The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  107,887 Ratings  ·  12,627 Reviews
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead download or read online for free
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

“And America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all. The white race believes--believes with all its heart--that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn't exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty. Yet here we are.”

“Slavery is a sin when whites were put to the yoke, but not the African. All men are created equal, unless we decide you are not a man.”

“Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood.”


Excellent writing, strong concept. I am personally burnt out on slavery narratives so I cannot say this was a pleasure to read. So much unrelenting horror. 
Whitehead does an excellent job of portraying slavery and America as a slave nation. The idea of the underground railroad, as an actual railroad, is so smart and interesting. I wish he had actually done more with the railroad itself. There were some sentences where I thought, "Now you are just showing off." The amount of research the author did is clear, throughout. There is some really interesting structural work at play. I wanted some of the secondary characters to be more fully developed. This book is going to do very well, and rightly so.
I came to this book with some resistance, regardless of it being the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2017.
I've owned the physical book since last year. It kept being easier to read something else.

I felt it was my duty to read this book.
But wait.....
Haven't I done my duty?
I've read three James Baldwin books 'this' year....I've seen the movie "12 Years a Slave", and "Birth of a Nation".
I've read "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, "The Kitchen House", by Kathleen Grissom, "Between The World And Me", by Ta-Nehisi Coates, etc.

Still needed to do my duty!!!
My expectations going into this book were LOW. I saw more 3-stars and 'under' until 'recently'. The very first few reviews I saw last year had 'negative' things to say about this book. I thought .... "great, one less painful book for me to experience"!
And then......something happened- I read a VERY MOVING 5 star review by *Julie
Christine Johnson*......that seriously stayed with me. I knew it was time to read this book soon.

STILL with some resistance ---BUT...I knew I believed whole heartedly in everything I read in Julie's review. This was a case where reading reviews- low & high... WAS SUPPORTIVE to me BEFORE I read the book. NONE of the reviews spoiled my own reading.

I HIGHLY-HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING MANY REVIEWS- HIGH - LOW- MIDDLE - and DNF....if on the fence about reading "The Underground Railroad".

Given my expectations started out LOW .. I was pleasantly happy to discover I enjoyed reading this book much more than I thought. At the same time, I tend to agree with some of the low reviews, and some of the high reviews.

In Navidad Thelamour's review, she says: "The novel would've been better served being written in first person, for Cora's chapters at the 'very' least". I AGREE WITH HER!! ......I think - as the reader - we might have FELT what she was experiencing MUCH MORE ... if we felt as if she were speaking to us. It might have been even 'more' unbearable to read though.

I was especially inspired by Poingu's review.
She says: "I finished utterly exhilarated. This novel is a triumphant act of imagination". I AGREE!!!!!
However, Poingu goes on to mention something she did not like.
Poingu says: "There were too many characters to superficially drawn; sometimes I felt there was too much narrative summary; the bad guys trended toward evil caricatures rather than multidimensional people; there was an odd distancing effect between the reader and any one character because there is so little offered of each characters interior thinking". I ALSO AGREE!!!!!!
I could never have put that sentence together so eloquently as Poingu. - thank you, Poingu!

I 'stopped ' trying to remember all the minor characters. There were TONS!!! Almost TOO MANY!
However-like Poingu, .... SHE LOVED READING THIS BOOK. I did too!!! So, for me, I didn't worry about the minor flaws. Or all the minor characters . It was the greater context which I was taking in.

I ended up being blown away by the powerful allegory of the Underground Railroad... the crafting of this story played with 'my imagination'.
Very clever creative structure. We get to keep dancing in imaginary visuals of being - on a train - a real train with conductors- but then are jolted by horrifying beatings, lynchings staged like a theater production, rapes, and brutal truths from state to state . Everything about slavery was so terrifying--that by the end this novel, I was left with the incredible achievement "The Underground Railroad" is.

Cora is on the run from Arnold Ridgeway - the master slave catcher ( she didn't know she was on the run when she first learned about FREE NORTH, that Caesar told her about). Things are not as easy as 'free'.
From South Carolina, to North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, on to 'the north' every step of the way... there is terror, hatred, atrocity, gruesome repulsion.
The descriptions are horrific. Its hard to be with SO MUCH VIOLENCE!
However, the brutal honesty lights a fire in us. We DO NOT WANT TO EVER ALLOW HISTORY TO REPEAT ITSELF.... so yes, we I'm glad I read this book. Even with some minor flaws --- I can't give this novel less than 5 stars.
I'm sad - sorry - angry and ashamed- for all the horrific sufferings in our past history over racial inequality!
At the same time --I'm left with hope - strength- and our humanity.

Brutal and Beautiful Book! .....I hope they make a movie.... I think the impact would be powerful.

There are some great interviews of Colson Whitehead. He is such a humble and wonderful man! Worth looking up!
This is a difficult book to read with the horrific treatment and gruesome punishments of African American slaves so much a part of the narrative, but it is essential that we read this and other books like it . We need these powerful, compelling and gut wrenching reminders of what life was like on a plantation in Georgia and other places in the South and what it might have been like to be a runaway. This story is told mainly from the perspective of a young slave woman named Cora and the portrayal of her escape and journey toward freedom. I was also moved by the story of Cora's grandmother Ajarry, captured in Africa and transported to America. Cora's mother Mabel also has her story.

Colson Whitehead imagines the The Underground Railroad as if it were an actual railroad with trains and conductors. While this work is a fictional representation of the time and place and does an excellent job of conveying the time and place and what seems like a genuine feeling of what it was like to be Cora, I have to admit I had some reservations about making it a real railroad. I felt like the creation of an actual railroad in a way diminishes the the true Underground Railroad whose strength was the people moving people to freedom not a railway but a network of routes and a group of people who didn't have a railroad to move them around . I'm sure there will be much discussion of this and I may be an outlier here.

So for this and the fact that I found it a little slow going and just had too many characters, I would rate this 3.5 stars if half stars were allowed . But overall , this is just such an important book that I have to round it up to 4 stars . Cora's story is one that we mustn't forget because she represents so many of the real life slaves who we have to remember.
     What a world, Cora thought, that makes a living prison into your only haven. Was she out of bondage or in its web: how to describe the status of a runaway? Freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it, the way a forest is dense with trees up close, but from outside, from the empty meadow, you see its true limits. Being free had nothing to do with chains or how much space you had. On the plantation she was not free, but she moved unrestricted on its acres, tasting the air and tracing the summer stars. The place was big in its smallness. Here, she was free of her master but slunk around a warren so tiny she couldn’t stand. - Colson Whitehead

    People get ready, there’s a train a-coming - Curtis Mayfield

In Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Underground Railroad, he takes a figurative term and gives it a literal application. This Underground Railroad posits a literal brick, steel, and steam system that transports fleeing slaves from southern captivity to what is hoped to be a form of freedom. This RR has actual station agents with and conductors. Most importantly, it has passengers.
 In Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Underground Railroad, he takes a figurative term and gives it a literal application. This Underground Railroad posits a literal brick, steel, and steam system that transports fleeing slaves from southern captivity to what is hoped to be a form of freedom.
Image from Whitehead’s Twitter feed
Our guide through this underworld is Cora, 17 when we meet her, a slave on the Randalls’ property, in Georgia. Encouraged to flee with him by fellow slave, Caesar, she demurs, fearing failure and dire circumstances. But when her situation at the property becomes too damaging to endure, she signs on.

Throughout the tale, we get bits of backstory. We learn of Cora’s mother, a slave who had fled when Cora was 11, never to be seen or heard from again. We learn some details of slave life. That brutality was a central feature will come as no surprise to anyone, but some of the specifics of such an existence will be news to many of us. The book had a particularly long gestation.

