In Lisa Wingate’s last book, Before We Were Yours, we learned about the heart-wrenching and true circumstances involving the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It is an incredible book. Wingate’s latest, The Book of Lost Friends, which is also inspired by true stories, is another winner.
It’s 1875 in Augustine, Louisiana. Hannie and her family were slaves to the Gossett family at Goswood Grove, their plantation. After slavery was abolished, the family was abducted and tragically sold to different families in Texas. Only Hannie was returned to the place she was raised vowing to find her lost family one day. She is now 18 years old and while free, her life has barely changed. She finds herself in a dangerous journey to Texas with the plantation owner’s daughter Lavinia and her half daughter, Juneau Jane looking for their missing father. Hennie is hoping to locate any lost family members. While traveling, they learn of a newspaper that lists letters written by people also seeking lost family. The paper is sent to area pastors to read the letters to their congregations. Hennie is inspired by these stories and hopes to be able to place her own letter in the paper one day.
In 1987, Benny (Benedetta) Silva, a young English teacher, takes a new job in Augustine where the high school has limited resources and the children, mostly from poor homes, are not focused on education. The Gossetts remains a powerful force in Augustine. Benny is renting a house on the former plantation. In an effort to connect with the students, she creates a project where they research their own histories. She learns that many of her students are descended from Goswood Grove’s slaves. The elder Gossetts are unhappy about this young, upstart and want the family’s history to remain buried.
Many of the actual letters published in the Southwestern Christian Advocate are included in the book. Be sure to read each one. Hattie’s letter and her family are fiction but were inspired by a real family.
This story is tragic yet uplifting. The characters are strong and remarkable.
An old proverb is noted twice in the book,“We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name.” The Book of Lost Friends reinforces the importance of remembering those who came before us and the need to honor our past. And most importantly, the history and horror of slavery needs to be told time and time again. Now more than ever.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 7, 2020.
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