Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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Before We Were Yours: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
For almost three weeks the Stafford family has been fighting off the press, since the publication of the article about Magnolia Manor. Avery wants to remind the reporters that follow the family around at public events that Judy can afford to live at Magnolia Manor, but knows she can’t say that. After church one Sunday Avery spots her sisters, niece, and nephews hanging out by the stables and goes down to see them. Allison explains that they just wanted to get some pictures of the triplets with the new foals to post on social media to distract from the negative press. While they talk, Avery feels as if a “ten-pound barbell lands on [her] chest” when she notices Bitsy’s car pull up; however, it’s Elliot who gets out of the car, not Bitsy. Avery excitedly runs over to greet him.
Since the news article was published, Avery has been thrown back into the world of politics and appearances. Even her sisters are trying to do damage control by posting cute pictures of babies and foals. This highlights how the work of keeping up appearances for the Staffords permeates every part of their lives, even when they’re not out in public. The dread Avery feels at seeing Bitsy’s car is due to her fear of having to discuss wedding plans with her—wedding plans for a wedding that Avery is no longer sure that she wants.
Themes
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Elliot explains that his flight got laid over and he wanted to see Avery for a few hours. Avery sees her parents pull up and quickly leads him away before Honeybee can drag them into a conversation about wedding plans. Elliot suggests they take a walk together and they catch up with each other as they head toward the riding trails. While they walk, Avery tells Elliot about May Crandall and her story. Elliot asks her why she’s taking such an interest in ancient history and why any of it would matter. Avery says it mattered to her grandmother and is bewildered when Elliot says Judy is the reason Avery should be careful. Avery asks what he means, and Elliot says Judy is too outspoken and loves controversy, which only makes Avery angry. Elliot says he doesn’t want to fight, but his opinion of Judy still bothers Avery.
Elliot’s decision to share his less-than-flattering opinion about Judy shows just how little he knows Avery, because he clearly didn’t realize how much it would hurt her. Rather than genuinely apologizing and trying to make it better, however, Elliot and Avery end the conversation by saying they don’t want to fight. This indicates a lack of communication and understanding that prevents them from being honest with each other.
Themes
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Elliot and Avery start talking about their wedding but can’t settle on any plans before Elliot has to catch his flight. When Avery gets home, Honeybee is upset that Elliot couldn’t stay to talk to her. Honeybee says she’s worried that Avery is putting off her wedding because she’s worried about the family, so Avery explains that she doesn’t feel that way. To herself, Avery wonders if she and Elliot are being selfish by not making solid plans yet and then tells Honeybee they’ll settle on something soon. In the back of Avery’s mind, she still hears the words Elliot said about Judy and Avery realizes that Elliot doesn’t see how similar she and Judy are. Honeybee tears up as she tells Avery how lucky Elliot is. Avery sees how much Honeybee is looking forward to the wedding and decides it’s time to make plans for it.
It seems that not even Elliot is particularly enthusiastic about his upcoming wedding to Avery. The lack of excitement on both ends indicates that getting married is just something they’re doing, not something important to them that they’re looking forward to. Avery’s decision to make solid plans after seeing how much Honeybee wants it to happen only confirms this—the wedding is for everyone else, not for themselves.
Themes
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
The next morning Avery goes to Magnolia Manor to tell Judy about her wedding plans. When Avery arrives, Judy greets her right away and tells her that she has a request—she wants Avery to burn the appointment books in her house. Avery expresses her reluctance, but Judy waves her off and says there are names and numbers that she doesn’t want other people to find and reiterates that Avery needs to burn all the books. Avery says that it’s dangerous, but Judy says, “Don’t worry, Beth.” Suddenly Avery realizes Judy doesn’t recognize her, and Avery doesn’t recognize the name Beth. Avery is somewhat relieved because it gives her an excuse not to do what Judy is telling her to.
Beth is the name given to Fern in the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, which is why Avery doesn’t recognize it—she knows of Fern, but not of Fern’s assigned name. Judy’s desire for someone to burn all of her appointment books is also suspicious—it implies that there are clues in the books about her secret. However, it also means that Judy officially no longer has a need for them—that period of her life is over and she wants to make sure someone eliminates it entirely before her dementia makes her forget to ask.