    I had the idea for the book about 16 years ago, recalling how when I was a kid, I thought the Underground Railroad was a literal railroad and when I found out it wasn’t, I was disappointed. So I thought it was a cool idea, and then I thought, “Well, what if it actually was a real railroad? That seems like a cool premise for a book.”  But I had just finished up a research-heavy project and wasn’t up for that kind of ordeal again, and I didn’t feel mature enough or up to the task. But every couple of years, when I was between books, I would pull out my notes and ask myself if I was ready. And inevitably I would realize that I wasn’t really up for it. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I really committed to the idea. - from the Bookpage interview
There is much here that hearkens back to literary classics. Cora might certainly feel a kinship with Jean Valjean of Les Miserables, escaping a wretched life, but pursued by a relentless, Javert-like slave catcher, Arnold Ridgeway. Ridgeway had been enraged for years that he’d failed to find and bring back Cora’s mother, Mabel, who had fled six years earlier. One might also think of stories like Gulliver’s Travels, in which each stop along the journey points out another form of madness.
Colson Whitehead - image from the NY Times
The route takes Cora from Georgia to what seems a relatively benign South Carolina, then on to North Carolina for some new forms of horror, and finally on to Indiana, which offers its own forms of misery. Whitehead is not shy about part of his plan. I thought, why not write a book that really scares you?
Whitehead was more interested in communicating the internal rather than external historical reality.

    The first chapter in Georgia I tried to make realistic and stick to the historical record, and then after that, I wanted to stick to the truth of the black experience but not necessarily the facts. As we go to South Carolina and Indiana and the different states that Cora goes to, I am playing with history and time, moving things up to talk about the Holocaust, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and the eugenics movement. So in some sense, it’s not really a historical novel at all because I’m moving things around. - from the Bookpage interview
Whitehead peppers Cora’s story with bizarre events, like regular public lynchings in one town, an early and bitingly grim version of public entertainment, reminiscent of feeding Christians to lions for the delight of the townspeople. A living history museum in which Cora plays the part of slaves through history in diverse tableaux makes your spidey senses wonder what might result.

Whitehead took his inspiration from diverse sources. Cora spend a protracted time in an attic, terrified of being discovered, and with good reason, as public lynchings are regularly held right across the street in a public park. The inspiration for that was Harriet Jacobs’ autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in which Harriet hid for years in a crawl space, terrified of being captured.
Primarily I read slave narratives. There are a few histories of the Underground Railroad; one of the first ones I read, which proved the most useful was Bound for Canaan by Fergus Bordewich. That gave me an overview of the railroad, but the main thing was just reading the words of former slaves themselves. - from the Bookpage interview
It would be a challenge to remain unmoved by Cora’s journey, and impossible to come away from reading this book without learning some things about the slave experience and the conditions that people treated as property endured.

One may take issue with decisions made by this or that person in the story, but it is worth suspending a bit of disbelief to appreciate the journey on which Whitehead leads us. No one will force you to read The Underground Railroad, but choosing to do so would be an excellent expression of your freedom.
Cora is a slave at a Georgia plantation in the antebellum South. When a fellow slave tells her about the Underground Railroad, she finds the courage to run for her freedom. Thus begins her odyssey as a runaway slave, where her adventures introduce her to unprecedented horrors and lead her to disheartening realizations.

The Underground Railroad rekindles the discussion and study of slavery. The harsh realities of those dark chapters in American history are presented with brute bluntness but remain eloquent in their presentation. It makes for a strange but savory contrast, to read about something so dreadful yet have it conferred with such sophistication:

The noxious air of the hold, the gloom of confinement, and the screams of those shackled to her contrived to drive [her] to madness. Because of her tender age, her captors did not immediately force their urges on her, but eventually some of the more seasoned mates dragged her from the hold six weeks into the passage.

Sometimes a slave will be lost in a brief eddy of liberation. In the sway of a sudden reverie among the furrows or while untangling the mysteries of an early-morning dream. In the middle of a song on a warm Sunday night. Then it comes, always - the overseer's cry, the call to work, the shadow of the master, the reminder that she is only a human being for a tiny moment across the eternity of her servitude.

Peppered throughout the book are short, engrossing chapters highlighting secondary or even tertiary characters, but the main point of focus is Cora, a sympathetic character if ever there was one. Cora only knows one life, and it is rife with degradation, abuse, and sorrow.

Cora didn't know what optimistic meant. She asked the other girls that night if they were familiar with the word. None of them had heard it before. She decided that it meant trying.

Every step of her journey forces Cora to question whether or not she is still chattel. Freedom - in the purest, truest sense of the word - seems to always remain just beyond her reach.

What a world this is, Cora thought, that makes a living prison into your haven. [. . .] Freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it, the way a forest is dense with trees up close but from outside, from the empty meadow, you see its true limits. Being free had nothing to do with chains or how much space you had.

The author chose his timeline well and integrates other interesting and sickening moments in American history. In addition to slavery, The Underground Railroad touches on the surreptitiously induced sterilization of blacks; the secret studies of syphilis, conducted by white doctors on black patients without their knowledge; and the rise in the practice of autopsy and the subsequent need for corpses, which led to grave robbing and the irreverent disposal of deceased black peoples' bodies for scientific study.

The writing is superb throughout. Carefully selected word choices lend themselves to having harsh and long-standing impact on readers.

The stone vault above was white with splashes of red, like blood from a whipping that soaked through a shirt.

He wrung out every possible dollar. When black blood was money, the savvy business man knew to open every vein.

At the auction block they tallied the souls purchased at each auction, and on the plantations the overseers preserved the names of workers in rows of tight cursive. Every name an asset, breathing capitol, profit made flesh.

This book is an accessible read, breezy for the ease of its writing by weighty for the depth of its subject matter. It's no wonder The Underground Railroad won the 2016 National Book Award for fiction.
The plight of slaves who are so badly treated that they are willing to risk horrendous punishment in an attempt to flee from their hellish circumstances, used to be all too common. In this historical fiction, our resident rebel is Cora, a young woman who is ready to try and escape.

This book and its subject matter put things into perspective. Life used to be hellish or thereabouts to anyone not a man, and not white. Given that teenagers nowadays have it easy, very easy compared to their ancestors, is a testament of the change induced with the passage of time.

To be honest, I know little of The Underground Railroad, but the book that espoused this term, is a well toned, well told, and well gauged book. Historical fiction such as The Outlander series, are fun in their own way. But this book is different. It's subject matter is still of actuality, and is still sensitive. I can understand that The Underground Railroad won the National Book Award. It's thoroughly deserved.
"I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves," stated First Lady Michelle Obama at this year's Democratic National Convention. Her words seemed to come as a surprise to many, those who had either forgotten or had never known that black hands enslaved by white masters built the iconic edifice of our democracy.

As we come to the end of an extraordinary eight years of the nation's first President of color while witnessing the continued systemic racism that pervades every corner of our collective American culture, as we engage in open, honest dialogue about white privilege, how black lives matter, and denounce the wretched anti-immigrant language spewed by politicians and political candidates, we must also acknowledge and work to overcome the continued ignorance of our nation's darkest and ugliest history- a history that has led us inexorably to the painful circumstance of contemporary racism.

In his breathtaking novel The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead demonstrates the earth-shattering power of an artistic voice to carry the legacy of the past into our now . He takes what we know to be true, but breaks free from the confines of history to create a brilliant work of fiction.

Cora is a young woman enslaved on the Randall cotton plantation in Georgia, like her mother and grandmother before her. She is the voice, the eyes, ears and body by which the reader witnesses and suffers the brutality of slavery- the rape and beatings, the whippings, torture and murder of the men and women who make up her community, however transitory and temporary it is. Cora “had seen men hung from trees and left for buzzards and crows. Women carved open to the bones with the cat-o’-nine-tails. Bodies alive and dead roasted on pyres. Feet cut off to prevent escape and hands cut off to stop theft.”

Cora's mother escaped years earlier, leaving her young daughter—a betrayal and an abandonment that burns deep in Cora's heart. Knowing the horrors that await a captured runaway slave, escape is only a fantasy, until Cora meets Caesar, a new arrival on the plantation. Caesar tells her about about the free north where he once lived and the way out of their imprisonment, by way of an underground railroad. He convinces her to flee, and we as readers are led from the nightmare of plantation life to the heart-stopping tension of escape.

The Underground Railroad takes on a hallucinatory affect, as Whitehead makes literal the metaphorical network of safe houses that ran from the southern United States north into Canada in the 19th century. In reality, it was neither underground nor a railroad, but in this author's vibrant and vital imagination, the underground railroad is an almost faerie tale-like system, complete with stations and conductors hidden just beneath the scorched earth of slavery.

