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The Book of Lost Friends

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A new novel inspired by historical events: a 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 connection to her own students' lives.

Lisa Wingate brings to life 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 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.

388 pages, Hardcover

First published April 7, 2020

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About the author

Lisa Wingate

38 books9,683 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,590 reviews
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
958 reviews2,558 followers
May 6, 2020
***NOW AVAILABLE***

This is a wonderful story based on true facts and records. I felt the beginning was a bit slow but this book is very much worth sticking to it. It can’t and shouldn’t be rushed. There is a lot of humanity and history here. Each chapter is begun with an ad from the original “Lost Friends” newspaper columns.

This story takes place in post civil war Louisiana and Texas, although the ads in the “Lost Friends” column will take us back years earlier. It’s Louisiana in 1875 and we first meet Hanie Gossett standing behind a stockade log fence where slaves are being held during an auction to sell some of them. She’s a young girl and watches as her family is taken from her one by one. Her mama told her never to forget her family, she had made “fifteen tiny poke sacks, hung with jute strings they stole out of the wagon. Inside each bag went three blue glass beads off the string that Grandmama always kept special”.

Circumstances all come together after the emancipation so that Hannie is able to escape. Hannie is going to search for her family and the other “sacks with beads”. She is not alone, she has with her Lavinia Gossett, daughter of the owners and a creole girl, the illegitimate daughter named Juneau Jane. These characters come together under really unusual and incredible circumstances that I will leave you to discover.

They stumble across an old church which is papered inside with newspaper columns. At first they think this is just a covering for the walls until they read the ads and understand that this is a history of many slaves' lives. While searching for her family Hannie also looks out for those she has found are missing and Juneau Jane adds more names and ads to a book that she has created.

The other timeline is that of a young, inexperienced teacher, Benny, who is starting a new job as a teacher in an impoverished area of Louisiana where the school’s curriculum has little to do with her students real life. They are often absent because there are no parents to make sure they attend school and sometimes they are needed at home to watch younger siblings. Benny is smart enough to quickly discern that she has to find a different way to get through to these kids. She talks about “The Lost Friends” newspaper columns. Once she introduces them to the book and what it is all about they decide on a project to research and reenact one of their ancestors in a program to try to raise money for the school.

Miss Wingate has again written a captivating and intelligent historical fiction novel which teaches while it takes hold of the reader’s heart. I learned so much about the South post civil war and it made that history come alive for me with these characters.

I think that these characters were believable and I found both storylines to be interesting.. In the author’s notes she states that the idea for the book came “to me in the most modern of ways--via e mail. The note came from “a volunteer with the Historic New Orleans Collection”, she’d been entering database information gleaned from advertisements well over a century old. The goal of the project was to preserve the history of the “Lost Friends” column”. From this e mail and the author’s imagination this novel was born.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.

This book is set to publish on April 7, 2020
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,032 reviews2,561 followers
December 24, 2021
The Book of Lost Friends includes actual ads that were published in Southern newspapers and read to black congregations by their preachers, ads searching for relatives of former slaves. The last time many of these people saw their families was in sale pens and auction yards, as they were being sold off to new owners, one or two at a time, dividing families forever with no way of ever finding each other again. The words are so heartbreaking, so heartfelt, and some of the ads in the book even tell of family members that has been reunited through the ads.

By reading the words of the actual people who lived as slaves and went through being bought, sold, traded, beaten, all of it is so obvious but not gratuitous and also not so in your face you can't keep going. It's real, it happened, you feel the heartbreak of the people who are looking for their families, hoping for news, even if it's bad. Such strong people, white, black, Indian, mixed, being treated badly or treating each other badly.

The 1875 portion of the book follows former slave Hannie, white Missy, whose family had owned Hannie for her entire life, and Juneau Jane, Missy's illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister. Missy and Juneau Jane's father has disappeared and the girls need to establish their claims to their inheritance before Missy's uncles can steal their inheritance from them. When the two girls steal off on a dangerous journey that is a mystery to Hannie, she disguises herself as the wagon driver so she can make sure she doesn't lose her claim to what she's earned as an indentured servant.

In the 1987 portion of the story, young teacher Benedetta is tasked with teaching the kids of Augustine, LA, the poor kids that the rich side of town has neglected, forgotten, and expects to never amount to anything. In fact, these kids believe they will never amount to anything and have never even thought of trying to dig out of the hole of their poverty. Benny is renting a house on the land that belongs to the former plantation of Missy and Juneau Jane's father and she discovers papers that show how these children have a past and a legacy to live up to and to remember.

The book starts very slowly but I think the build up and the background is worth the time it takes to show the link of the two timelines. If there was anything more I'd like from the book, it would be that we got to follow Hannie, Juneau Jane, and Hannie's friend Gus, into the years after the book ended. I didn't want to leave these strong, amazing, people. Hannie and Juneau Jane, while fighting to stay alive, also bring the Book of Lost Friends to all the people they meet. And young Gus vows to pass on what he learned from Hannie, about her missing people, wherever he went, and he is one to never break a promise. 

Published April 7th 2020

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,124 reviews34.9k followers
April 7, 2020
Colored Tennessean (Nashville), Oct. 14, 1865
information wanted of Caroline Dodson, who was sold from Nashville Nov. 1st 1862 by James Lumsden to Warwick, (a trader then in human beings), who carried her to Atlanta, Georgia, and she was last heard of in the sale pen of Robert Clarke, (human trader in that place), from which she was sold. Any information of her whereabouts will be thankfully received and rewarded by her mother,
Lucinda Lowery,
Box 1121, Nashville, Tenn.