Themes
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
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After talking to Judy for a while, Avery says she has to go and that her dad will be there later. Judy asks who Avery’s dad is and gets confused when Avery tries to explain that Wells is her son. As Avery walks out of the facility, she is tempted to call Elliot to talk to him about her feelings about Judy’s confusion but remembers what Elliot said about Judy and decides he’s not the one to call. Just then Trent calls her—they haven’t spoken since they went to see May together because Avery thought it’d be better not to see him again, but she decides to answer his call. Trent says she’s been on his mind since her family has been in the news so much and patiently listens to Avery as she explains her frustration with the situation.
Since her last conversation with Elliot, Avery no longer feels safe talking to him about her concern over Judy’s declining mental state. In light of Elliot’s negative opinion of Judy, Avery worries she’d be opening her grandmother up for unwanted judgment by telling Elliot more about her. However, Avery does feel safe talking to Trent, highlighting the fact that she can be more herself around him than she can be around Elliot.
Themes
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Trent tells Avery that he’s in Aiken and invites her to lunch so he can tell her about some discoveries he made while digging around trying to find May’s brother, Gabion. Avery is surprised that Trent has taken such an interest in May’s story, but in a good way—she feels like he’s a better person than she is because she’s been distancing herself from May to avoid starting any rumors. For this same reason, Avery realizes going to lunch with Trent would be a bad idea until he mentions that he has Jonah with him—with Jonah there, it looks less suspicious for them to have lunch together. Avery tells Trent about a drive-in near Judy’s house that has a playground and they decide to meet there.
Even though Avery feels like she can be more herself around Trent, she is still constrained by the need to keep up appearances. Because of this, she can’t really be herself as long as they are in public together. Trent’s continued concern for May and the time he’s spent picking up her search for Gabion highlights how genuine and thoughtful Trent is—qualities Avery wishes she had more of herself.
Themes
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Avery thinks about her situation while she drives back towards Judy’s neighborhood. She wonders if she got “spoiled” in Maryland because she was able to be somewhat anonymous; no constituents or contributors to worry about or a support staff to schedule her days for her. Avery realizes that she never really understood how “all-consuming” being a Stafford is, especially in Aiken—it leaves no room for her to be an individual. Avery knows she used to like this, but she wonders if she’s outgrown it. This leads her to question if she must choose between being Wells’s daughter or being herself. Avery tries to dismiss these thoughts as a reaction to the stress she’s been under lately.
Because Avery must dedicate so much of her energy to keeping up appearances, the line between who she is and who she’s supposed to be is getting blurred. This makes her wonder how much of her personality belongs to herself and how much of it was taught to her in order to keep up appearances. When she was living in the big city, there wasn’t as much of a need to keep up appearances, which gave her the opportunity to develop a sense of the person she might be if she were to develop her own qualities rather than the ones her family wants her to have.
Themes
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Related Quotes
While Avery sits at a stop sign by Judy’s house, she notices a taxi in the driveway and gets curious. Avery decides to go see what he’s doing in Judy’s driveway. Avery knocks on the taxi window and tells him he must have the wrong address, but the taxi driver tells her that it’s not the wrong address; in fact, there is a standing reservation for every Thursday at 10:30 in the morning and has been for years. Avery asks where Judy goes, and the man says she always goes to a place on the water in Augusta. Avery suddenly remembers that May mentioned that her home is in Augusta and decides it’s not a coincidence. She asks the driver to take her there and he agrees.
Avery is stunned to learn that her grandma has been going to Augusta every Thursday for years because it is something Avery thinks she should have noticed. Once again, Avery is confronted with the question of how well she really knows her own grandmother—and her family more generally.
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Trent texts Avery to let her know that he and Jonah are waiting for her. Avery calls him, explains what’s happening, and asks if he’ll follow the cab to Augusta. Trent agrees so Avery directs the cab to the drive-in before they leave town. Avery senses that something important is about to happen, but she doesn’t know what it will be. They stop at the drive-in so Trent can hand Avery some food; he asks if she’s all right and she assures him that she’s just nervous about what they will find. On the way, Avery and the driver talk about Judy’s weekly drives until they arrive at their destination—there’s nothing there but a dilapidated iron gate and a pathway that the driver says Judy always walks down. Avery feels like she’s in a dream as Trent pulls up, but when she looks up she realizes it’s all real.
Avery is a very perceptive and intuitive person, which is why she realizes that she’s really about to get answers now. Something in Augusta was so important to Judy that she kept going back up until the Staffords put her in a nursing home. Presumably, she would still go back every Thursday if she could, which is why she has a standing reservation. Trent agrees to go with Avery, which shows how willing he is to go out of his way to provide moral or emotional support for her, unlike Elliot, who criticized her for digging around in her family history at all.
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