Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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Rill Foss’s younger sister. Fern is about three when she and her siblings are kidnapped by Georgia Tann and put up for adoption through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Tann renames Fern, Beth Weathers. Rill often notes that Fern is the sister she is closest to, and Fern is the second to last Foss child to be illegally sold to a wealthy but childless couple, Darren and Victoria Sevier. Fern is inconsolable when she is adopted without Rill and has a number of behavioral issues. Darren and Victoria decide to adopt Rill (whom they know as May Weathers) as well, which puts Fern at ease. Fern and May run away to try to find their family’s shanty boat only to discover that their mother (Queenie) has died and their father (Briny) is an alcoholic. In a drunken rage, Briny unties their boat from the shore, and it is destroyed by a tree floating down the river. May decides to bring Fern back to their adoptive parents because it is in Fern’s best interest. Fern and May have a happy life with the Seviers. They reconnect with their sisters Lark (renamed Bonnie Weathers) and Judy Stafford (who was stolen from Queenie and Briny as a newborn). Fern and May live together as old women until Fern’s tragic death—May is found living alone with Fern’s body and a number of pet cats and is taken to live in a senior care facility.

Fern Foss/Beth Weathers Quotes in Before We Were Yours

The Before We Were Yours quotes below are all either spoken by Fern Foss/Beth Weathers or refer to Fern Foss/Beth Weathers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Personal Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine edition of Before We Were Yours published in 2017.
Chapter 16 Quotes

Even the name sounds strange in my mind now. People keep calling me May. Maybe Rill’s still on the river someplace with Camellia, and Lark, and Fern, and Gabion. Maybe they’re drifting down in the lazy low-water summer currents, watching boats pass and barges go by and Cooper’s hawks circle wide and slow, hunting for fish to dive after.

Maybe Rill is only a story I read, like Huck Finn and Jim. Maybe I’m not even Rill and never was.

I turn and run down the steps and across the yard, my dress sweeping up around my legs. I stretch out my arms and throw back my head and make my own breeze, and for a minute, I find Rill again. I’m her.

Page Number: 175-176
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

I drop her on the cot and turn away and grab my hair and pull until it hurts. I want to pull all of it out. I want a pain that has a beginning and an end, not one that goes on forever and cuts all the way to the bone.

This pain is changing me into a girl I don’t even know.

Page Number: 180-181
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you invented some ridiculous story about your fictitious sister and poor Mr. Riggs.”

Blood pounds in my head. I try to make sense of what she’s saying, but I can’t.

“There never was any… Camellia. You and I both know that, don’t we, May? There were four of you when you came here. Two little sisters and one little brother. Only four. And we’ve done a marvelous job in finding homes, thus far. Good homes. And for that, you are most grateful, aren’t you?” She motions to Mrs. Pulnik. […] “There will be no more of this nonsense out of you. Do you understand?”

Chapter 23 Quotes

I think of the way May explained their choices: We were young women with lives and husbands and children by the time we were brought together again. We chose not to interfere with one another. It was enough for each of us to know that the others were well

But the truth is, it wasn’t enough. Even the ramparts of reputation, and ambition, and social position couldn’t erase the love of sisters, their bond with one another. Suddenly, the barriers that created their need for hidden lives and secret meeting places seem almost as cruel as those of brokered adoptions, altered paperwork, and forced separations.

Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Before We Were Yours LitChart as a printable PDF.
Before we were yours.pdf.medium