***Real Ad posted by a family member looking to reunite with a loved one. Just one of many ads placed after emancipation.

Can you even imagine having to write such an ad? Can you imagine having a child, a spouse, a parent, a sibling torn from your life to never have word from them again?

Can you imagine being bought and sold?

Can you imagine having family members who were slaves?

Can you imagine what it must be like to have ancestors who owned slaves?

Can you imagine going on a journey trying to find your father to have the unimaginable happen to you so that it renders you unable to function?

Can you imagine trying to inspire and motivate your students? Find a project which will make them want to learn and be proud of themselves?

Inspired by historical events, The Book of Lost Friends is a story of three women on a journey in the post-Civil war south, it is also the story of a teacher who rediscovers those women's story and its connection to her students’ lives.

Louisiana, 1875 - Lavinia, a spoiled heir to a destitute plantation goes on a quest with her illegitimate Creole half-sister, Juneau Jane, and her former slave, Hannie. While Lavinia and Juneau Jane are searching for their father and their possible inheritance, Hannie desperately wants to know what happened to her mother and eight siblings who were sold before the end of slavery. Will she ever see them again? Having seen ads along the way placed by freed slaves looking for family members, she wonders, could she find them this way?

Louisiana, 1987 - Benedetta (Benny) Silva is a first-year teacher who is desperately trying to get her student's attention. Absences, hunger, and poverty keep many from getting a good education. Looking through an old plantation for books that her classroom and local library might use, she finds a book - a history of three women. Could this change everything for her class? The three women's journey changed their lives but will also have an impact on Benny and her student's lives as well.

Slow to start this book packed a powerful punch. The story is told in two timelines with the Lost Friends ads placed in between. These ads pack a powerful punch that resonates throughout the book. BTW, all the ads placed by freed slaves have been made into a book titled " Last Seen: Voices from Slavery's Lost Families"

Wingate did a great job building her plot and joining the two-story lines. They are moving and powerful. I found this book to be captivating, thought-provoking, and emotionally moving. I loved books that not only teach me something but affect me emotionally as well. Fans of Wingate and Historical fiction will find this book appealing.

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Angela M (On a little break).
1,270 reviews2,217 followers
July 19, 2020
4.5 stars rounded up.

“Dear Editor — I wish to inquire for my people. My mother was named Mittie. I am the middle of nine children and named Hannie Gossett. The others were named Hardy, Het, Pratt, Epheme, Addie, Easter, Ike and Rose and were all my mother had when separated....My brothers and sisters, cousins and aunts were sold and carried from us...and finally in Powell town, Texas, where my mother was taken and never seen by me again...I am well, but my mother is greatly missed by me, and any information of her or any of my people is dearly desired.” From “Lost Friends” column of the Southwestern.

Over the last several years, I’ve read many dual time frame novels and Lisa Wingate in her new novel, connects the time frames and stories and characters brilliantly, even though the narratives are more than a century apart. In 1875, a decade after the Civil War, in Augustine, Louisiana, Hannie Gossett, a former slave struggles to make sense and meaning of “the freedom”. The share croppers on this failing plantation have worked for years to keep the land they have toiled so hard for. William Gossett, the plantation owner is missing and holds the papers that give them their rightful ownership. This is Hannie’s quest until she come across in a church, ads placed by former slaves desperately seeking to find their lost family, mother’s, sisters, brothers separated when sold and finding her family becomes her foremost quest. Two of Gossett’s children, a daughter and his illegitimate Creole daughter are seeking the inheritance that they believe is rightfully theirs, but the papers are missing along with their father. Thrown together in an unlikely partnership these three young women set out on a harrowing journey to secure their futures.

In the second time frame in 1987, Benny Silva, comes to teach in Augustine, Louisiana. She seeks to make an impact on her unruly students, trying to get them to read, to learn. A project to get them to understand their legacy and ancestors is the spark that gets these students interested, when she finds “The Book of Lost Friends” , a compilation of the ads placed in “Lost Friends”column in the Southwestern Christian Advocate Newspaper.

While the book is comprised of these two narratives, the impact of story in my view is contained in each of these heartbreaking ads which appear at the beginning of many of the chapters, quoted from the original which did in reality appear in that paper. The injustice of it, the harsh, horrible treatment and the emotional pain of being separated from your children, your mother, your siblings, separated and sold to different slave holders will churn your stomach and knot your heart. This is a wonderfully told told story of identity, of family, of lives bound by blood, by land, by name, by the awful history of slavery. Recommended to fans of Lisa Wingate and historical fiction readers especially those with an interest in the post Civil War era.

“Dear Editor - I belonged to John Rowden of St Charles county, Missouri. I was called Clarissa. I was sold to Mr. Kerle, a planter. My mother was named Perrine. I was the youngest of mother’s first children. ...I was eight or nine years of age when sold. ...I am alone in the world, and it would be a great happiness to me to know that I had some living kinfolks...”
From “Lost Friends” column of the Southwestern.

I received a copy of this book from Ballantine Books through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Paige.
152 reviews283 followers
April 7, 2020
Told in dual timelines, Hannie is an 18 year old slave living during the Reconstruction Era in Louisiana in 1875. Having been taken from her family before slavery ended, Hannie joins the plantation owner's daughters on an odyssey of sorts to find the two girls father while Hannie herself quests to find her own mother and siblings. Benny is a first year teacher in 1987 who wants to make a difference in the lives of her Louisiana students. Benny is working on a school project about local family lineage when her timeline crosses Hannie's past.