Chapters of Cora and Caesar's escape alternate with the stories of other characters in the world they are fleeing, most notably the slave hunter in pursuit, Ridgeway. Ridgeway tracked but never found Cora's mother, Mabel, and this failure drives him to pursue Cora from state to state in a near-frenzy of diabolical hatred and determination.

The surreal nature of the narrative makes the reality of slavery even more present and vivid. It is hard to grasp, and yet essential that we do, our recent history and how it continues to shape our present. Colson Whitehead has written a bold and terrible, beautiful and mythic novel that will hold you from the opening pages and not release you, even after you come to its end.
Highly recommended.
Nobody could wait for Colson Whitehead’s new book — including Oprah, so here it is, a month early. In a surprise announcement Tuesday morning, Winfrey chose “The Underground Railroad” as the next title for Oprah’s Book Club. Originally set to release on Sept. 13, the novel is available now, the result of an extraordinary plan to start shipping 200,000 copies out to booksellers in secret.

Far and away the most anticipated literary novel of the year, “The Underground Railroad” marks a new triumph for Whitehead. Since his first novel, “The Intuitionist” (1999), the MacArthur “genius” has nimbly explored America’s racial consciousness — and more — with an exhilarating blend of comedy, history, horror and speculative fiction. In this new book, though, those elements are choreographed as never before. The soaring arias of cleverness he’s known for have been modulated in these pages. The result is a book that resonates with deep emotional timbre. “The Underground Railroad” reanimates the slave narrative, disrupts our settled sense of the past and stretches. . . .

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

3.98  ·   Rating details ·  3,230 Ratings  ·  652 Reviews
The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman download or read it online for free
The Life She Was Given
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets--beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly's stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

“Then again, she didn't like small talk either, so she was glad he wasn't commenting on the weather or the landscape. Life was too big and too short and too important to talk about the lack of rain or the latest gossip. She wanted to know how people felt about themselves and one another, whether they were happy or sad. She wanted to know what made them feel loved and what hurt them to the core. She wanted to know about their past, how they got where they were, and their relationships with their mothers and fathers and siblings. She wanted to know if she was the only mixed-up person in the world who felt completely and utterly alone.”

“So you see, it all depends on which side of the fence you're looking from.”


If I could give this book a million stars, I would. It was THAT good. My insides felt like they would rip apart and I wanted to scream and cry. And THAT is what makes a GREAT book. This book had me emotionally charged, to say the least.

It is the 1930's. We meet Lilly. She is a young girl kept locked in the attic by her parents - for her own good, they believe. The reason? "God forgot to give me color," says the little girl. My heart broke at this remark. Nowadays being an albino is not a big deal, but back in the 1930's.. you were considered a freak..a monster..or as Lilly's mother told abomination. In the middle of the night, her mother told her that she had a surprise for her. That she was going to let her out of the attic AND take her to a private viewing of the circus that came to town. She took her by the hand and led her out into the night into the middle of the forest. A man met them. This man worked for a freak show and the girl's mother sold her to him..And this was the life she was given..

This story impacted me in a profound way. And I do feel it necessary to warn that there are upsetting themes in this novel. As a huge advocate for the humane treatment of animals I was deeply saddened by the gross maltreatment of animals in this book. This book centered around a circus and a freak show. The treatment of the animals in the circus was very cruel and inhumane and upsetting. With that being said, it was also an accurate portrayal of the time period. I think the author did some amazing research and I felt almost like I was there..transported into that era. I think that is a truly remarkable gift for an author to have the ability to transport their reader anywhere in the world. That is the gift of reading, after all. And this book, reminded me over and over again..why it is I am so passionate about reading.
THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN by ELLEN MARIE WISEMAN was a moving, haunting, and heartbreaking tale with an intriguing and engaging storyline that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I have a fascination for circus themed books and this one kept me entertained and spellbound right to the very end.

ELLEN MARIE WISEMAN delivers a vivid, descriptive, and well-written read here with some uncomfortable and cringe worthy scenes that were difficult to read at times. The story is told in alternating perspectives of two very different and remarkable young women from Lilly Blackwood in the 1930’s and Julia Blackwood in the 1950’s.  I enjoyed both perspectives and stories equally. How these two women are connected to each other and their stories is the beauty of this novel.

To sum it all up it was heart-wrenching, sad, hopeful, and a compelling fast-paced read with an ending that I found to be totally satisfying and shocking.  I also love that cover and the title of this book and found both to be extremely fitting to this novel.  Would recommend!!!
The Life She Was Given is a riveting, heart-wrenching story, a book unlike anything I've ever read!! 
My heart was racing from the very first page; my heart was pulled in a million different directions. The Life She Was Given runs the gamut of emotions; tender and terrifying, heartbreaking and hopeful. Julia and Lilly, two young women, decades apart, who grew up unloved, victimized and mistreated; can they overcome their dismal childhoods, and find a path to resilience, strength, love, and happiness? This book, these characters, their stories, are going to live in my head and my heart forever.
It was 1931 and Lilly Blackwood had spent her entire short life in the attic bedroom of her parent’s house. Never allowed outside or even downstairs in case “someone saw her” - she was told by her Momma that she was an abomination. But things changed the night her Momma took her across the paddock of their land to the lights and tents of a circus which had arrived only a couple of days previously. The sights and sounds, even the smells, were frightening to Lilly – the sky big and vast. She had no idea “outside” would be like that. And when her Momma left her with the horrible man after taking money from him – and walked away, ten-year-old Lilly was devastated…

Over twenty years later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood was living rough – her waitress job only just paid the rent but she had nothing left over for food. Julia had run away from home three years previously, after finally having enough of her cruel and vindictive mother. When she was notified that she had inherited her parent’s estate, she was unsure if she wanted to return. But knowing her mother would no longer be at the house made the decision easier…

Julia’s return to her childhood home brought back distressing memories for her – but when she found evidence of a mystery surrounding a circus and a young girl, Julia’s interest was piqued. What did the deep, dark secrets hide that she felt were right there? Who was this beautiful young woman? And what was hidden in the depths of the old house and its locked rooms?

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman is an amazing, emotional, heart rending story of two young women and the traumatic and hopeless lives they both lived. It’s a story of evil and hope – of fleeting happiness and dark despair. And it’s a story unlike any I’ve ever read before and I thoroughly enjoyed it! My first by this author, and it won’t be my last. A most highly recommended tale. (The cover is perfect - eye catching and just right!)
Circus themed books are a hit or miss for me so I was slightly wary when starting this book. It had received some great reviews from my Goodreads friends and so I thought I’d give it a go.

The novel is told from two points of view. We first meet Lilly, in the early 1930’s. who is a little girl living locked in an attic for 10 years with nothing known of the outside world except what she reads in books and the little that she can see out of her window. She was told over and over throughout her life that she was an abomination, that if anyone saw her they would be frightened of her and maybe do her harm. “Lilly didn’t know what an abomination was, but is sounded bad. Her shoulders dropped and she sighed in the stillness of her room”.

She never had a mirror in her room but only saw a vague image of herself when it was dark outside and she saw her reflection in the window of her small room. Her mother is a religious fanatic who thinks that Lilly’s “condition” is her punishment for wishing so desperately for a child that she would sell her soul to the devil. Her father is a spineless man who does nothing to help Lilly, he instead escapes into alcohol.

When Lilly is age 10 the circus comes to town and her mother does what is almost incredible to believe, she sells her daughter to the circus. It is finally here that Lilly understands about her “condition” and makes friends and enemies among the circus people. Her story is a wonder to read and I kept wanting to get back to her story when I was reading Julia’s chapters.

We then meet Julia who is an 18 year old living in the early 1950’s. She ran away from a suffocating home environment when she was very young and is now struggling to make a life, working in a diner and living with an abusive boyfriend. She is astonished when a knock at the door brings her the news that her estranged parents have left their entire estate, Blackwood Manor, that home that she fled, to her, along with all of their assets, it is quite a fortune. She isn’t sure if she wants to return but feels that it has to be better than her current situation.

She finds that she has not only inherited Blackwood Manor but a family mystery which she is determined to solve. Through a lot of sleuthing and discovery Julia finds out the truth about the sister whom she was told had died and all of the astonishing things that had transpired while she was growing up and living in the same house. “She went into the dormer and tried to look out. She imagined a little girl, her sister, standing where she stood, looking out and wondering what else lay beyond this grimy window. Goose bumps rose on her arms. The longer she was in the room, the more nauseous she felt. Maybe there weren’t rats in the attic after all. Maybe it was her sister all along, making the noises in the ceilings and walls. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up.”

