Wednesday, May 9, 2018


The subject matter of this book is so disturbing that it tarnished my opinion of it to some degree.  This novel addresses a time in Memphis history in which representatives of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society were kidnapping children and selling them to wealthy parents who could not conceive.  If these abductions themselves weren’t bad enough, the children were then mistreated while awaiting their new homes.  Corruption and greed are bad enough, but the destruction of families for financial gain is just unspeakably horrendous.  The author imagines a family in the 1930s that lives on a shantyboat on the Mississippi River.  They don’t have much, but they have love and they have each other.  When the father has to take his pregnant wife to a Memphis hospital to deliver twins, the “authorities” whisk away the other five children to an abusive orphanage.  The story of their plight alternates with the present-day story of Avery Stafford, a young attorney who plans to follow her aging father into politics.  A chance encounter with a woman in a nursing home alerts Avery to the possibility of a family secret that she feels driven to unearth.  As the book progresses, Avery begins to reevaluate the life she has chosen for herself, especially after she meets a handsome real estate agent.  Call me shallow, but I kept looking forward to Avery’s chapters, because really the agony of the shantyboat kids, particularly the oldest, is almost too heartbreaking to bear.  The prose in this novel is adequate but not special, and the book is full of unlikely coincidences, but it moved me anyway.

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