It was very slow moving and I really struggled with the pacing. The beginning really dragged, but around chapter 9 something happens and it picks up....momentarily. After that moment of excitement, I found myself twiddling my thumbs for quite a few chapters waiting for the story to progress. It had a few more moments of ups, but most of the time I felt disinterested because it was so wordy.
Hannie's story was powerful, and I wanted more from her. I didn't look forward to Benny's chapters as much as Hannie's.

Graphic violence and gory details are completely left out. There is a scene that hints that something derogatory happened, but it must be inferred by the reader.

I would describe this as a lighter historical fiction about family, courage, loss, and friendship.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher. Opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,904 reviews727 followers
February 25, 2020
4.5 stars

To tell a tale of loss is never an easy task. The heartbreaking moments are many, and the realization hits the reader that these things so well related in a fictional setting did indeed take place in our country. These are things never to be forgotten, never to be relegated to the back pages of history. These are things in which a living nightmare was experienced.

I have been having a bit of a time lately with the historical fiction genre. I have found it to be more on the fiction end of things than on the historical and for me that has been disappointing. However, with Lisa Wingate's, The Book of Lost Friends, I am very pleased to have found a generous believable mixture of both history and fiction. Told in two time periods, 1875 and 1987, we are transported to Louisiana. It is ten years after the Civil War and the slaves have been emancipated but in essence while they are free their struggles have not abated. It is the South with the attitude of the Klan running rampant. It is also the South where slave families have been brutally separated never to see their loved ones. Sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents have been torn from each other and not a day goes by where one of our main protagonists does not feel that all encompassing loss.

Hannie, the former slave, now sharecropper, and two women, Lavinia, the heiress to a run down plantation and her half sister, Juneau Jane, a mixed race child, set out upon a journey to find their father, to settle an inheritance, meeting dangers along the way and hardship. Hannie, rekindles, as they travel, that question that plagues her constantly, could my family, that was torn from me and sold off, be out there? Hannie so desires connections just as the two half sisters do. Hope dwells in the heart of Hannie and of course the sisters as well. As they travel the book of lost friends takes on a great importance for it is in that book that people pour out their loss of family pining for the time when they can reunite with loved ones. The people in the book pledge their anguish which is then printed in a paper distributed to churches far and wide and read aloud in churches. Names are read, lineages are given, and perhaps some day families and loved ones will be reunited.

The other part of the book which alternates with the 1875 component, deals with a teacher, Benedetta Silva, hoping to cancel her student debt by teaching in a run down poorly serviced school. She is the teacher to a group of high school age disadvantaged children who see no value in learning. She becomes discouraged, disappointed, and bereft as she combats apathy, hopelessness and despair. Bennie trips onto an idea, a glimmer of something that might spur her recalcitrant students. Can a project reconnecting the kids with the past of their town, ignite something in them? It's a risk but one Bennie feels in her heart is well worth taking.

Connections are drawn, family is discovered, and there is renewed interest, understanding, and love shared as the happenings of 1875 unite with those of 1987.

I recommend this book for the gentle telling, the awakening to the horrible instances that happened to so many in our country's history, and the part that history can and does play in the realization that remembrance brings so much into our learning of life.

Thank you to Lisa Wingate, Random House-Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this wonderful book due out April 7, 2020.
Profile Image for Nicole.
707 reviews1,732 followers
October 5, 2021
Note to future self: books starting with "the book of" and especially "lost" aren't your kind of reads.

I really wanted to enjoy this book since Before We Were Yours was one of the best books I've read this year. but I wasn't invested in the story at all and honestly? I couldn't focus whatsoever on the past part (even though it was clearly stated when we switched timelines). I didn't have a difficult time following the "present" timeline so I don't think it was completely my fault. We also had different narrators so not sure what exactly went wrong.

I didn't have any issues with the story itself (e.g. annoying characters, stupid events, etc.) as much as I simply wasn't into the story nor its characters. I think the idea isn't bad but it's too close to Before We Were Yours in execution and the general idea. I don't like that and it didn't work here at all. It lacked the depth I loved about the first book.

I don't think I'll be writing more about it because I really don't have much to say other than I was bored and the story executed was not impressive even if the idea behind it is. I will still keep an eye out for Wingate's future books because she's a talented writer.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
465 reviews1,275 followers
September 7, 2020
An amazing historical story based on real articles written in the late 1800’s by former slaves searching for members of their families whom they were torn from.

Three women- as different as they can be - a slave, a mulatto and a white - are brought together in a perilous journey to Texas for their own truths.

Simultaneously, Benny, a teacher who has just recently moved into Augustine a century later, finds ledgers of these slavers of who they were sold off to. Searching to bring some history to the community, this is a search for roots- for families who once existed. She and her class become the voices of these lost people.

Wingate weaves a spell in every chapter making me want to continue with one character and then immersing me in the next one. Well done.
And Hannie...a spectacular character. A woman of strength, integrity and relentless pursuit in locating the matching her blue beads of hope to find her own lost friends.
4.5⭐️
Profile Image for Dem.
1,175 reviews1,065 followers
July 29, 2020
The Book of Lost Friends is a novel inspired by historical events. The " Lost Friends" were advertisements that appeared in Southern Newspapers after the Civil War as freed slaves searched for family and loved ones who had been sold off.