I found the writing to be very good, descriptive and rich in verse describing some incredible people. Some so self involved and evil they are hard to comprehend and others so kind, forgiving and loving that they make the world shine. The history of Blackwood Manor makes for a very interesting read and I don’t think that you will be disappointed. The fact that some of the book is based on actual fact makes the story so much more incredible.

Lilly was born an albino in the early 1930s during the depression to a family that was fairly well off during that time, the family owned Blackwood Manor and horse farm. Lilly’s mother kept her locked up in the attic until Lilly was ten years old before selling her to the Circus where she became a member of the “freak show”. All the time Lilly was locked up in the attic, hidden away from the outside world, her mother told her she was a monster and an abomination. Her mother was a religious fanatic and kept Bibles in Lilly’s tiny attic room and made her pray and read scripture devoutly. It’s hard to say if her mother was always this way with religion, or if she became that way after Lily was born, it doesn’t really say in the book, i’m guessing maybe after the birth of Lily, because, after having eight miscarriages, her mother vowed to sell her soul to the devil for a baby, and after Lilly was born with her condition, her mother believed it was because of the deal she made with the devil. Through the happenings of Lilly’s tragic and sad life it would seem like Lilly was absolutely a cursed child no doubt.

In the second chapter we meet Julia an eighteen year old girl in the 1950s. She is a struggling, barely getting by waitress in a little diner, she is not sure if she is going to have a meal that night or be able to pay her rent for the apartment she and her abusive boyfriend are living in. A private investigator shows up to the diner one night with a letter, informing Julia that she has inherited her childhood home, the home that she ran away from two years prior, is now hers. Her mother has passed and left the Blackwood Manor to her. Arriving at the creepy and possibly haunted manor, she discovers a disturbing secret that she is determined to get to the bottom of. From here bombshell after bombshell is dropped, right to the very last page. A few times I actually gasped and whispered “oh my gosh.”

I enjoyed this book immensely, this story has stuck in my mind, it really had an impact on me. The author really did a wonderful job with her research of that time period, and took some actual true events from history and weaved them into this unique skin crawling story. Knowing that a lot of the story was inspired by actual events makes this story that much more gripping. I saved this book to read at the end of my day, which for me is when I save the best books to read, it is the quietest and the time when everyone is unwinding themselves or already in bed. This is my me time. Unfortunately, this is when i’m in my bed, before going to sleep. Unfortunate because this book was too good to put down and two nights in a row I stayed up all night reading. This is a must read!
I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this book about a circus. But after reading all the reviews on Goodreads, I decided to get it as soon at came into my library. 
There are a lot of very uncomfortable things that go on like child abuse and animal abuse in the circus. A lot of family secrets throughout and the ending …. SHOCKING! I was not expecting the ending at all!! This book grabbed me from page 1 and kept me totally “hooked” from beginning to end. I did not want to put this book down and I read it in one day! This book is just so heartbreaking and for this reason, I’m giving it 5 stars.

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,993 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge download or read it online for free
Another Day in the Death of America
by Gary Younge
On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost.

This powerful and moving work puts a human face—a child’s face—on the “collateral damage” of gun deaths across the country. This is not a book about gun control, but about what happens in a country where it does not exist. What emerges in these pages is a searing and urgent portrait of youth, family, and firearms in America today.

“Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened, "writes Leovy in Ghettoside. "Signal that no one cares, and fail to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.”

“But they can explain a great deal. The circumstances into which people are born and the range of opportunities to which they are exposed shape both the choices available to them and the process by which they make those choices even if they, ultimately, still make the choice. I have yet to meet anyone who denies that individuals have free will. But I also have yet to meet anyone who makes a convincing argument that circumstances don’t shape what you can do with that will.”


Heartbreaking book of an ordinary day in America where 10 young men are killed by guns...

Gary Younge picked November 23, 2013 as the random day to track and report on the children and teens in America who were killed by gunfire. On this day the victims numbered ten, in comparison to an average day of seven. The victims were all male, from across the United States and between the ages of 9 and 19. The circumstances varied from opening the door to an angry father to playing with a gun with a friend. Each of the TEN stories was powerful and sad.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives was a 2016 GRCA finalist in the non-fiction category. It is a disturbing, but riveting read that invokes questions of how and why we accept these tragic deaths of children as ordinary instead of taking immediate action to stop the killing.

“So long as you have a society with a lot of guns- and America has more guns per capita than any other county in the world- children will be at risk of being shot. The questions are how much risk, and what, if anything, is being done to minimize it? If one thinks of various ways in which commonplace items, from car seats to medicine bottle tops, have been childproofed, it's clear that society's general desire has been to eliminate as many potential dangers from children as possible, even when the number of those who might be harmed is relatively small. If one child's death is preventable, then the proper question isn't "Why should we do this" but rather "Why shouldn't we?" It would be strange for that principle to apple to everything but guns.”
Having finished this book I am left with the overwhelming impression that it was a book that needed to be written. Author Gary Younge is a journalist who spent many years living in the States. Although living in America, he is British and as a black man he was very aware of both the differences and similarities between cultures. One of the most obvious differences is the number of guns that are readily available in the States. I don’t think most Americans understand how shocked us Brits are to visit a supermarket in America and find guns openly on sale. Younge himself was shocked, after snow thawed in the spring and a gun was found near his house and another near his children’s school.

Every day in America, on average, ten children are killed by guns. That is not including suicides, just murders. In fact, gunshot fatalities are so common that they are often not reported. The murder of a child does not even merit a mention on the news, or a paragraph in a newspaper – especially if the child in question is poor or black. The author’s idea was a simple one and incredibly moving. He took an ‘average’ day – Saturday 23rd November, 2013. On this day, ten children were killed (possibly more in fact, but these are those that he could find). The youngest was nine years old and the eldest nineteen. You may say that nineteen is not a child. My eldest child is nineteen and he is currently at university – possibly straddling the difficult age between childhood and adulthood. One of the teenagers killed, eighteen year old Gustin Hinnant, listed his favourite movies as, “Toy Story,” and “Happy Feet.” Despite any bravado or teenage posturing, these are children…

In this book, Younge tells the stories of these children. As also befits the ‘average’ statistics around such shootings, all of these were boys. One was white, two Hispanic and seven were black. They were all from poor backgrounds, meaning that most lived the areas that experience the most crime. These boys were all individuals though and so were their stories and their deaths. These shootings range from gang related killings to an unsupervised boy shooting his friend in a town where hunting seems to be the main preoccupation and loaded weapons available and accessible.

Much of this book is depressing, dispiriting and tragic. Along with the boys stories, Younge weaves the history of gun related crimes into the text. There is the terrible statistic that between 20 and 30 percent of Chicago children in public schools have witnessed a shooting, the fact that poorer parents often do shift work and thus cannot both be at home and earning a living – leaving their children in areas they know are unsafe and, perhaps most depressing, is the fact that parents of these children are often blamed by both the media and their own community. Alongside the fact that the community is unable to face the fact that society has a role in these horrifying statistics, there is the accompanying fact that most of those interviewed seemed to accept without question the presence of guns in their country. Those who own guns can claim that it is personal responsibility and teaching safety that is important, but until America really faces the facts that they have more gun deaths than any country that is not at war, and does something about it, then nothing will change. The names below represent ten of those unlived lives that represent the sad statistics. Ten children killed by guns – every day, including today.

