slave girl, a privileged mixed-race girl (both of whom are forced to live as boys), and a 1980s teacher who looks privileged because she's white and middle-class, but is nursing pain and lack. Within *that*, we also get the non-POV stories of people like Nathan and Robin Gossett, LaJuna Gossett, Shad and Gar Fish, and Missy Lavinia, all of whom have multifaceted backgrounds and journeys.
You'd think Lisa would drop the ball somewhere during all these journeys, but she gives the secondary characters just enough page time and shading to both pop and fit seamlessly into the main protagonists' stories. Additionally, she crafts her novel around universal themes without being preachy, so that when they are directly addressed, the reader can support that decision. For instance, the themes of privilege vs. want, freedom vs. slavery, could've been heavy-handed. Instead, organic things like Hannie's conversations with Juneau Jane or Benedetta bringing her students pooperoos, turn these into themes that make you think.
As noted, every character pops off the page and has a distinct, relatable voice. Having been a teacher--and a misunderstood one at that--I identified heavily with Benedetta, but also rooted for Hannie, and even Juneau Jane and Lavinia as well. Their character growth occurs across a great mix of internal and external stakes, and I loved the interwoven surprises, such as the true identity of Moses, the reappearance of Gus McKlatchy in both timelines, and the revelation of Robin's project, as well as how it affected Benedetta's students.
The Louisiana and Texas settings suck you in and keep you riveted. I loved accompanying Benedetta on her walks through the cemetery, and during Hannie's chapters, I could absolutely feel the constant humidity, muck, and heat. (Eck, but in a good way)! Goswood Grove functions as a character in itself, like a stately old woman who might be "crumbling" or dealing with "dementia," but still has a story to tell if you'll listen. The Cluck and Oink and Granny T were two of my favorite additions, and I especially loved how much the kids loved Granny T. But I think my favorite location had to be Judge Gossett's library, partly because of LaJuna's relationship with it. It reminded me of The Book Thief, with a Southern Gothic twist.
As with any great book, it's the scenes that stick in your mind. I had so many favorites it would take forever to list them all, but here are a few to keep an eye out for:
-Benedetta's first conversations with Granny T. and Sarge
-Granny T's presentation
-Hannie's midnight jaunt to the library
-Hannie and Juneau Jane discover the Lost Friends and begin writing down stories
-Hannie and Juneau Jane cement sisterhood
-Benedetta confronts the Gossett-ruled school board
-The final Tales from the Underground project/unification of prologue and epilogue
The Book of Lost Friends as an object also unites the stories of modern students and families in the best way I've ever seen it done. Benedetta's half of the story could've easily been the same old, "save our underprivileged students" story, but not only does she learn from the kids, they learn from her and embrace their history in deep, organic ways. Special mention to Benedetta's conversation with Gar Fish over his history (oops, another wonderful scene I forgot)!
I could, as you can see, go on all day, but I'll leave this review here. Just a few more words: Read it. You're going to love it. And, to Lisa Wingate, can we have a sequel ASAP, PLEASE? Thanks!
The book starts in 1875 Louisiana and the "speak" is challenging to read and understand. Chapter 2 when we were back in 1987 was interesting and made me read-on and try to immense myself in 1875. The Author's first book, Before We Were Yours was a 5-star read for me and I was sooo looking forward to this book. At 40% I felt the book was going no where for me and still a struggle to read. Disappointedly I could not finish this one. I'm sure others will love it, but not me.
I loved the way the author placed the Lost Friends advertisements between the chapters. It made it so real. I plan on researching the topic more myself. Thanks for sparking my curiosity. The ending was unexpected.
Top reviews from other countries
Interwoven between alternating chapters of 1875 and 1987 telling of experiences by Hannie and Benedetta are adverts placed on a ‘Lost Friends’ column of a Methodist newspaper. These are requests for pastors at their pulpits to read contents so that members of freed slave families can recognise their separated relatives and allow for reunions or at least to some sort of closure. These desperate heart-breaking appeals were the inspiration for author Lisa Wingate to write ‘The Book of Lost Friends’, and they establish major informative and thought-provoking elements.
After failing to find documentation to determine her inheritance Hannie follows the half-sisters who are also pursuing their respective claims, and she ends up saving them from traffickers, soldiers, Klan vigilantes etc. and they travel together across treacherous country. The dangers they meet and the hardships they endure make exciting historical reading. For Benedetta her modern powerful and moving accounts are more socially based as she uses the evidence of slavery to get her present impoverished pupils researching and re-enacting their ancestors. All this makes engaging and enlightening reading – but without being a ‘spoiler’ it is inevitable that these separate stories must come together – and they do so in a captivating and compelling manner with a 5-star conclusion.
It is told in 2 timelines, 1875 and 1987. In 1875 it tells the story of Hannie, a former slave who goes on a hunt for her family who she was taken from when she was 6 years old. In 1987, we meet Benny who is a schoolteacher trying to find a way to break through to her students to encourage them to want to learn.
I recently watched Harriet which was an exceptional film and i think this would also make a fantastic movie. I can already see Janelle Monae as Hannie and Tessa Thompson as Benny .
A really beautiful story based on true events. Well worth a read.