We can’t change our histories, but we can own them, learn from them and educate our children

Having really enjoyed Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate I was really looking forward to this novel as the premise is so interesting. What an engaging and compelling novel this was, and you can’t help but be moved by this story. There are two compelling stories to ‘The Book of Lost Friends’ Louisiana 1875 and the story of three young women who set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest and Louisiana 1987 and the story of Benedetta Silva, a teacher in a poor rural school in Augustina, Louisiana. But where a run-down plantation home holds the century old history of three young women, a long ago journey and a hidden book that could change everything.

Slave definition......A person who is the property of another person and has to work for that person. Collins English Dictionary. How could any human being think they had/ have the right to consider another human being their property.

I love historical fiction when it can take a reader on a journey back in time, and in telling a fictional story but based on true events educate and inspire that reader. The book of Lost Friends is such a well written, heartbreaking but powerful read.

I loved the construction of the story. The author starts each chapter with the actual advertisements that were placed by former slaves who are trying to find their families.
Sometimes with historical fiction stories with two time frames can be a bit choppy and I have a tendency to lean towards the historical element of the story and get a little bored of the modern part, but not so with this novel, but stories are equally entertaining and held my interest.

An uplifting read and a book I will be recommending to many of my friends.

I listened to this one on audio and the narrators were excellent. My only disappointment is that I don’t have a hard copy for my real-life bookshelf.
Profile Image for Barbara.
260 reviews195 followers
June 27, 2022
4+ stars

Dual storylines have been very popular in the last few years. My experience has been that one storyline is always stronger, more relatable. Not so in this beautifully written and well researched novel. It is the best example I have read of how well this approach can work. As the author expertly weaved the two stories tighter and tighter and the relationship became more evident, I was reminded of those H.S. math problems. Two trains are traveling at different speeds and will cross paths at what time? I hated those problems and didn't care if they ever met or even derailed. I cared very much about the intertwining of the post-Civil War sojourners and the young H.S. teacher and her impoverished mixture of students.

Both storylines involved journeys, physical journeys and journeys of self-awareness. Family members are lost through forced separation or chosen alienation. There was a desire, then and now, to feel connected. (Maybe why ancestry searches are so popular.) Most humans need others, family or friends for support, encouragement, companionship. Horrific things occurred and some survived and some succumbed, but then and currently, there was goodness. Though there was a great diversity in these two stories occurring over 100 years apart, there was a commonality, a fine balance.

The Book of Lost Friends is historical fiction at its finest. It was not sentimental, just deeply moving. It left me hopeful, and with all the discouraging news in the world today, a little hope goes a long way for me.
Profile Image for Laurie.
585 reviews27 followers
May 4, 2021
2.5 STARS rounded up! So it's with a heavy heart that I leave this not so favorable review and by the looks of it I am definitely in the MINORITY so far. I am heartbroken and disappointed that I didn't take more away from this book than I hoped to. This is my third novel by Lisa Wingate and I have absolutely adored her previous books. "Before We Were Yours" will forever be a favorite of mine. I commend these types of authors for putting in the work and research it takes to make a book like this as authentic as possible, Unfortunately, I continuously struggled the entire way through and had difficulty connecting to any it. From the pace, to the flow of language, it was all very disjointed for me as a reader. Of course it's well-written Lisa Wingate is a brilliant author, it just lacked anything compelling for me to keep my attention. It is a courageous story and a time in history that continues to fascinate me as a reader. The Book of Lost Friends, historically was something I had never heard of and if this book is able to bring that to light and make people aware than it prevails. I do think this book will have great success with readers but regrettably my opinion was less stellar than I would have hoped. Again a special thanks to NetGalley and the publishers at Random House- Ballantine books for providing me with an early digital copy.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,091 reviews588 followers
March 24, 2020
Lisa Wingate has woven together two wonderful stories to make this absorbing historical novel set in 1875 and 1987.

Following the abolition of slavery in America, many freed slaves had no idea where there families were as they were previously sold off and dispersed by their owners. In 1875 young Hannie is the last of her large family left on the Louisiana cotton farm where they were slaves. Accidently forced to accompany her previous owner's daughter, Lavinia and half daughter, Juneau Jane on a quest to look for their father, she wonders if any of her family are still alive and looking for her. Along the way she discovers a Southern newspaper that publishes a column of ads called "Lost Friends" published for freed slaves looking for their families.

In 1987 a young teacher, Bennie Silva is trying to get her disengaged students in an impoverished rural Louisiana school interested in reading. She discovers that her students don't know anything about their family trees but are fascinated to learn about their ancestors and their lives. With many of the students being the descendants of slaves they soon become engaged in researching the stories of the freed slaves who stayed in the area and Hannie's story comes to life.

This is a wonderful, well written and heartfelt novel with very realistic characters. Both stories made for compelling reading, particularly as they were based on real history from a time I knew very little about.

