The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new historical novel: the dramatic story 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.
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.
April, 7th, 2020
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After enjoying some of her previous novels, including Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate has quickly become one of my favorite historical fiction authors. So suffice to say, when I was she was publishing a new book in 2020 I was very intrigued!
The Book of Lost Friends takes us on another dual timeline journey, in post-civil war 1875 and 1987. While this is a work of fiction, Wingate includes real excerpts of the Book of Lost Friend which contains ads in which former slaves were seeking to be reunited with lost loved ones they were separated from due to slavery.
To be honest, this one took some time to get into, but I am so glad I stuck with it. Wingate succeeds at writing about troubling parts of our American history in an authentic manner and tying it into a more contemporary storyline.
While this book focused on a very dark time of history, the beautiful parts of humanity also shined through. Just like with Before We Were Yours, The Book of Lost Friends introduced me to a darker part of history that I had previously not known a lot about and was such a powerful reminder of the power of strength, perseverance, and connection.
Thank you to Ballantine Books for an advanced copy.
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