Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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Before We Were Yours: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Avery enjoys her free time on the beach but begins to worry that Trent has changed his mind about showing her the other files later in the day. Avery starts walking towards his house to see if he’s home, but he calls her and says he’s at her house. Avery goes back to meet him and then they set off for Trent’s cottage together. While they walk, Trent talks about his life—he moved to Edisto from New York so Jonah could be close to family after his mother died. Avery says she’s sorry about his wife’s death, but Trent explains that they weren’t married; he only found out Jonah was his after his mother died. Avery is surprised by Trent’s openness because people from her “world” would never openly talk about these things, and she wonders if she’s getting too used to maintaining appearances.
Trent’s story lets Avery know that he’s not only unmarried, but that he is a dedicated father. Avery loves kids, so this is an attractive quality for her (and one which Elliot, who doesn’t like kids very much, lacks). It also shows that Trent values family as highly as Avery does, which explains why he’s so protective over his grandfather’s reputation. But unlike Avery, Trent manages to be devoted to his family while still speaking openly about his personal life, which prompts her to contemplate a way of being that’s very different from her own.
Themes
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Trent leads Avery up the path to his grandfather’s former office. Trent becomes somber as they get closer to the office and says he wishes his grandfather were still alive to tell him what to do. Avery says she understands and that she feels a lot of guilt over nosing around in Judy’s past, but asserts that she thinks discovering the truth is what matters. Trent jokes that talking like that will hurt Avery in the political world, which sets Avery on edge as she explains that her family values public service. Trent says that means she won’t like what she’s about to learn about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society—it was well-respected and Georgia Tann, who ran it, worked with very powerful people, but the TCHS was corrupt and sold kidnapped children. Trent hands Avery an article about it that he printed for her.
Avery truly believes her entire family is dedicated to public service because she’s seen their commitment to it herself. However, if there is a connection between them and Georgia Tann, it would make them look hypocritical. How can a family say they’re dedicated to public service and yet benefit from the kidnapping, abuse, and sale of lower-class children even if it happened in the past?
Themes
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Avery says that nothing shocks her after being a federal prosecutor for so long, but she is nonetheless unsettled by the article as she reads it. The article says that Tann may be responsible for up to 500 deaths and that many of the kids she put up for adoption weren’t orphans; in fact, they were kidnapped and any paperwork identifying them would mysteriously disappear. Avery also reads about the allegations of abuse in Tann’s orphanages and how many kids were brokered to Hollywood celebrities and other prominent families. Avery expresses her horror and then remembers that she has family from Tennessee and wonders if they had anything to do with Tann’s crimes. Specifically, Avery worries that Judy was working with Trent’s grandfather to “right the family wrongs.”
Trent previously described his grandfather as “a finder” who searched for people. So, if Judy was trying to “right the family wrongs” with him, then it might mean she’s trying to reunite children with their siblings or other family after they were separated by Tann, possibly with the assistance of someone in Avery’s family. However, if this is true then it would threaten everything Avery thinks she knows about her family’s morality. They are supposed to be above reproach, but being complicit in Tann’s deeds would make them criminals.
Themes
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Trent asks Avery if she’s sure she wants to go through more files. Avery tells him that the truth always comes out and it’s her opinion that it’s better to know what the truth is ahead of time. Trent shares his fear that he’ll find out his grandfather was one of the kids from the TCHS, especially because his adoptive father was on the Memphis police force. Avery sees a mirror of her own fears in Trent’s eyes as she wonders if they “carry the guilt” from the actions of past generations. Trent opens the office door and they walk in. On the walls are bulletin boards full of pictures dating back to the 1940s. Looking at the faces in the pictures, Avery wonders what their stories are.
While Avery is worried that her biological family had something to do with Tann’s crimes, Trent worries that his grandfather was a victim. This reveals the real opinion each has about their family: Trent truly believes his grandfather is above reproach, but Avery can’t deny that her ancestors might have committed some serious crimes for personal gain. In other words, Avery doesn’t totally buy that her family is as moral as they always claim to be.
Themes
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire Before We Were Yours LitChart as a printable PDF.
Before we were yours.pdf.medium
Avery notices a picture of four blond women on the beach—one of them is Judy and all of them are wearing dragonfly bracelets. Avery reaches for the photo and Trent helps her get it. When he takes out the thumbtack, a smaller photo falls to the ground. Avery picks it up and realizes it’s the same photo from May Crandall’s room.
Avery knows the dragonfly bracelet is very important to Judy for some reason. The fact that the other three women in the picture have identical ones implies that they are all deeply connected to one another and that the bracelets represent that connection.
Themes
Family Secrets Theme Icon