With many thanks to Netgalley and Quercus Books for a digital copy to read.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,914 reviews2,350 followers
October 22, 2020
3.5 stars, rounded up
Thank heavens for other GR reviews that mentioned that this book starts slow and to stick with it. Because it definitely was a slow start for me. But I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s an interesting story with enough historical facts to be educational. I loved the premise of this story. It’s so obvious that after the civil war, freed slaves would look to find family, no different than the Holocaust survivors 80 years later. But this is the first book I know of that has tackled the subject. And Wingate’s use of actual ads placed brought a real poignancy to the story.
We hear from Hannie, a freed slave and sharecropper that ends up in an Odyssey in an attempt to track down her sharecropper contract. Before she knows how, she’s caught up with her ex-master’s white and “yellow” daughters, both searching for him.
Dual timelines have been a bit overdone in historical fiction lately. The second story involves Benny, a new English teacher in Augustine, LA. In an attempt to engage her students, she starts a genealogy project with them. Benny’s story helped to show how systemic racism still persisted 110 years later. But at times, it kept me thinking of Up the Down Staircase or To Sir, With Love - the single engaged teacher fighting to actually teach the kids self worth.
I was thrilled to learn that the basis of the plot came from an actual lost friends ad. As is so often the case with me and historical fiction, I liked the Author’s Npte as much as the story.
You know how a narrator can make or break a book? Personally, I didn’t care for the narrator who tackled Hannie’s voice. Wingate writes at the end of the book about the use of appropriate language for the 1870s. It wasn’t the language, but the narrator’s voice often came across as more caricature than real.
I wasn’t as engrossed by this book as many other reviewers. But it’s an interesting story about a time that hasn’t been widely tackled in fiction.
Profile Image for Dianne Winter.
335 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2020
I am so disappointed. I loved "Before We Were Yours" so much, and I struggled so hard to even finish this book. I think the Hannie chapters, in particular, were difficult to get through. It was endlessly descriptive about unnecessary details, and while of course I understand the use of dialogue true to the time and place, it really made it hard to follow. Especially since you were back and forth between the two time periods every single chapter - you couldn't settle in to a particular time period before you were transported forward or back.

And then the reveal at the end about Benny? What?! Tell me earlier in the story so it can be part of her character development or don't include it at all.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,684 reviews2,239 followers
May 28, 2021

4.5 Stars

History has much to teach us.

At the beginning of this book, there are notes from Lisa Wingate, about Dialect and Historical Terminology, which is where the above quote is taken from. She goes on to say: ”That was one of the reasons for the inclusion of the real-life Lost Friends ads in this book. They are the stories of actual people who lived, and struggled, and who almost inadvertently left these small pieces of themselves for posterity.”

Told in two different time frames, this begins with one of the Lost Friends letters to the editor, a plea to anyone reading or hearing their story, the family they seek to find some word from, or about, knowing that the possibilities are slim, and how often names were changed along the way as names may have changed along the way. Pastors were requested to read these pleas to their congregations.

”At the very least, we must tell our stories, mustn’t we? Speak the names? You know, there is an old proverb that says, ‘We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name.’ The first death is beyond our control, but the second one we can strive to prevent.”

As this story begins, the initial timeframe is 1875, in Louisiana, with Hannie Gossett sharing her story, through the retelling of a dream - a memory of when she was six years old and watching buyers gather to buy her family a little at a time, she sees them being carted off one by one and two by two, listening as her mother recites their names, and the names of those who took them, and where they were being taken. Along with Hannie, the stories of Lavinia, the daughter of Hannie’s former owner, along with Juneau Jane, Lavinia’s half sister, the daughter of Lavinia’s father and Juneau Jane’s mother, who was also owned by Lavinia’s father.

The other timeframe in 1987, also in Louisiana, and this time is shared through a new teacher, Benedetta, Benny, Silva, teaching students from seventh to twelfth grade. Students who don’t want to be there, and frequently don’t show up. She begins searching for a way to motivate these students, to reach them on some level so that they will want to learn. It is a struggle, for both the students, and the teacher, until she discovers a book that will change everything.

There’s so much more, but this is the kind of story that deserves to be discovered by each reader.
Very moving stories are shared in both timeframes, and the Lost Friends letters are especially poignant, as these are letters that were written by real people who were searching for their lost loved ones – lost because their families were scattered, one from another, by those that purchased them as slaves, sending husbands away from their wives, mothers from their children.

Listen, the road seems to admonish. Listen. I have stories.


Published: 07 APR 2020

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine / Ballantine Books
Profile Image for Jen.
84 reviews254 followers
January 30, 2021
What a powerful, emotional story! This has dual timelines, one set in the post civil war South where Hannie Gossett set out on an incredible adventure with some unlikely companions and one set in the 1980’s where Benny Silva has arrived to one of her first teaching jobs in a small town in Lousiana. Throughout the chapters, Lisa Wingate has woven in advertisements for Lost Friends that appeared in Southern newspapers after the civil war when freed slaves were trying to find members of their families who they had been separated from.

This started slow for me and I really had a difficult time connecting to the storylines, especially the 1980’s one, I knew that it was obviously going to connect but I wasn’t feeling the writing and was disappointed as I had read so many great reviews. It went beyond being slow to me and I felt that there were odd descriptions where I didn’t need them and the flow felt disjointed. I also couldn’t understand why the ‘modern day’ narrative was in 1980. At 30%, I almost gave it up and returned it to the library but went back on to goodreads and saw a few reviews that said to stick with it and am sooo glad that I decided to do so, wow, what a powerhouse the last half of this book was... Clearly this is where Lisa Wingate hit her stride and passion, I was so invested in the story and shed many tears at the sheer lack of humanity that I was bearing witness to. The last half did the opposite of the first and felt like it went by too quickly and I was desperate to hear more from all of these characters! I don’t want to detail too much of the plot because you really need to just let it tell it’s own story to you, so that you can meet these people along their journey. I was in awe at how it all wove together in the end.

