The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Before We Were Yours, which remained on the bestseller list for fifty-four weeks in hardcover and has sold over 2 million copies. She has penned over thirty novels and coauthored a nonfiction book, Before and After with Judy Christie. Her award-winning works have been selected for state and community One Book reads throughout the country, have been published in over forty languages, and have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa and six others as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Booklist summed up her work by saying, “Lisa Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller.” She lives with her husband in North Texas. More information about her novels can be found at www.lisawingate.com where you can also sign up for her e-newsletter and follow her on social media. 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new historical novel: the dramatic story of three young women searching for family amid the destruction of the post–Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who learns of their story and its vital connection to her students’ lives.

The Book of Lost Friends, releasing April 7 is now available for preorders through all local booksellers and online.https://lisawingate.com/books/the-book-of-lost-friends/

A link to a research trip Lisa made to plantations and other Civil War Historical sites: https://www.facebook.com/LisaWingateAuthorPage/posts/happy-to-be-wrapping-up-an-incredible-week-of-traversing-the-state-of-louisiana-/2855941477779356/

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Lisa Wingate is an author whose new book should fly into your “cart” without even reading the description. But when the description is revealed, “the hand has been dealt;” it’s a winner. Here’s a brief description from Lisa’s page:

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

“Sad thing when stories die for the lack of listenin’ ears.” Granny T

The story of Hannie, Lavinia, and Juneau Jane bundles the reader off into directions and paths that are difficult for a conscientious reader to tolerate; much less acknowledge an awareness of family and community involvement in similar situations, either by stories handed down from the 1870’s or from a primary source in the 1980’s. In either case, this dual timeline between the three young girls on their travels through Texas in 1875 and the “tales of a teacher” in rural south Louisiana, 1987. will keep readers wide eyed and awake; pondering for days how Lisa Wingate has woven such a “saga of sadness” into a ‘jump for joy” celebration for her readers.

The idea for book of lost friends actually sprang from a book lover. This avid reader, a volunteer with the Historic New Orleans Collection, was entering database information in order to preserve the history of the “Lost Friends” column. These were ads, published in the Southwestern Christian Advocate, a Methodist newspaper. The paper went to preachers, post offices, and subscription holders. Preachers read the ads from the pulpit, hoping families separated before “the Freedom” could be rejoined. After reading LW’s Before We Were Yours, this New Orleans’ book lover thought this was another, similar, piece of history.

As a “girl from south Louisiana” and a teacher, this novel had me rooting for Hannie, Lavinia, and Juneau Jane, and cheering for Benny. First year teacher, Benny was determined to make inroads into the community, the school board and most importantly to finding the keys to students’ learning that had been locked for years behind bars of prejudice: “no expectations, no encouragement, neglect, & abuse.” Benny wants her students to “see that there is no faster way to change your circumstance than to open a great book.”

So to all Grateful Reader followers: Open The Book of Lost Friends, and be changed.

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