Monday, April 20, 2020

Book Review: The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate

The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate book cover and review
Yay! I finally finished a book! It would seem that since we are all sitting at home by ourselves that it would be conducive to reading. But for me, that has not been the case...

The Book of Lost Friends takes us back to 1875, where our narrator is Hannie, a former slave in this recent post-civil-war era.

And, back to 1987, where our narrator Benny is a brand new teacher in a small backwoods Louisiana school for black children.

We learn how Hannie was separated from her mom and many siblings when she was very young. Now she is just trying to work her land so that it will eventually belong to her. When the master of the plantation disappears, Hannie is worried that all their hard work will be for nothing if they can't find the papers that were signed when they began to work the land. She goes on a harrowing adventure with some unlikely companions to find the master. On this adventure, she learns about a newspaper called the Southwestern that runs ads from black people who are looking for family that they were separated from before the war. Hannie and her companions begin to collect these stories and record them in a book as they travel.

Benny is struggling to connect with her students. They are poor and hungry and many of them don't come to school very much. She finds out the abandoned Gossett mansion close to her rented house contains a treasure trove of books. She vows to talk to her landlord about possibly getting her hands on some of them for use in her classroom. Doing this opens up a whole new history and gets Benny's students interested in learning about their pasts.

I don't want to say too much about how the two stories come together--I'm sure some of it is obvious to you. But the way it all is revealed is a very good story to read. Anyone who is interested in the history of the South and slavery shouldn't miss it.  I did find The Book of Lost Friends a bit slow at times, but the characterizations are so good that you really become attached to these people.

You may have to persevere (I certainly did) -- but I think you will find The Book of Lost Friends well worth your time.

Published by Ballantine, April 7, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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