And can I note that the audiobook had SIX narrators!! I was in heaven! Thank-you 👏🏼

All in all, a really emotional, beautiful story that takes you beyond what you may think you know about slavery in the South and I appreciated being taken through Louisiana and Texas in this story. Stick through the start if you are finding it slow and it will pay off, you really should listen to the record of Lost Friends that this book provides ❤️

**Thank-you to my Public Library system and a lovely Libby Skip the Line for the opportunity to listen to this book on loan**
Profile Image for Tammy.
494 reviews419 followers
Read
April 21, 2020
Contrary to other readers I just couldn’t finish this. The story line did nothing for me, the characters were flat, and the writing was mediocre. That’s too many flaws for me to move beyond the halfway mark. I have other complaints but I’ll just move on rather than rant.
Profile Image for Julia.
659 reviews
May 13, 2020
At the outset, it is clear that I am in the minority here since everyone seems to love this book. However, I found it boring, tedious, and repetitive. Lisa Wingate knows how to find a great story - she just doesn't know how to make the novel compelling and compulsive.

Lisa Wingate sure can write a summary on the book jacket that is intriguing and interesting. But like BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, the book jacket is much more exciting than the book itself. For both BWWY and THE BOOK OF LOST FRIENDS, Wingate finds a little-known piece of American history to focus on. In her latest, it is the ads that emancipated slaves during the reconstruction period placed in papers in order to try to find lost family members and friends.

Wingate tells the story in two narratives - Hannie, the freed slave, who is trying to find her family members and Benedetta (Benny) in 1987 rural Louisiana, a new, naive, idealistic high school teacher who stumbles upon the town's history.

My problem with this book is that it could have been great but it wasn't. Wingate has an important part of history to tell us, but she makes it boring and repetitive. Plus, sometimes it bugs me when a white author writes in the perspective of a character of another race - and this is one of those cases because Wingate tells Hannie's story in the first-person and I just found it inauthentic. Then the secondary characters of Juneau Jane and Lavinia were a snooze fest.

As for the other, more modern side of the story, I found myself annoyed because it didn't seem realistic at all. Wingate channeled DANGEROUS MINDS and LEAN ON ME, with Benny having a tremendous impact on these miscreant high school students who didn't care about school beforehand. But they start caring just because they were asked to do a living history project. Um, has she taught before? I also didn't feel like she delved enough into Benny's back story. That's what I wanted to learn about - her family's ancestors who were Mussolini supporters, her failed engagement, her years in grad school. Not to mention those last two pages...

And then there's the last two pages, where all of a sudden we find out that Benny gave up a child for adoption when she was fifteen years old, having been seduced by some old guy. Benny went to her father for help but was turned away, hence the adoption. WTF! Why was this brought into the last two pages? It seems like Wingate was desperately trying to connect Benny to Hanny and the lost friends, but in doing so, she rushed this and was very lazy.

So what am I saying anyway? I'm disappointed and wish that Kristin Hannah or Jodi Picoult had come across this material and written this book. I am not going to read anymore Lisa Wingate novels.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,266 reviews
April 7, 2020
5 just right stars

This dual storyline book drew me in right away! I found both storylines interesting and the characters fascinating. They connected in a fantastic way and the conclusion of this book was done just right.

The storyline from the past features Louisiana and Texas post-Civil War and still a very tumultuous time in this country. We have three unlikely characters thrown together on a quest to track down the head of the Louisiana plantation. One character is Lavinia, the spoiled daughter; next up is the illegitimate Creole daughter Juneau Jane; and finally, a former slave from the plantation, Hannie. These women set out on a dangerous journey to figure out what has happened to Mr. Gossett. Throw in dangerous men, marshals, soldiers, and river voyages and you have a journey to take with these young women.

We learn of the tragic past for Hannie – torn apart from her large family when she was very young as they were stolen and sold off at different auctions all through the south. This journey might shed some light and help her find some of those lost family members.

The modern-day story features a woman trying to carve a niche as a new teacher at an impoverished school in Louisiana. This town is already wary of strangers, Benny finds it tough to connect with her students who have little interest in books like “Animal Farm” and don’t see the relevance to their lives today. She starts to find a way to get them all interested in their family history and hopes to connect that to writing and literature, but it stirs up a lot of the past that some in town would like to see buried and forgotten.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this book is for you! I loved “Before We Were Yours” and this one is just as good! Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley, Lisa Wingate, and Random/Ballantine for an early copy of this one to read in return for an honest review. This one is out 4.7.2020
Profile Image for Jess.
652 reviews63 followers
June 10, 2020
DNF - I tried so so hard to get into this and I just couldn't. I know what the problem is, a big part of this book is about slavery and the post Civil War experiences of Hannie who has lost her entire family to slavery. I don't want to read a white author telling this story, nor do I want to read about a white savior teacher with "unruly" Black students in the 80s who don't care about education if it isn't backed up with an understanding of racism, white supremacy, and systemic oppression. Maybe I will try and read this again, but for right now, I don't want light historical fiction that makes white people feel better.

*Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Brenda.
3,971 reviews2,584 followers
April 14, 2020
When still a child Hannie had seen her complete family sold to other plantation owners, leaving her alone on the Gossett plantation, filling her days with work from dawn to dusk. Hannie had kept Miss Lavinia, daughter of the plantation owner, company as her slave when Lavinia was a baby. In 1875, at eighteen years old, Hannie accompanied Miss Lavinia and Juneau Jane, Lavinia’s free-born Creole half-sister on a journey the three of them took in search of answers.

