NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a dramatic historical novel of three young women searching for family amid the destruction of the post–Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who learns of their story and its vital connection to her students’ lives.
“An absorbing historical . . . enthralling.”—Library Journal
Bestselling author Lisa Wingate brings to life startling stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as newly freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold away.
Louisiana, 1875: In the tumultuous era of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Hannie, a freed slave; Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now destitute plantation; and Juneau Jane, Lavinia’s Creole half sister. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following roads rife with vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of stolen inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and siblings before slavery’s end, the pilgrimage west reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope.
Louisiana, 1987: For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt—until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Mississippi River town. Augustine, Louisiana, is suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled live oaks and run-down plantation homes lie the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.
In this disappointing outing, Wingate (Before We Were Yours) explores the history of a small Louisiana town where a new teacher's attempt to connect with her students leads her to learn about the difficult lives of three women. After the Civil War, freed slave Hannie Gossett works at Goswood Grove as a sharecropper and spends years hoping her mother, who was sold during the war, will return. In 1875, Hannie, in hopes of finding her family, follows the daughters of the man who once owned her to Texas, where he disappeared. In 1987, Benny Silva arrives in Augustine, La., to teach at a high school with an apathetic student body. As a ploy to capture their imaginations, she researches Goswood Grove and finds records about Hannie's journey to Texas. Though the twists of Hannie's and Benny's stories will keep readers guessing, the book is marred by a lack of depth, and Hannie's reliance on and trust in her former owner is frustratingly unquestioned. Benny, meanwhile, who likens her own experiences as an Italian-American to those of her impoverished students of color, comes off as naive. This underwhelming tale is sunk by its surfeit of deficiencies.