The Book of Lost Friends

The Book of Lost Friends

A Novel

Book - 2020 | First edition
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"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new novel inspired by little-known historical events: a dramatic story of three young women on a journey in search of family amidst the destruction of the post-Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who rediscovers their story and its vital connection to her own students' lives. 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, improbable, 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"--Provided by publisher
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, [2020]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781984819888
Branch Call Number: Fiction WINGATE,L
Characteristics: 388 pages ; 25 cm


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Jun 09, 2020

I listened to the audio version of this book. I believe this is one of those books that is better as an audio book than the actual printed book probably was. The different narrators wove the story together in such a beautiful way to portray the desired depth of meaning.
Ms. Wingate tells the story in a dual timeline of families of slaves torn apart in Post-Civil War era and also through a first year teacher and her students in the late 1980's as they work on projects to research their families...their people, which results in strife in the small Louisiana town. The teacher is up against horrific odds, but is determined to get through to her students and to stand by them--even though it could cost her her job.
The Book of Lost Friends is a collection of letters written by freed slaves searching for their family members that they lost to the horrific situations slavers subjected them to. Some were freed, some indentured, some sold and some were runaways. Their families ceased to exist in the blink of an eye, possibly lost to them forever. These letters were written, many sent in to hopefully be published and distributed among several states and then read from the pulpit in the hope that someone would know something of any of their family members.
The dual timeline kept me guessing for awhile as to how the two were related. Ms. Wingate revealed a little at a time and I was certainly intrigued. Another incredible book for Lisa Wingate!

May 10, 2020

The first book I read by Lisa Wingate was "Before We Were Yours". Since then, I have read a number of her books, including the entire Carolina series. There are two reasons why I keep coming back to this author. All of her book tackle difficult subjects. And nearly all of them have a theme of female friendships.

This book did not disappoint. I think this book may have shocked me if I had not read books like Just Mercy and The Warmth of Other Suns. This story goes back even further. Ms Wingate has the ability to take a historic event or personal story and weave an engaging tale.

It seemed like the book ended abruptly with both stories. The epilogue helped, but I am not a fan of the epilogue writing tool.

Mar 28, 2020

Oh. My. Heart. There is so much heartbreak and so much hope in this new novel from Lisa Wingate. She tells the story of a snail mail social network that helped freed slaves find their lost loved ones after the war. An old proverb says: "We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name."

Hannie (1875) and Benny (1987) are both -- in their way--seeking to remember people from the past. Hannie is a freed slave and sharecropper who accompanies the daughters of her former owner to a lawyer's office and finds herself on a journey from Augustine, Louisiana to Austin, Texas. Her travels take her by riverboat, wagon, and train and are filled with peril. Her path brought memories of reading "News of the World" by Paulette Jiles. Her resilience is an inspiration.

Benny is the new English teacher in a classroom full of kids who are merely expected to stay in their seats and out of trouble. The bar is low, but Miss Poo (nicknamed after the pooperoos she keeps on hand to feed the hungry teenage tummies) refuses to stick with status quo. After Granny T visits the classroom to tell them the story of the opening of the Carnegie Library before their time, they are energized to begin seeking out the stories of those who came before. Benny has scars in her past, too. Should they run from the past or learn from it? Benny's story ties the present to the past and brings healing for many.


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