After encountering ruthless men at one of their stops, Hannie became the rescuer. As they journeyed further, always on the trail of Mister William Gossett, their troubles were many. But along the way Juneau Jane started jotting in a book they named “The Book of Lost Friends” where advertisements were published in the Southwestern Christian Advocate, a Methodist newspaper, and the many names and details which were collected, paralleled Hannie’s own story of losing her Mama and eight siblings.

Benedetta Silva arrived in Augustine, Louisiana in 1987 for her position at the local school. Benny was an English teacher, and at first, she didn’t think it was the job for her. The children took no notice of her, but she knew if she didn’t find the answers, she would be out of a job. The Mississippi river town had a history, and when she discovered the old Gossett homestead near to the cottage she was renting, Benny was intrigued. Gradually, Benny and her students discovered a story of ancestors – a story of three young women, a long and tragic journey, and a book…

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate is a heartfelt, intriguing story of the days of slavery, the Civil War, and connections. A story of cruelty, of sadness, of heartbreak – and a string of beads. I found Hannie to be an amazing character; her courage and determination was outstanding. The diary entries within this book are actual advertisements which were found in the “Book of Lost Friends” which Hannie and Juneau Jane carried with them throughout the journey. And the Author’s Notes at the end explains how it all came about. Highly recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kerrin .
275 reviews234 followers
May 16, 2020
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate unfolds two parallel narratives—one contemporary and the other set in the 19th century after slaves have been emancipated. The prologue opens with a student who is afraid to give a speech to an audience. This scene is repeated in the epilogue. The teacher encourages her student by saying:

“Where will they hear the story if not from you—the story of being stolen away from family? Of writing an advertisement seeking any word of loved ones, and hoping to save up the fifty cents to have it printed in the Southwestern Paper so that it might travel through all the nearby states and territories? How will they understand the desperate need to finally know, Are my people out there, somewhere?”

The first story is set in 1875. It is narrated by Hannie Gossett, a former slave on the Gosswood Plantation in Augustine, Louisiana. The plantation’s owner, Mr. Gossett has been gone a little too long, and there is a worry that he has died in Texas. Hannie wants to find the sharecropper papers showing the land she and her friends have been working will belong to them next year. Through a series of unfortunate events, Hannie ends up on a wild journey with Lavinia, the plantation owner’s legitimate daughter, and Juneau Jane, his illegitimate half-black daughter. Hannie continues on the journey propelled by her hope of finding her family that she was torn away from during slavery. I especially enjoyed the part of the journey through Fort Worth, Texas which was known as “Hell’s Half Acre” because of the violence and lawlessness.

The contemporary story is set in 1987. It follows first-year teacher Benedetta “Benny” Silva who has just moved to Augustine, Louisiana from California. She is an English teacher who needs to work at a low-income school for debt forgiveness of her student loans. Augustine is a town where people are immediately divided into groups based on race and income. The students at Benny’s are unruly and uninspired. One of the students tells her about a library full of books at an abandoned plantation house. Benny gets permission from the young grandson who has inherited the house to use the books in her classroom. The library contains records of slave births, sales, and deaths. From there, an idea springs to life to have Benny’s students research their family history and give a live presentation of their findings. However, many in the community do not wish for that history to be remembered.

The author begins each chapter with actual advertisements that were placed by former slaves who are trying to find their families. These are very poignant.

5-Stars. Book Club Recommended. This will definitely be one of my favorite reads of 2020.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,799 reviews479 followers
June 25, 2021
“Dear Editor—I wish to inquire for my people.” After the Civil War ended, many former slaves were desperate to find family and friends from whom they had been separated when they were sold. The Southern Christian Advocate newspaper provided a space to publish letters (some of which are quoted in this book) from the seekers asking for any information as to the whereabouts of the missing. These letters were a brilliant idea.

This book is written in dual time periods. Generally, I find that to be a strictly commercial decision rather than a literary one. Dual time period books seem to sell extremely well, even when one time period is totally unnecessary. In this case, I initially thought the story set in 1987 was a waste of time. It involves Benny Silva, a new high school English teacher in Augustine, Louisiana. The beginning of the book was very slow, and I skimmed the Benny chapters until around the 38% point when the author finally linked her story with the much more compelling story set in 1875. In 1875, 3 teenaged girls go on a journey to find the father of 2 of the girls. It is told from the point of view of Hannie Gossett an indentured servant and former slave who hasn’t seen her mother or siblings since she was six years old. Hannie works for the father of Missy Lavinia Gossett. He also fathered an illegitimate mulatto daughter, Juneau Jane.

During their journey from Louisiana to Texas, Hannie and Juneau Jane compile a list of the Lost Friends notices and also added to the list by helping people they met to write their own letters to the newspaper. This search for heritage becomes linked to a class project that Benny creates to engage her indifferent students. The Lost Friends letters continued to resonate in the present.

The actual Lost Friends letters were very moving and Hannie’s journey was entertaining. I could have done without the first third of Benny’s story, the not-so-surprising secret she had been carrying around and her tepid (but apparently compulsory) romance with one of the current Gossetts.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Provin Martin.
210 reviews31 followers
August 4, 2021
3.5 stars rounded up (because I learned something new about US History)

Hannies Family is slowly sold off as slaves before the Civil War. After all the slaves were freed, Hannie desperately wants to reunite her family. Luckily each child was given a necklace with three blue beads on it brought over by their grandmother from Africa. Hannie holds onto her beaded necklace as a treasure on her search to find others with the same necklace.