Jaiden Dixon
Kenneth Mills-Tucker
Stanley Taylor
Pedro Cortez
Tyler Dunn
Edwin Rajo
Samuel Brightmon
Tyshon Anderson
Gary Anderson
Gustin Hinnant

This was a very well written, intelligent and thoughtful read. I was very impressed by Gary Younge as both an author and a journalist and I certainly want to explore more of his work.
Another Day in the Death of America is an interesting and stark look at the effects of gun violence in the United States. 
Gary Young is a UK born journalist who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He decided to take a random day in 2013 and look at all of the deaths of children caused by guns that day. His definition of children is fairly expansive, but he looks in some detail at the deaths of 10 children, ranging in age from 7 years old to 19 years -- which is close to the daily average of 7 deaths. Each chapter is about one child and the circumstances of his death -- they are all boys. Some deaths are accidents and some are intentional. Most kids are black or Hispanic, and live in difficult economic and family circumstances -- but not all of them. And most of them have close ties with their mothers, siblings, friends and teachers who give a human face to what have often been short lived and brief news stories. Young's premise is that while these deaths are often tied the challenging circumstances in which each child lives, the frequency and commonality of these deaths is due to the prevalence of guns in the US and the lack of gun control. Interspersed amongst the narratives about each child, Younge presents statistics, historical information and analysis in support of his argument. Coming from Canada where guns are far less common and much more tightly controlled, it wasn't hard for Younge to convince me. But I still found this an interesting, sad and scary read -- and from the sidelines it strikes me as a very timely topic for the US and an original approach to tackling it.
The idea of this book is simple – take a random day (Saturday, 23 November 2013) and write an account of all the kids who were shot and killed in that 24 hour period in the USA. There were ten. (Note – suicides are omitted because they are never reported. So the figure is probably higher than ten.)

The author Gary Younge (a black British journalist) quickly makes clear : this is not a book about the need for gun control, although to a British reader, it may appear that it is. Gary Younge is writing about the whole difficult Gordian knot of intractable problems which has led the USA into the horrendous levels of violence it now suffers.

We do have to mention some comparative figures.

In the USA (population 323 million) in 2014 there were 15, 872 homicides, of which 11,008 were homicide by firearm

In the UK which has a population of 65 million there were 573 homicides in 2016 in total of which 51 were by firearms

There are cities in America which have more murders than the whole of the UK. Such as Chicago (population around 3 million) – 762 in 2016.


Here are the basic details of the cases in this book.

Jaiden Dixon. Grove City, Ohio. Aged 9. Killed by his mother’s deranged ex-boyfriend.
Moral of this story : sometimes there’s nothing you can do.

Kenneth Mills-Tucker, Indianapolis. Aged 19. Shot on the street, no one arrested, no motive discovered.
Moral of this story : don’t walk around at night.

Stanley Taylor, Charlotte NC. Aged 17. Shot by a 27 year old guy at a gas station. No motive discovered. No arrest.
Moral of this story : Don’t drive a car.

Pedro Cortez, San Jose, California. Aged 18. Drive by gang murder. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t be in a gang or know anyone in a gang or know anyone who’s in a gang which you’re not aware of.

Tyler Dunn, Marlette, Michegan. Aged 11. Accidentally shot by best friend aged 12.
Moral of this story : don’t have a friend who lives in a house full of unlocked loaded guns.

Edwin Rajo, Houston. Aged 16. Accidentally shot by his female best friend.
Moral of this story : if you’re going to buy a gun for self-protection against all the gangbangers in the neighbourhood, learn how to use it.

Samuel Brightmon, Dallas. Aged 16. Random street shooting. No arrest made.
Moral of this story : if you’re young and black, don’t leave the house.

Tyshon Anderson, Chicago. Aged 18. Gang murder. No arrest made.
Moral of this story : this was the only acknowledged gangbanger of the ten victims. So, I guess, the moral is you reap what you sow. But the other nine victims never reaped what they sowed. So that moral is just not true.

Gary Anderson, Newark NJ. Aged 18. Shot in a drive-by, everyone agreed it was mistaken identity. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t look like anyone else.

Gustin Hinnant, Goldsboro NC. Aged 18. Everyone agrees, shot by accident. They were aiming at the other guy in the car. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t leave the house, don’t have any friends


This book is a companion piece to another wrenching piece of journalism, Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, which I also recommend. Both books cover the same ground in different ways. But heck, there are so many others too. This is not uncharted territory. Great tv shows like Homicide and The Wire have charted all this stuff already. But it seems every time we get reminded of it, we then forget.

What Gary Younge does is lament the invisibility of these kids’ deaths (they barely register in the media, after 24 hours they’re gone and forgotten) and link them to various immense trends in American society. He interviews the families where he can (some refuse to speak); he transcribes 911 calls; he creates portraits of these kids as far as he’s able. As you can see from the summary, in seven of the ten cases no murderer was ever discovered, no arrests were made.

This book takes a snapshot of a society in which these deaths are uniquely possible and that has a political culture apparently uniquely incapable of creating a world in which they might be prevented

We get pages on the collapse of manufacturing, the implosion of the black family, the failure of politics, the corrosive segregation of the American city –He throws out various insights. Regarding the famous school/workplace/mass shootings, he remarks

They disturb America’s self-image and provoke its conscience in a way that the daily torrent of gun deaths does not

And he ploughs on to the next sad case. Okay, you may be thinking this is not a very cheerful or hopeful book. You’d be right. “Researching this book has made me want to scream” he says in the Afterword. That may be your reaction too.
5★ (Read and reviewed February 18, 2017)

I considered a lower rating, but Younge makes the subject so compelling and the people so familiar, I don't know how he could have done it any better.

WARNING: if you have lost someone through sudden violence, especially a child, this book, and possibly my review, is going to be even more disturbing than it is for someone like me, who has lived a pretty sheltered life. And he lets us into these families’ lives so well, that I’m still afraid for them all.

Author Gary Younge is in a unique position to look at the American way of life and death, and I think he’s done an admirable job.

“I was raised black and poor (though in England, where race and class interact differently), and I have two black American children.”

He says when he moved to Chicago, his son’s day care centre had a meeting on traffic awareness. The teacher recommended that parents travel the same route to school so that kids might have some sense of where they are. Then the teacher explained the routes the centre uses to take kids on outings.

“One of the parents asked whether they would continue to pass the site by the subway where there had been a recent shoot-out. The teacher smiled. ‘I knew that would come up,’ he sighed. ‘It’s a good point, and we are really going to have to get on top of it. We must talk to the children about how to handle situations like that, because the big problem in those moments is that they panic.’

I thought this was odd. Panic in the presence of gunfire seems a perfectly rational response, whether you’re four or forty-four. The problem, it seemed to me, wasn’t the panic but the shooting.”

Un-bloody-believable! He says in England, sometimes the culture feels more violent (fights and such) but less deadly.

He mentions that the first child who died on Saturday, November 23, 2013, was actually shot on November 22, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy. But he said he just chose a Saturday, because “it’s over the weekend, when school is out and parties are on, that the young are most likely to be shot.”

He also explains, “it is not a book about gun control; it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control.”

He pulls no punches for his readers, rather he tells these stories with great care and concern and with affection for some of the victims and families he came to know. They are the ones left with the empty chair at the table, the bedroom with clothes strewn around, posters on the wall. It’s impossible not to share the sudden, violent and unexpected loss of their kids.

I'll mention only a couple of stories, but there is a chapter devoted to each child and their family. How it happened that the kid was where they were, whether someone should have known better, or whether it could have been prevented. One little boy was shot point-blank when he opened the door at breakfast time to his mother’s violent, crazy ex who was the father of one of his older brothers.

The father’s own son remembered his dad had said he might opt for “suicide by cop” (to escape his troubles) but never thought to find out what that meant. The father was, indeed, gunned down, but that didn’t save the little boy.

I grew up in America a long time ago and was never aware of guns, except for hunting. It was more like the movie “Grease” where parents worried about their kid joining a gang and getting beaten up or maybe stabbed with a switchblade (flick knife). How times change.

The father of one victim said “Back in the day, when we grew up, you get in a fight, somebody might jump you, you know, but the next day you speak to the person and you keep going. But now you get in an argument with somebody, they come back and shoot you.”

These days:
“Many young people in certain areas are gang members in the same way that Soviet citizens were members of the Communist Party . . . – there was precious little choice.”

California is divided between north and south at Bakersfield: Noreños and Sureños, with special dot tattoos. They wear blue or red (nothing political!), and one grandmother said she always took away her grandson’s red shirts, in case it made him a target. It didn’t save him.

I’ve lived in Australia since the late 60s, and nobody really ever talked about or heard much about guns, except for farmers and hunters and The Mob (or whatever we called them then), until the Port Arthur Massacre led to gun law changes (see below).

