This post contains affiliate links. A few years ago, I read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. I LOVED that book and couldn’t put it down. It invaded my thoughts throughout the day as I felt sad that it was actually based on a true story and that human beings could do such awful things to one another. When I picked up The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate recently, I was hoping to once again delve into an unknown part of history. Wingate delivered on that aspect, but I didn’t like this new book as much as Before We Were Yours.
About The Book of Lost Friends
This story is set in the deep South and has two different protagonists telling their stories 100 years apart.
Hannie is an 18 year old slave who was freed thanks to the Civil War. Yet, she and a few of her fellow slaves remain on the master’s land as share croppers, hoping he’ll give them a bit of land for themselves after they work 10 years for him. Hannie makes the mistake of getting involved when the master’s illegitimate, mixed race daughter, Juneau Jane, comes stalking around the plantation looking for details about her father, the master, who is missing. The master’s white daughter, Lavinia, joins forces with Juneau Jane, and Hannie just can’t resist seeing what the two girls are up to. This curiosity takes Hannie on a dangerous adventure that changes the course of her life.
Along the way, Juneau Jane and Hannie discover newspaper ads, classifieds, where freed slaves seek to find their missing family members. An ad might read:
Dear Editor–I am inquiring for my people. My mother was Priscilla; she belong to Watson and he sold her to Bill Calburt, near Hopewell, Georgia. We lived near Knoxville. My name was Betty Watson. I left her when I was three years old. I am now 55 years of age. . .Some one help me. . . -Betty Davis.
The girls decide to creat a Book of Lost Friends to help reunite former slaves with their family members. Hannie is also hoping to reunite with the many family members she’s lost throughout the years of slavery.
The second story line is about Benny, a recent college graduate teaching English in a small Louisiana town in 1987. As is to be expected, she has trouble keeping her students engaged and interested. However, as she starts to learn the history of the town’s most famous residents, she starts a project with her mainly African American students to learn their own families’ histories. What Benny doesn’t know is that her project upsets and threatens a number of the prominent White families in town.
My Thoughts on the Book
Wingate delivered by sharing with the reader an unknown part of history. The Southwestern was a real newspaper, run by Methodists hoping to reunite former slave families. Interspersed throughout the book are real life ads, including, toward the end, an update from one woman who found her family. One of the ads is the basis for Hannie’s story. I loved this aspect of the book.
However, this book was a very slow read for me. Whereas I normally read a book a week, this book took me two weeks. I just wan’t that intersted in the book. I was hoping in the end of the book the two storylines would come together in some way, and they did, but not in a way that satisfied me.
Finally, Wingate drops a huge fact about Benny in the last two pages of the book, which I don’t think is fair. That issue should have been explored throughout the book. She missed developing Benny’s story line further, especially with this fact.
I give The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.