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May 16, 2020

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

The Book of Lost Friends is a wonderfully written, well-researched book told in dual timelines from a slave after the war and a new teacher in Louisiana in 1987.   The characters are both very well written and representative of their time periods.   Their stories seem to be unconnected in the beginning until the end when they join together to finish the book with a big surprise.  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.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

copy of an ad from the 'lost friends' column of The Southwestern
July 1, 1880

April 2020; Ballantine Books; 978-1984819888
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); women's fiction
Louisiana, 1975 is told by Hannie.  She was a former slave who was taken away from her mother and siblings before the Civil War.  She is now a sharecropper on the plantation where she was a slave and working with her remaining relatives to farm the land for 7 years before they own it.  She travels to Texas on a difficult and perilous quest with two unwilling women - Lavinia, the pampered heir to the now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia's former slave.  It was dangerous for women to travel without male protection, so they dressed as boys for most of their journey.  But it was worth all of the danger to Hannie if she could even find one member of her family.  Along the way, they ran into many former slaves who were looking for loved ones so Hannie and Juneau Jane, helped them out by writing letters to the 'missing friends' column in the Southwestern Christian Advocate newspaper.

Louisiana, 1987 is told by Benedetta Silva known as Benny.  She is a first-year teacher with a huge student loan debt.  To cancel her debt, she takes a job 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.  The majority of the town send their children to a nice new school while looking down at the school that Benny is teaching at.  As she learns more about the town and a dilapidated plantation house, she finally finds a way to connect with her students, but will the town accept her ideas?

“It’s a story of reunion and the pain of absence, of perseverance and grit.”  Both of the main characters are strong women who used their bravery and grit to accomplish their goals 112 years apart.

I love historical fiction that I learn from and I learned a lot in this book.  I never knew about the ads that the former slaves placed to try to find their families who were sold away from them. I wonder how many of them were able to find loved ones and how many searched their whole lives and never found the people they were looking for.  This was a tragic time in America's history and this book gives a clear picture of what it was like. 

This was a fantastic book and my new favorite by Lisa Wingate.  It beautifully written and emotional novel that I won't soon forget.

Buy The Book of Lost Friends at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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