“Five years after his retirement from the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by Nixon, insisted that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word 'fraud' – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Younge explains, the New York Times did some investigations in 2013 and reported:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced findings and reports on how to limit gun deaths in the same way that they produce reports on healthy eating and how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. They found, among other things, that the presence of guns in the home increased the likelihood of death rather than reduced it. The National Rifle Association was not pleased with this particular conclusion or the research in general.

Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,’ Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, told The New York Times. ‘Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.’ So the NRA used their immense lobbying power to effectively put a stop to the government’s finding out how to make people safer around guns.”

No. They were promoting the idea that one of the biggest risks to the health of children in America was the lack of safety around guns. One kid in this book came home from school to show demonstrate the gun safety lesson they'd had. He too the gun out of the cupboard, loaded it, went to put it back and it discharged, killing his friend. He understood the safety lesson . . . but not well enough to have a gun where he could get it.

Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream . . . I’ve wanted to scream at journalists and police to treat these deaths as though the lives mattered.

But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular, it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for its youth and children—for my children—but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.”

Our family sold back the only newly illegal repeating shotgun from our farm and kept the rifles and shotguns that were still okay. When we quit farming, we sold the guns, lock, stock and barrel to another farmer, along with the heavy steel cabinet that bolts to the floor.
"Brilliantly reported, quietly indignant, and utterly gripping. A book to be read through tears."-NAOMI KLEIN

I don't know who Naomi Klein is, but she is spot on with that quote. Gary Younge, an accomplished journalist, a Briton, and a black man, searches for understanding of these daily senseless killings and their anonymous victims. Like Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, this book haunts me with it's powerful message about a heartbreaking trend in the America that I don't see or even hear about. This book is so important. I'd like to quote the entire Afterward here but instead I will encourage everyone to read this book. Something has to give. 5 stars

    Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream. But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular, it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for the youth and children – for my children – but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.
    I want to bay toward the heavens, because while kids like those featured in this book keep dying, the political class refuses to do not only everything in its power but anything at all to minimize the risks for the kids who will be shot dead today or tomorrow. 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  25,020 Ratings  ·  2,980 Reviews
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate download or read it online for free
Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate
Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

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 that the truth is much darker. 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 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—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.

“But the love of sisters needs no words. It does not depend on memories, or mementos, or proof. It runs as deep as a heartbeat. It is as ever present as a pulse.”

“Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment.”


I absolutely loved this heartbreakingly beautiful piece of writing! I'd give this book 10 stars if I could! "Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate grabbed me from the very beginning, tossed my emotions around like a salad, and never let go! I didn't want it to end.

I listened to the audio version! Both narrators deserve huge props for their performances! I actually think this novel was enhanced by the superb narration!

There are two storylines going on in this novel, one in 1939 and one is present day. They slowly unravel and come together. I thought the writing was wonderful and so were the characters in both storylines. As gut wrenching as this novel is I feel it is an important story that must be read!

There is a bit of chick lit to the part of this story taking place in modern day. I actually enjoyed the bit of romance in it, but I know some diehard historically fiction fans might not.

People are comparing this to "The Orphan Train". In my humble opinion it's a much better book.
Oh. My. Goodness. What a great read..... If you're ready for a story you can really sink your teeth into with characters that virtually come to life, here you go.

"Adoption matron may have been most prolific serial killer."

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS takes the reader on a heartbreaking, but mesmerizing journey depicting shocking truths about the real life Tennessee Children's Home Society that was active from the 1920's thru organization that basically schemed, lied, kidnapped and brokered children for profit.....while neglecting, molesting, and horrifically abusing those in their "so called" care even to the point of death.

But all is not doom and gloom......We have two stories that unfold here; while one family is literally being ripped apart, a member of another family discovers truths about herself and an unbelievable family secret....while finding true love.

Interesting and important work of historical fiction. Need to check out more from Lisa Wingate!
'Before We Were Yours' is a highly emotional and moving fictional story, inspired by true events. Through the telling of this story, Lisa Wingate sheds light on the despicable real life actions of Georgia Tann, a woman that ran a black market child trafficking ring masked as a legitimate adoption agency for decades in Tennessee. She catered to the rich and famous, providing largely blond-haired and light-eyed children to those that could afford to pay her outrageous price. She made millions off of the sale of children, who were often kidnapped.

This book spans generations, alternating between present-day and the past. The "past" story is narrated by the oldest Foss sibling, Rill (aka May). Avery Stafford, a former federal prosecutor and the daughter of a prominent Senator, tells the present-day story. Gradually, the two storylines intersect and the connection comes to light.

The fictional story of the five Foss children parallels the real life experiences of hundreds of victims of Georgia Tann's illegal adoption agency, the Tennessee Children's Home Society. The children are stolen from their family's riverboat one night in 1939. Their parents have to go to the hospital due to complications with their mother's pregnancy and childbirth. Left alone, the children are taken by corrupt police officers working for the notorious child trafficker.

Immediately, the children are thrust into a grim situation. They experience abuse and cruelty at the hands of the people running the "orphanage". Tragedy and loss become all that they know as they are stripped of their former identities. Separated, renamed and adopted out, their lives are forever changed.

Avery Stafford first meets May when she is visiting a nursing home to support her father's political campaign. There is something about the elderly lady that calls to her. Later, when she is contacted by the nursing home administrator to say that May took her bracelet, she goes against the administrator's instructions and decides to visit with the lady personally. Their first meeting sets a series of events in motion.

Avery begins digging into the past. She is determined to uncover the connection between her grandmother, who suffers from dementia, and the mysterious woman that she met at the nursing home. In her brief moments of lucidity, her grandmother's appears to light up with recognition when she mentions May. However, she is less than forthcoming. Avery is left to follow the cryptic clues if she wants to unearth her grandmother's secrets, knowing it may be the downfall of her highly public family.

This is the type of story that raises awareness and will leave you feeling outraged. It was emotional, inspiring and heartfelt. I was completely lost in the plight of the Foss children, while I was heartbroken by the absolute injustice of it all.

Ms. Wingate did a beautiful job of merging fact and fiction. The writing was flawless and the story was well-crafted. My heart went out to the Foss children, as I lost myself in their story.

Like so many others, I was completely unaware of the existence of this illegal adoption agency and the wide-spread corruption that allowed these child traffickers to prosper for so many years. This book prompted me to educate myself on the topic and I was appalled by what I found.

This was a tragic, and often depressing, story. However, I am so glad that I read it. It is an important story and one that needed to be told. It definitely isn't a rainbows and unicorns type of story, but it will move you and leave a lasting impression.
4.5 stars! What a heart-wrenching, powerful and emotional read!

I’ll start by explaining that ever since I laid eyes on this cover a few months ago, I haven’t stopped thinking of this book. There is just something about this cover that calls to me and makes me want to reach into the picture to hug and comfort these two little girls. I have never had a book cover ‘speak’ to me as powerfully as this one does.

With that being said, I was so happy that the actual story lived up to my hopes from the cover. It was an emotional, shocking and devastating story that I simply cannot stop thinking about. This fictional novel was based on true events surrounding Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage which was an organization involved with the kidnapping of children and their illegal adoptions. Tann made millions from her black-market baby adoption scheme from the 1920’s to 1950. I had not heard of this sickening piece of history until I read this and I have been googling and researching it since I finished this book. I have a hard time accepting this actually happened – it is so shocking and upsetting.

This novel follows the lives of the five Foss siblings who grow up living on a Mississippi River shantyboat with their parents in 1939. They have a unique and wild childhood with parents who shower them with love and affection in unconventional ways. One of the children, Twelve-year-old Rill Foss, grows up taking care of her younger siblings, often fulfilling parental roles. Rill is one of the narrators of the book and she is a character I will not soon forget - I absolutely adored her!

The present day story wasn't as interesting and slightly took away from my overall enjoyment. However, Rill's story more than makes up for it.

I highly recommend this wonderfully written and well researched book! This will definitely stay on my mind for a long time.

I will end with one of the several quotes that stood out for me. “I learned that you need not be born into a family to be loved by one.”
I don't read a lot of non fiction so I really appreciate when a novel can enlighten me on things that happened that I wouldn't have otherwise known about . 
As in Orphan Train when I first learned about their existence or in What She Left Behind, which highlights the atrocities of a mental institution and in particular the treatment of women, this story inspired by real events relays the sad story of a family torn apart by the greed and horrible acts against children and their families. The author explains in her note that the characters are fictional but the place and the circumstances and the woman who perpetrated these acts are real. In a recent interview Wingate described the seed for this story.