Benny is a school teacher who desperately wants to connect to the children she teaches. She’s new to the town of Augustine, but she’s already learned firsthand of the control the Gossett family has in the area.

Two stories are told in this rather lengthy book. One story a struggle to find family after separation, the other a story of connecting students to their own past in order to create a yearning for knowledge. This book has A LOT going on and is sometimes complex and difficult to get into. I was not familiar with the history of the book of lost friends, so further research was necessary to truly understand it all. I really enjoyed the characters and the writing style, but the two stories were very hard to connect for me.
Profile Image for Pam.
546 reviews48 followers
February 2, 2020
I loved this book! The Book of Lost Friends will be hard to beat for 2020. I suspect that it will be my favorite for the year.

Each chapter is written in alternating timelines. In 1875 we meet Hannie, a former slave and 1987, Benny a new school teacher, trying to get through to her kids, in a very rural area of Louisiana.

Sometimes reading books with alternating timelines like this can be very confusing and you simply wonder how they are going to intersect, WELLLLLLLLL, Ms Wingate did a wonderful job of tying the two together. I loved everything about this book.

I knew nothing about post Civil War and the "Lost Friends" newspaper article. Apparently, the freed slaves would post family names in the hopes of reconnecting with family members that had been ripped from their lives. These posts would circulate through the Black churches to be read by the pastor. The chapters that begin with the "lost friends" adds were heartbreaking.

I rarely (almost never) quote from books that I read, however, this is a quote that has stayed with me: "We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name."

Many thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballentine Books for this advanced readers copy. This book is due to release in April 2020.
Profile Image for MicheleReader.
660 reviews121 followers
November 9, 2020
Rated 4.5 rounded up.

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.

Review posted on MicheleReader.com.
Profile Image for Whitney.
131 reviews48 followers
May 7, 2020
Overall: A well written and gripping dual timeline account centered on a small town in Louisiana in post Civil War and (close to) present day. Well developed characters and a plot that captures and holds you in. Highly recommend to fans of historical fiction. 8.5/10 or 4+/5
Triggers to be aware of: rape, abuse, slavery

Summary: This is a dual timeline novel which centers on two heroines. 1875: Hannie Gosett is a freed slave who works at Goswood Grove as a sharecropper. She was separated from her mother and family and keeps hoping for a reunion. IIn hopes of finding her family, Hannie follows the daughters of the man who once owned her to Texas, where he disappeared thus starting an incredible adventure that will change her as well as her two traveling companions' lives. 1987- Benny Silva arrives in Augustine, LA., to teach an unmotivated and apathetic high school classroom. As a way to try and motivate and capture their imaginations, she researches Goswood Grove and finds records about Hannie’s journey to Texas. The story follows both women and switches back and forth each chapter.

The Good:
“The great thing about literature is that it's subjective. No two readers read the same book, because we all see the words through different eyes, filter the story through different life experiences.”

I loved the writing in this book. The author has an amazing way of capturing your senses and making you feel like you are actually at whatever location she is describing, yet does it without being too flowery in her writing style. I really liked both main characters as well as their accompanying storylines, and felt myself engaged (especially in the second half) and wanting to know what happens. Based on true stories and facts, I really enjoyed the real newspaper clippings from the Book of Lost Friends throughout the book. Engaging, fast paced, overall an easy yet interesting and gripping read.

The Bad: I felt there was overall a lack of depth in some areas. Never felt particularly attached to either of Hannie's travel companions. My other major critique were the romances, especially the one in Hannie's storyline.

Favorite Quotes:
“We encourage vigorous debate. Civil debate is a healthy and democratic process. If one cannot make one’s point without yelling, name-calling, or insulting others, one should develop a stronger argument before speaking further.”

“We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name.’ The first death is beyond our control, but the second one we can strive to prevent.”
Profile Image for Vonda.
318 reviews104 followers
April 14, 2020
A beautifully written historical novel set in Texas and Louisiana and told from two points of view, and two time periods. 1875, Hannie is separated from her large family and is looking to find them. 1987. Benny is a single teacher making a powerful difference in the small community.
It's a story of slavery and searching for lost friends, family members...loves. Amazingly it includes actual ads that were published in Southern newspapers and read to black churches by their preachers for those searching for relatives of former slaves. The last time many of the people had seen their families were in sale pens or auction yards being sold off to separate owners one or if they were lucky two at at a time. On the bright side some of the ads told of reunions, but regardless of the ad they were all heartfelt and heartbreaking.
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
580 reviews326 followers
November 14, 2020
4★
This was a second Buds & Books read with Kathleen and Carmel.
I liked this historical fiction story and the inspiration behind it. I had some issues but overall appreciated the author's intention to find and bring to light the history of the Lost Friends newspaper postings. While not a fan of dual time line formats, it was easy to follow and I felt both the story-lines were equally interesting. Any fan of the genre would appreciate this one.
Profile Image for Mary Jackson _TheMaryReader.
1,036 reviews120 followers
April 7, 2020
Nothing that I say will do this book and justice. I can't even find the words to write to explain how great this book is.
This was a hard typic to write about in the first place but Wingate never disappoints.
I can't write a review for this book, but to say if you only read one book this year let it be this book.
I gave if 5 stars two times and I HIGHLY recommend this book.
The Mary Reader received this book from the publisher for review. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are our own.
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