Fern Foss/Beth Weathers Character Timeline in Before We Were Yours

The timeline below shows where the character Fern Foss/Beth Weathers appears in Before We Were Yours. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...someone grab her wrist—it’s the woman from outside. The woman looks at Avery and says, “Fern?” (full context)
Chapter 2
Personal Identity Theme Icon
...sees the young woman at the nursing home. The woman’s face initially reminds May of Fern, but then May realizes the woman looks more like Queenie. This sends May’s mind back... (full context)
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
In a flashback, May is sitting on her family’s shanty boat watcher her sister Fern, who is nearly four years old. Fern is trying to count fireflies and May (who... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...deliver her twins after giving birth to their first five children so easily. Rill brings Fern to Lark (who’s six) and tells Camellia (who’s ten) to watch them. Camellia doesn’t like... (full context)
Chapter 3
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...hold. Her thoughts turn to May and how certain May seemed that Avery was actually Fern. Avery wanted to be Fern just to make May happy, but of course she couldn’t... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...May being found alone with her sister’s body. Avery wonders if May’s sister’s name was Fern. (full context)
Chapter 4
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...her siblings watch her moan and scream in pain. Lark tries to distance herself, but Fern and Gabion creep closer to see—Queenie looks and sounds like a different person, not like... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...of cornpone and some pears that they can all share for dinner. Rill, Lark, and Fern each give Gabion (the youngest sibling at two years old) an extra piece of cornpone,... (full context)
Chapter 6
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...a lot of people away. Rill suddenly becomes worried and picks up both Gabion and Fern when they wander over to the door. Zede tells Rill she’s in charge, gives her... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...indicates that Rill and Camellia need to be quiet. Suddenly frightened, Rill pushes Lark and Fern into the shanty and then grabs Gabion and Camellia, who gets mad at Rill for... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...of a car that’s waiting and looks at the children—she is delighted by Rill, Lark, Fern, and Gabion’s blond curls, but is less impressed with Camellia’s dark hair. However, she says... (full context)
Chapter 8
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Stevie. Tann also says that Rill and her siblings will go by May, Iris, Bonnie, Beth, and Robby Weathers. Murphy is to make sure all the kids are ready for a... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...of going outside to play and then storms off. The youngest kids fall asleep until Fern wets herself. A worker finds them, washes Fern’s clothes, and lets the other kids go... (full context)
Chapter 10
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...protecting her little sisters and brother even though she doesn’t know how to protect herself. Fern has crawled into Rill’s cot in the night, so Rill curls herself around Fern and... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...man leaves. When she opens her eyes, she sees peppermints on everyone’s pillows. Rill carries Fern back to her own cot while Camellia pops up and begins crunching on her peppermints.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...she doesn’t have blond hair. When Saturday comes around, Rill realizes she was right. She, Fern, Lark, and Gabion take an extra bath, but Camellia doesn’t have to. Rill begs Camellia... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Lark coloring with one woman, Gabion playing with a couple, and a woman reading to Fern. The woman calls to her husband, Darren, and says that Fern is “perfect.” Darren excuses... (full context)
Chapter 14
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...arrangements and Tann smilingly says they can. She orders Mrs. Pulnik to bring Rill and Fern outside. Mrs. Pulnik grabs Rill’s arm and pulls her out of the house as Tann... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
While Rill, Lark, and Fern sit in the car waiting, Rill tries to convince herself that Tann was lying about... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...bring a rope. Camellia is taken away and Rill doesn’t see her again. That night, Fern wets the bed for the first time in over a year. When Rill tries to... (full context)
Chapter 15
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...with Judy and she asks if he has files for May Crandall or someone named Fern or Queenie. Trent says he doesn’t know and that his grandfather only kept files for... (full context)
Chapter 16
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Miss Dodd unlocks the basement door and cheerfully greets Rill, Lark, and Fern. Miss Dodd is a new worker and is nicer than the others, so Rill hopes... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill runs around the yard until she hears Fern and Stevie screaming. She rescues them from an older boy who’s twisting Stevie’s arm and... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
That night Fern is inconsolable and begs to see Lark. Rill loses patience with Fern and threatens to... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
When Rill wakes up, she’s happy to see that Fern used the “slop pot” instead of wetting the bed and hurries to fix the cot.... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and Rill nods even though she hates herself for it. She is desperate to find Fern and terrified of what will happen if she doesn’t agree. Tann leaves and Mrs. Murphy... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...can help Rill escape that night and Rill agrees, but during dinner someone tells her Fern’s adoptive parents are returning her because she keeps wetting the bed. Rill realizes she must... (full context)
Chapter 18
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...climb through and they can get away. Rill tells him that she must stay because Fern is coming—their escape will have to wait a night or two. She also wants to... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...man walks into the room Rill is in—it’s the man whose wife read books to Fern at the viewing party. (full context)
Chapter 19
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...starting with the names of her parents (Queenie and Briny) and her siblings (Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion). Avery is mesmerized by the tragic story of how the family was broken... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...sisters. May looks closely at the photo and says the picture is of herself, Lark, Fern, and Judy at Edisto Island. Avery asks if that’s where May met Judy. To herself,... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...no.” May looks to Trent and tells him that his grandfather helped reunite her and Fern with their sister Lark. Lark and Fern, however, have since died and their families don’t... (full context)
Chapter 20
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...family of servants who work there, Zuma, Hoy, and Hootsie. Rill doesn’t want herself or Fern to be alone with Darren even though he tries to take them out on a... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Zuma doesn’t like Rill and Fern because the Seviers buy presents for them instead of Hootsie now. Sometimes Zuma will tell... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
One morning Victoria tells Rill she doesn’t have to get herself and Fern up so early in the morning. Rill doesn’t explain that after growing up on a... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Victoria tells Rill that she is going to bring Fern on an outing alone so that Fern will get used to being alone with her... (full context)
Chapter 21
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 22
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
One day Fern suddenly freezes in the middle of a room and wets herself—Victoria is talking to Georgia... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...build a studio. Rill decides that she needs to ask Arney to help her and Fern escape to the river to find their parents. Rill feels bad about how sad Victoria... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...will make escaping harder, but she’s determined to find a way to get herself and Fern down to where Arney will wait for them. Victoria is worried that Rill is sick... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Victoria sings a lullaby to Fern while she carries her up the stairs and Rill notices that everything is getting “tangle[d]”... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...they get closer—what will Briny and Queenie think when they see it’s just Rill and Fern? As they approach the Arcadia, Rill realizes something is wrong even though Fern shouts excitedly.... (full context)
Chapter 23
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...an envelope with May’s name, but Avery zeroes in on a painting of May, Lark, Fern, and Judy over the fireplace. Trent points out that there are more photos of the... (full context)
Chapter 24
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill has a dream that she, Lark, Fern, Gabion, Camellia, Queenie, Zede, and Silas are all together on the shanty boat heading down... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...if Briny isn’t ready to leave at that point, then Zede is going to take Fern and Rill with him. Suddenly they hear Briny asking who’s in the woods nearby, so... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill and Fern go to bed and fall asleep before Briny comes home, but Rill wakes up later... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill gets herself and Fern to a drift pile but knows they won’t be safe there for very long. Looking... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...but she can’t—Zede is too old and too poor to take care of them all. Fern pulls on Rill’s leg and says she wants her mommy, and Rill knows she’s not... (full context)
Chapter 25
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...initially meant to hide in the bushes and return to Silas once the Seviers found Fern in their yard, but Hootsie saw them first and started yelling until everyone came out... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
...the world. May explains that she is still thankful to Arney for bringing her and Fern back to the Arcadia because otherwise May would never have been able to let go... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...out an exclamation and hurries over to hug her. May has to remind Judy that Fern and Lark passed away, but then they chatter happily about the day they got the... (full context)