" A rerun of the Investigation Discovery: Dangerous Women cycled through at about two in the morning. I looked up and saw images of an old mansion. The front room was filled with bassinettes and babies. I tuned in and immediately became fascinated by the bizarre, tragic, and startling history of Georgia Tann and her Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. I couldn’t help but dig into the story. That was the spark that ignited Before We Were Yours." 5/29/17 in an interview on The Untold Story Guru.

The reality of what happened to numerous children from 1920 - 1960 is depicted through the story of five siblings taken illegally and subjected to the adoption for money system spearheaded by Tann. I said that the story is sad, but that's an understatement. It really is heartbreaking and though the characters are fictional, I couldn't help but think about the real children who were affected. There are past and present storylines that do come together and make for a captivating read. The Goodreads description provides more plot details, which I will leave out here and just say that I definitely recommend it. I can't quite give it 5 stars as I felt that the romantic thread in the current story diluted the story a bit for me . It didn't add to the importance in my opinion. Having said that, this is a worthy read, eye opening and heart wrenching with a thoughtful and satisfying ending.
An amazing,don't want to put down, hold the book in a big hug and wish this story never ended. Sigh* BUT....

This grabbed me from the get go. Two stories told simultaneously during 2 different time periods.
Avery's story, present day. She's an attorney who has met up with a woman in a nursing home who says she looks familiar. Curiosity starts to open this Pandora's box. Rill, a river rat, has been kidnapped along with her 4 siblings back in the 30's and sent to an orphanage to be sold to the highest bidder. Secrets are revealed that threaten to destroy a political family. Based on reality, which is disturbing in itself, I'm still left baffled. How does Judy fit in here? What did I miss?? I did have some wine while I was reading this but not during its entirety. I loved the writing, I didn't mind the romance but it could have been a great story without it.

4.5 ⭐️ and a big thanks to Jen M. for her sleuthing efforts for assisting me with the final piece of the puzzle!
One of the perks of being a reasonably successful author is that the FedEx man regularly brings me Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of soon-to-be-published novels. These are sent by editors who are hoping I'll read the book and offer a blurb, which will then go on the back of the book.

The latest was BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate. I just finished it and am sort of wallowing in the post-novel afterglow, completely blown away.

This was such a powerful, satisfying read about a group of sibling children who were cast into the Tennessee Children's Home Society in the late 30s, run by notorious child-trafficker, Georgia Tann, who kidnapped children and sold them to wealthy families.

I highly recommend adding it to your "To read" list.

Baltimore, Maryland
AUGUST 3, 1939

“My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon. The room takes life only in my imaginings. It is large most days when I conjure it. The walls are white and clean, the bed linens crisp as a fallen leaf. The private suite has the very finest of everything. Outside, the breeze is weary, and the cicadas throb in the tall trees, their verdant hiding places just below the window frames. The screens sway inward as the attic fan rattles overhead, pulling at wet air that has no desire to be moved.

“The scent of pine wafts in, and the woman’s screams press out as the nurses hold her fast to the bed. Sweat pools on her skin and rushes down her face and arms and legs. She’d be horrified if she were aware of this.

“She is pretty. A gentle, fragile soul. Not the sort who would intentionally bring about the catastrophic unraveling that is only, this moment, beginning. In my multifold years of life, I have learned that most people get along as best they can. They don’t intent to hurt anyone. It is merely a terrible by-product of surviving.”

This is the story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, the facility, “home,” where Rill Foss, who will be renamed May Weathers, and her siblings who become wards, as well, are also all renamed by Georgia Tann. Tann ran the TCHS from the 1920s until the 1950’s. Her goal was not a lofty one, but for earthly riches – the kind you can deposit in the bank. The children were occasionally surrendered; often women under the influences of drugs during labor were forced to sign paperwork they couldn’t see well enough to understand even if they could read it. Often, the children were taken from their own front yards, stolen.

Alternating between the present and the past, this weaves two narratives of some of the children who ended up at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, their story as the children who have just been brought to the TCHS, what treatment they endured, survived – although, not all survived – and how these events shaped them as adults, as parents themselves.

What drew me back in, over and over again, was that I still found myself wanting to know what had happened to this family, and especially to Rill. What a marvelous character, a young girl in years, but ageless in wisdom, born to the river – I wanted to know the rest of her story.

Engaging, emotional, a slow unraveling of the history, weaving in present day dilemmas which, needless to say, pale by comparison - against the ones these children endured. That seems to be the way that life is. It’s so easy to complain about small things, until you wake up to the news that Mexico has had a devastating earthquake, or see the latest news about the wildfires in California, or that Puerto Rico still is mostly without electricity, food, water.

In the note from the author section, Wingate notes:

“The Foss children and the Arcadia were formed from the dust of imagination and the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. Though Rill and her siblings exist only in these pages, their experiences mirror those reported by children who were taken from the families from the 1920s through 1950.

“The true story of Georgia Tann and the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society is a bizarre and sad paradox. There is little doubt that the organization rescued many children from deplorable, dangerous circumstances, or simply accepted children who were unwanted and place them in loving home. There is also little doubt that countless children were taken from loving parents without cause or due process and never seen again by their desperately grieving biological families.” 


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  12,261 Ratings  ·  2,133 Reviews
From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid download or read it online for free here
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.


Evelyn Hugo going to tell me just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat but never enough to truly reveal anything?

I can't say for sure what drew me to this book. It's not the kind of thing I usually pick up, and I haven't read anything by Reid before. But something about it intrigued me. So I checked out the kindle sample. Just a couple chapters, I figured, because I probably wouldn't like it anyway. And I was HOOKED.

It's perfect, easy beach read material. It's not particularly deep, it does not take the genre to new levels or make you think about something new, and yet it DID feel different. Evelyn Hugo's story was so delicious and compelling that it stood out, and kept me turning pages in a desperate need to discover the stories behind her seven husbands, and the answer to the one question everyone wants to know: who was her greatest love?

The framing of the story reminded me a lot of The Thirteenth Tale. Like that book, in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a young woman - this time an ambitious journalist called Monique Grant - goes to interview an elderly woman. Unlike The Thirteenth Tale, this elderly woman happens to be one of the most famous actresses in the world.

Evelyn Hugo has lived a life in the public eye, but she is full of secrets. Only she knows what happened behind the scenes in her long career of scandals and highly-publicized heartbreaks. Just like the fictional world of the book longed to know the truth-- so did I. Reid and Evelyn's habit of giving you just enough to leave you wanting more was incredibly exciting. Throughout, we are encouraged to wonder why someone like Evelyn Hugo would specifically request a relatively-inexperienced journalist like Monique. Why Monique? What is Evelyn hiding?

The more I got to know Evelyn, the more I fell in love with her. She has made a lot of controversial decisions during her career, but she knows it and she also knows she'd probably do it all again. She's played the Hollywood game, dated famous men to further her career, and used her body to get what she wants. She has experienced the full force of the industry's sexism and, in some ways, capitalized on it. She is deeply flawed and aware of it. She has traded important aspects of her identity for more fame, more roles, more money. She was a badass Cuban woman working in an industry that didn't like women to be badass or Cuban. She manipulated and she lied. Despite everything, I liked her.

I stayed fully engrossed in the story of Evelyn Hugo - and of Monique Grant - from the opening chapters when Evelyn demanded an interview with only Monique, through decades of Hollywood in all its shimmering ugliness, right until the ending's final reveals. I enjoyed every moment.
Evelyn Hugo, born Evelyn Elena Herrera, daughter of Cuban immigrants, grew up poor in Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. By 1955 she was in Hollywood.
Evelyn is tall and slim as a ballerina, with straight thick eyebrows, oversize almond shape eyes, blonde hair, ( dyed only after she arrives in Hollywood to help her get acting roles), rich, powerful, charming, and exudes a casualness and confidence that makes her all the more radiating.
This enchanting lovely woman was humble - down to earth in areas that mattered. Yes, she had seven husbands, too!

