Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Book of Lost Friends (Lisa Wingate)

One thing I love about author Lisa Wingate is that her novels depict historical events that most of us have never heard of. In her bestselling Before We Were Yours, she wrote about a fictional group of children who were stolen from their family and thrown into a Tennessee Orphanage. This particular group of children may have been fictional, but this did unfortunately happen to many other children. 

Wingate alternates timelines in The Book of Lost Friends; both take place in Louisiana, one in 1875 and the other in 1987. In 1875, three girls as different as can be set off for Texas: Lavinia, the heir to a plantation; Hannie, her former slave; and Juneau Jane, Lavinia's half-Creole sister. Hannie is on the journey for a much different reason than the other two: she wants to find the members of her long-lost family, who were wrenched from her and sold.

In 1987, Benny Silva is a first-year educator teaching at a poor rural school. Her unorthodox methods as she tries to reach her students get the attention of the school board, who is desperate to keep what the students are learning secret. The timelines of Hannie and Benny come together in a rewarding way as Benny discovers what happened to the three girls from the other timeline.

Wingate includes real excerpts from "Lost Friends" advertisements that ran in Southern newspapers after the Civil War. These ads were taken out by people desperate to find their relatives who had been sold as slaves. The inclusion of these excerpts adds even more authenticity to a story that so needed to be told and shared.