March 27, 2020
Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Post Civil War South, Women’s Fiction
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Searching for family…
“Lost Friends” advertisements appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War as freed slaves desperately tried to find loved ones who had been sold off. In 1875, three young girls from Louisiana set off on a perilous journey to Texas. Two of the girls are financially desperate and in search of their inheritance and the third is looking for her long lost family and helping others do the same. The present-day timeline takes place in Lousiana in 1987 as a young and inexperienced teacher lands her first job in a poor, rural community. Over the course of the year, she discovers the story of the three girls from 1875 and their connection to her current students.
Thanks #netgalley #randomhouse @ballantine for granting my request for a complimentary e-ARC of #thebookoflostfriends. All opinions are my own.
Timelines: Sometimes in dual timeline stories, I’m more engaged with one more than the other. This is what happened in The Book of Lost Friends. Surprisingly, it was the present-day timeline which was the most engaging for me. As a teacher, I love reading about a young and inexperienced teacher working in a poor community and an under-resourced school with the most challenging students. Can she make a difference? Can she find the resources? Can she engage them in learning? Can she gain their trust? Can she build relationships? All of these questions fascinate me!
Writing: Readers can trust Lisa Wingate to present a well-written and well-researched story as she imagines the life of a girl who is looking for her family after the Civil War and a teacher in the present-day rural Louisianna. If you’ve read Before We Were Yours, you know that Wingate cares deeply about the people in her stories and reuniting families. I love that each chapter in The Book of Lost Friends begins with an actual letter (that was published in the newspaper) from a person searching for loved ones. It adds poignancy, urgency, and authenticity to this compelling story and brings history to life. I think the first part of the story builds slowly but is still unputdownable. I enjoy learning about a part of history that I’ve never known about before. The main characters are well-drawn, determined, feisty, believable, and likable.
Teachers/Teaching: Lisa Wingate has a heart for teaching and teachers (see bio) which is an important element in this story. I loved the 1987 timeline and the character of Bennie who puts her heart and soul into connecting with her most challenging students. She uses history from the past (1875 storyline) to excite her students about learning. The parts where she builds trust with the students and excites them about learning are my favorite parts of the book.
These kids make me feel that I have a purpose … that getting up and going to work every day matters.
Stories change people. History, real history, helps people understand each other, see each other from the inside out.
Plot: For me, I feel like the present-day timeline is a little more straightforward and easier to follow than the 1875 timeline. The story is unputdownable and evenly paced as the characters in each timeline struggle to overcome obstacles. In each timeline, the ending is satisfactory and heartfelt.
Themes: Thoughtful themes in The Book of Lost Friends include friendship, the search for family, connecting with and motivating challenging students, determination, grit, survival, community, and helping others.
Recommended: I highly recommend The Book of Lost Friends for fans of compelling, well-researched, and well-written historical fiction; for readers who appreciate independent-minded, determined, and feisty characters; for teachers; and for book clubs.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Lisa Wingate
Selected among BOOKLIST’S Top 10 for two years running, Lisa Wingate writes novels that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Masterful” and ForeWord Magazine refers to as “Filled with lyrical prose, hope, and healing.” Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of a host of literary works. Her novels have garnered or been short-listed for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the LORIES Best Fiction Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, Family Fiction’s Top 10, RT Booklover’s Reviewer’s Choice Award, and others. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others for the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She’s been a writer since Mrs. Krackhardt’s first-grade class and still believes that stories have the power to change the world.
IN THE WRITER’S OWN WORDS: A special first-grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, made a writer out of me. That may sound unlikely, but it’s true. It’s possible to find a calling when you’re still in pigtails and Mary Jane shoes, and to know it’s your calling. I was halfway through the first grade when I landed in Mrs. Krackhardt’s classroom. I was fairly convinced there wasn’t anything all that special about me… and then, Mrs. Krackhardt stood over my desk and read a story I was writing. She said things like, “This is a great story! I wonder what happens next?”
It isn’t every day a shy new kid gets that kind of attention. I rushed to finish the story, and when I wrote the last word, the teacher took the pages, straightened them on the desk, looked at me over the top, and said, “You are a wonderful writer!”
A dream was born. Over the years, other dreams bloomed and died tragic, untimely deaths. I planned to become an Olympic gymnast or win the National Finals Rodeo, but there was this matter of back flips on the balance beam and these parents who stubbornly refused to buy me a pony. Yet the writer dream remained. I always believed I could do it because… well… my first-grade teacher told me so, and first-grade teachers don’t lie.
So, that is my story, and if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, or ever loved a special teacher, I salute you from afar and wish you days be filled with stories worth telling and stories worth reading.
Is The Book of Lost Friends on your TBR?
Have you read Before We Were Yours?
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