Review: The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4.5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

In her distinctive voice, Lisa Wingate brings to life startling stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold off.

Louisiana, 1875 In the tumultuous aftermath of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia’s former slave. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following dangerous roads rife with ruthless vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and eight siblings before slavery’s end, the pilgrimage westward reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the seemingly 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, seems 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 lies the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.

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About the Book:

The Book of Lost Friends is one of those stories that sticks with you.  Days after finishing, I kept thinking of this novel and the past that inspired it.  The story is based on history with actual letters from the Lost Friends newspaper advertisements interspersed between chapters.

Ms. Wingate has used a dual timeline and dual POV narration to tell the story of Hanie Gossett in post- civil-war Louisiana and Texas and of Benny a young, inexperienced teacher in an impoverished area of current-day Louisiana.  Benny finds the curriculum is unrelatable to the poor students who feel they have few choices for their future.  When her cross-curriculum project takes flight, stories of the Lost Friends (Hannie Gossett and family) and how they are connected to the town’s history are illuminated even though some town founders would prefer to keep that skeleton in the closet.
The Book of Lost Friends starts with seemingly unrelated stories that eventually are woven together.  Ms. Wingate’s characters are excellently developed.  This is one of the most intelligent historical fictions I’ve read.  Some plot points feel a little farfetched, but not many.  The pace is leisurely at the start, however, the story is engrossing and the ending is very satisfying.

 

About the Author: Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than thirty books. Her blockbuster “Before We Were Yours” was on the NYT best seller list for over one year. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Lisa believes stories can change the world.

 

© Copyright 2020 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

 

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