A happy young family is torn apart when their mother is rushed to hospital during a stormy night. Soon after, strangers arrive to take the children to an orphanage.
The kids are told that they will be reunited with their parents soon, but it doesn’t take long for Rill Foss, the oldest of the 5, to realize that this is a lie.
Fast forward to the present day, when Avery Stafford, who was born into wealth, starts asking questions about her father’s history.
In a story that mixes the past with the present, we see a compelling drama about family, secrets, hard decisions, and regret.
When you complete the final page of this amazing drama, you’ll be left feeling empty – wishing for more novels with the same gripping story.
Lucky for you, we have found them.
Each of the books we have handpicked below either flips between the present day and the past, pulls off the secrets of family drama, or makes you question the morality of actions. Some even do all three.
If you loved reading Before We Were Yours, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the mysterious historical novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, and the heart-wrenching mystery The House At Riverton by Kate Morton.
Of course, you shouldn’t miss out on The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
Themes In Before We Were Yours
The novel, Before We Were Yours, is a heart-wrenching story that follows four key themes – Parallel Histories, Real Life Stories, Mystery, and Family.
Parallel histories are when a story follows more than one timeline.
It can either do this one after another, from historical to contemporary, at the same time making the reader flip from decade to decade as often as we turn the page, or makes us re-read the same point in time but from another perspective.
In Before We Were Yours, we flip between two timelines.
This is a great storytelling device as the center of the story is a mystery to everyone involved, as we see the repercussions without understanding the cause.
Real Life Stories
This novel was based on a real-life event. Georgia Tann stole thousands of children between 1920 and 1950.
Children were bought and sold in Memphis, and Lisa’s retelling of this tragic event is just one of the multiple stories that this devastating event created.
Throughout the story, we as readers are desperate to understand what happened to the Foss parents and how the children will survive the horrors they have found themselves in.
The concept of family is split between three ideas.
The first is protecting the family you have left, the second is peeling apart the secrets of a family without harming the people you love, and the third is finding a family when all is lost.
Books Like Before We Were Yours
Fingersmiths By Sarah Waters
Fingersmiths isn’t based on a real-life event, however, all the other themes within this novel are the same as Before We Were Yours.
There are parallel histories, a mystery that only surfaced halfway through the book, and a question of family and trust.
Without spoiling the novel – we won’t explain the mystery – the story starts as a heist.
Orphan Sue Trinder is persuaded by a con man to help him seduce a naive rich woman named Maud.
He wants her inheritance and promises to split part of it with Sue, should she become a handmaiden and wingman.
Sue lies for the Gentleman as she watches the innocent Maud fall for a scheme she doesn’t deserve.
Sue battles with her morality until a twist breaks her heart.
The story has been made into a BBC short drama and a Korean film, which is a testament to the fantastic writing and storyline of the book. However, there are some sensual scenes that some readers may find intense.
- Fantastic Shock Value
- Exciting Confusion
- Strong Story
- The Last Third Isn’t As Fulfilling
Themes – Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Sapphic, Betrayal
The House At Riverton By Kate Morton
The House at Riverton is an international bestseller.
Again, this story is not based on a real-life event, however, it still contains the themes of parallel histories, mystery, and family.
The protagonist of the novel is Grace Bradley. The story flips between 1924 and 1999, as we follow the servant as a young girl and again at the age of 98.
Knowing that Grace’s days are numbered, the director at the nursing home takes her back to the House at Riverton for a sense of nostalgia.
The event causes old memories to resurface.
Grace considered the family at Riverton an extension of her own, but with a war on the way, romance ill-considered, and mistakes that cause devastation, it becomes clear why Grace may have forgotten this point in her life.
The House at Riverton is a novel about people and passion, about mistakes and regret.
Kate Morton has a fantastic ability to walk you through a story as though you were walking through a grand garden.
The ending of this novel is arguably the best bit, as all of the mystery comes together in a shocking turn of events.
- Amazing Character Creations
- Complete Immersion
- Unique Ending
- Can Only Truly Be Enjoyed Once
Themes – Historical Fiction, Mystery, Gothic, Nostalgia, Family
The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale is a story about a family during the Second World War.
In the novel, Vianne’s husband is sent to the front lines, while she sits at home believing that France will not be invaded – and yet it does.
Her house is requested by German soldiers forcing her family into submission or they will lose their lives.
Isabelle, Vianne’s daughter, is rebellious and wants to fight against the Nazis, while Vianne is desperate to stay under the radar to keep her family alive.
This is a story about betrayal, war, hard moral decisions, and history.
It doesn’t contain the parallel history structure of our other suggestions, nor is it based on a real-life story, however, the sense of family is strong within this novel.
The friction between mother and daughter grows as they both try to protect each other.
- Fantastic Descriptions
- Gripping Story
- A Couple of Continuity Errors
Themes – Historical Fiction, Mystery, Family, World War 2, Betrayal
Orphan Train By Christina Baker Kline
Going back to the idea of orphanhood and family, the novel Orphan Train follows two women in different areas of their life.
The first is 91-year-old Vivan Daly who was part of the Orphan-Train system as a young Irish immigrant.
The second is 17-year-old Molly Ayer who is months away from “aging out” of the child welfare system. Soon she will be kicked out of her foster home.
Molly is told to look after Vivan as part of her community service – a job that is keeping her out of juvenile prison.
The story follows both of their lives through orphanhood, the emotional barriers they have created, and a sense of family among the estranged.
Vivan, in finding another lost soul, opens up about her past and the mysteries that have haunted her.
It’s these mysteries that give Molly the purpose she needs to set them both free.
Orphan Train is a powerful novel about friendship, understanding who you are, and finding yourself in the world.
It contains the parallel history format we have come to love, alongside the aching need for a family.
- Gripping Story
- Easy To Read
- Well Researched
- Feels Too “Young Adult” In Parts
Themes – Historical Fiction, Mystery, Family, Friendship, Orphanhood
Before We Were Yours is a story about family and mystery.
It uses the storytelling device of parallel histories to conceal the scandals from two generations, leaving the reader to both follow and unpack the story at the same time.
Before We Were Yours was based on a true event, but the other novels we have suggested are all layered in historical fiction.
Elements of their stories are true, in the sense that people have lived through these horrors and dramas, but they are not based on an actual event.
For historical mystery with shocking twists, choose Fingersmiths. For Dickensian drama among found families, choose The House At Riverton.
For a family torn between safety and freedom, pick The Nightingale. And for a story based on orphanhood and mystery, pick the Orphan Train.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A Sequel To Before We Were Yours?
Yes, it is called Before And After and was written by Lisa Wingate and Judy Christie. This sequel follows the real stories of those who survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal.
What Is The True Story Behind Before We Were Yours?
Before We Were Yours was based on the abuse created by Georgia Tann. She stole and bought thousands of children between 1920 and 1950 through her “orphan charity” Tennessee Children’s Home Society.
How Many Babies Did Georgia Tann Steal?
Georgia Tann stole over 5,000 children between 1920 and 1950. Both the New York and Californian governments vowed to find these children, but no investigations occurred.
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