I was quickly bewitched, fully captivated by Evelyn Hugo. It was her calm wisdom - humble but direct speaking that moved me. She made a distinction about words and how they can be misleading, that made me want to SCREAM OUT AND SAY THANK YOU FOR THAT!!!!!!
There was a scene early in the book where it was very clear how one word could induce shame. Words really can hurt and paint evil pictures.... preaching...assumptions before asking.... sarcasm.....etc.
I sat and thought about all the times people have used words - not chosen them carefully - and as a result I'd feel hurt or belittled. I'm no better. I also thought about times I did the same to others. Words do hurt and damage the spirit- and the trust of relationships. Ms. Hugo, 79 year old Hollywood legend, handled those 'wrong words' with grace, correcting - teaching- inspiring her new-friend at the time while having compassion for 'herself'. Her purpose was not to hurt her friend who spoke the wrong words - but also not to allow for the misleading word to be, "misleading".
I started reading 'slower' ( wanting to take in every word out of Evelyn Hugo's mouth), when I realized this Hollywood notable Starlett was sincerely deserving- and worthy of the fans she has -- a celebrity to love!!!
I soon discovered this classy gorgeous woman had acute self-awareness, high levels of emotional intelligence, clearly socially aware, and relentlessly lived a full life of many experiences filled with joy and challenges.
I felt like I was given a gift - absorbing wisdom from this 79 year old woman. Her life experiences were fascinating, glamorous, scandalous and she herself was .....*extraordinary*. I was learning from this fictional character.

Monique Grant, Evelyn's new friend, 35 years old, is an unknown reporter at 'Vivant', in Los Angeles. Evelyn wants Monique to write a book about her life story. Everyone in the journalism community- including Monique's boss, Frankie, were shocked that Evelyn asked for Monique. ONLY Monique -- or no deal at all!!! There are some complications for Monique to figure out with work--plus her husband, David just left her....( not even married a full year), but her life is about to change.

Why did Evelyn pick Monique to write her book? We wonder right away!!!
We also want to know about Evelyn's life - her husband's - and which one she loved the most. We have many questions as we take this journey-- and it's delicious- with many insightful life lessons and messages.

Intimacy - closeness - trust - and real friendship grows as Monique listens to Evelyn's life story. Monique is past the point of remaining objective. She knows how specular of a human being Evelyn is. Against all of her journalistic integrity Monique feels a full range of emotions for her.
Monique begins to feel a deep connection and love with Evelyn. There are many juicy stories that get revealed about Evelyn's past marriages, relationships, and movies she stars in, "Father and Daughter", "Little Women", and the title role in "Anna Karenina", however when Evelyn begins to share about her present day life......a secret door becomes unhinged. Both women will have to face the truth together.

My final words.... THIS NOVEL IS EARTH SHATTERING FABULOUS- FANTASTIC -WONDERFUL -soooooo GOOD I can barely stand it!!!!!! It's 'not' what you think it is!!!!!!
I laughed, I cried, and thankful that this book kept me cozy company while sick in bed!!!!!

Many Thanks Atria Books, Netgalley, Jamie, ( my friend who demanded I 'not' wait for the audiobook book as planned - that I RUN over to Netgalley and begged for this book and then drop everything and start reading if given the opportunity -- bless you Jamie Girl.... and last to Taylor Jenkins Reid... ( you really out-did yourself with this novel... amazing!!!! Love You for it!!)
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a 2017 Atria Books publication.

A story so well written I had to remind myself it was a work of fiction.

The cleverly titled novel appealed to my interest in old Hollywood, the scandals and cover-ups the public never had the slightest clue existed.

Evelyn Hugo is a faded movie star in advanced years who has decided to write her life story- a deliciously scandalous tell all with a sharp focus on her seven marriages.

To help with this task, she lures Monique Grant to her home under false pretenses, but soon seduces her into agreeing to take the job, by making her an offer she couldn’t resist.

The story moves slowly at first while Evelyn settles into her story and Monique learns how to handle Evelyn, often using Evelyn’s own advice against her to gain leverage.

But, once they have come to an understanding, Evelyn’s story takes center stage and what a story it was.

The first question Monique asked Evelyn is:

‘Who was the great love of your life?'

It seems like a reasonable enough question, considering Evelyn’s numerous marriages, but it turns out to be much more complicated than what it may seem on the surface.

I admit, I sat literally spellbound and mesmerized by Evelyn and her turbulent life as an actress and movie star, and the amazing twists and turns her life took in search of personal peace, love, and contentment. Her storytelling was an Academy Award performance.

Evelyn made concessions along the way to fame, allowing herself to be recreated by erasing her Cuban heritage and features, as well as leaving her first husband for a chance at fame and fortune.

Her love life takes many twists and turns as does her career, but what the public witnessed was nothing at all like what went on behind closed doors. Her life was like the old Hollywood is all ‘smoke and mirrors’ adage personified.

While Monique is the interviewer, her life and background deserves a close look. She is depressed over her failed marriage and her seemingly dead -end position at work. This gig is worth the incredible risk she takes, but she could never have guessed the monumental impact Evelyn Hugo would have on her life.

Naturally, I thought of Elizabeth Taylor and her many marriages, but the story also had a hint of Marilyn Monroe’s humble beginnings as well. However, a few of Evelyn's leading men mimicked or could have been modeled after real movie stars from that era as well.

But, the most significant points come from the relationships Evelyn developed, outside of the public eye, and how they managed to keep the situation a secret for so many years.

Each husband is given their own chapter with a special title that applies to them personally or to Evelyn’s relationship or opinion of them.

I disliked many of them, and really loved others, as did Evelyn. But beware of Evelyn’s spin on things. She is determined to tell this tale her way and her outlook is often a matter of perspective.

As things progress, I began to see how Evelyn’s influence on Monique begins to take hold. She gives good advice even if it sounds selfish, greedy, or cold. She didn’t get to be the great ‘Evelyn Hugo’ without some verve.

Although there are strong passages regarding sexuality, and the hidden secret lives people were forced to resort to in those days, for me, the powerful transformation Monique undergoes under Evelyn’s tutelage is what sticks with me the most.

Now, this story could have worked as a fictional tell all from Hollywood’s golden age, but there are a couple of 'Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night'moments you won’t see it coming, which left me utterly speechless and completely flabbergasted. My emotions exploded in a million different directions at that point.

The conclusion is riddled with rich bittersweet irony, but couldn't have been more fitting.

Overall, this is an incredibly well written story, very atmospheric, multi-layered, thought provoking, and utterly hypnotizing. Someday, I would like to re-read this one so I can absorb all those nuances I missed leading up to that stunning conclusion.

This one was so good I had a little book hangover for a couple of days. Highly recommend!!
So here is a little secret.....when I travel via plane, I make a b-line to the sundries shops in the airports to read the 'rag' magazines. I will stand in there and read a bunch of them cover to cover. I love it.
Something about those juicy stories that you think 'they can't be true, right', something about getting the glimpse of the stars and the outrageous stories, it's a guilty pleasure. Reading this one by Talylor Jenkins Reid, gave me that same wonderful, guilty pleasure feeling. But this one, I enjoyed so much more.

This was my first Traveling Sister Group Read and it was so much fun discussing this one with everyone. Here you learn the life story of starlet Evelyn Hugo. From when she was very young living in NYC, to making her move to Hollywood, and through her yes, seven husbands. It was quite the scandalous read. When I saw early review of this one, I was hooked. And that cover...gorgeous. I don't want to say too much other than to read this one. It truly was a great read that kept me enthralled the entire time. I listened while on the exercise bike and just didn't want to get off, I wanted to keep listening. The audio was very good, winning an ear phones award, and the voice of Evelyn just drew me in like she was talking to me. Not normally the type of book I read. But every now and then, you need a juicy story, that almost borders on 'chick lit'. (Is that wrong to say?) So glad I read this one.
4.5 Stars!

Traveling Sisters Group Read which I read along with Brenda, Holly, PorshaJo, Jennifer and my Mom, Linda! It was another awesome experience to read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO with this wonderful group of ladies. Thank you everyone who participated in this group read!

THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by TAYLOR JENKINS REID was a surprisingly good read for me that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish! It was a fun, wicked, and an absolutely engaging read!

Highly recommend this glamorous, scandalous, touching, and emotional saga!