Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall Character Analysis

The second protagonist one of the narrators, along with Avery. At 12 years old, Rill is the oldest child of Briny and Queenie and takes care of her younger siblings: Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion. Queenie goes into premature labor and Briny is forced to leave the children on the family’s shanty boat to bring Queenie to a hospital with the help of Old Zede. The next day, Zede returns and tells Rill that Queenie is alright, but that her twin babies were stillborn. Zede goes back to the hospital but leaves Silas with them. Silas realizes there’s someone in the forest nearby and indicates to Rill that she and her siblings should hide, but they come out when Rill hears a man who sounds like a police officer choking Silas. The man tells Rill he’s bringing them to the hospital. Although Rill doesn’t believe him, they go with him in his boat. In Memphis, Rill and her siblings are given to Georgia Tann, who drops them off at an orphanage under the care of Ida Murphy. They are given new names (Rill is renamed May Weathers) and offered up for adoption. One by one, May is forced to watch her siblings disappear: Gabion, Lark, and Fern are adopted, but Camellia mysteriously disappears after being sexually assaulted by Mr. Riggs, a groundskeeper. Later, May is adopted by the same couple who adopted Fern. Determined to return home, May takes Fern to find their parents on the river. Unfortunately, when they find the boat, they learn that Queenie has died, and that Briny is an alcoholic. One night, Briny unties their boat from the shore during a storm and it’s destroyed; Briny is never seen again. Shaken, May decides to take Fern back to their adoptive parents. May has a happy life (her last name changes to Crandall at some point, so she presumably gets married) and she eventually discovering the whereabouts of Lark and Judy Stafford—one of Queenie’s twins that was supposedly stillborn. However, she never finds her other siblings. After learning this about story—and about the deaths of Fern and Lark—Avery Stafford (Judy’s granddaughter) arranges for May to live in the same senior care facility as Judy.

Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall Quotes in Before We Were Yours

The Before We Were Yours quotes below are all either spoken by Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall or refer to Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall . 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 7 Quotes

I scroll to the photo, look into the face of the young woman who reminds me even more of my grandmother now that I’m right across the table from her. “She had this picture. Do you know the person in it?” Maybe these are woodpile relatives? People my grandmother doesn’t want to acknowledge as part of the family tree? Every clan must have a few of those. Perhaps there was a cousin who ran off with the wrong sort of man and got pregnant?

Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Chapter 12 Quotes

“Poor little waifs,” she says to the man. “We take them in when they are unwanted and unloved. We provide them with all that their parents cannot or will not give them.”

I bolt my eyes to the ground and make fists behind my back. It’s a lie, I wish I could scream at the man. My mama and daddy want us. They love us. So did the father who came to see his little boy, Lonnie, and ended up broke down on the porch crying like a baby when they said Lonnie’d been adopted.

Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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I lose track of her voice as the car goes over a hill and comes within sight of the river. May fades like a speck of sun on the water, and Rill comes out. She stretches toward the crack at the top of the window, and pulls in air and catches all the familiar scents.

For just a minute, she’s home.

Related Characters: Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall (speaker)
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 14 Quotes

Inside my skin, I’m empty and cold, like the Indian caves where Briny took us camping one time when we hiked up over the bluffs. There were bones in the caves. Dead bones of people who are gone. There are dead bones in me.

Rill Foss can’t breathe in this place. She doesn’t live here. Only May Weathers does. Rill Foss lives down on the river. She’s the princess of Kingdom Arcadia.

Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Her hand is knotted in a fist between us. I take it in mine, pry open her fingers to see what she’s holding, and the minute I do, all the cookies and ice cream from the party come up in my throat. Dirty, round peppermints are stuck so tight to my sister’s palm, they’re melted into her skin.

I close my eyes and shake my head and try not to know, but I do. My mind drags me kicking and screaming to Mrs. Murphy’s cellar, into the dark corner behind the stairs where ash coats the coal bin and the boiler furnace. I see thin, strong arms fighting, legs thrashing around. I see a big hand closing over a screaming mouth, the dirty, oily fingers squeezing so hard they leave four round bruises.

Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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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:
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“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 19 Quotes

I crave a simple answer to all of this. One I can live with. I don’t want to find out that my grandmother was somehow paying penance for our family’s involvement with the Tennessee Children’s Home Society—that my grandfathers were among the many politicians who protected Georgia Tann and her network, who turned a blind eye to atrocities because powerful families did not want her crimes revealed or their own adoptions nullified.

Page Number: 224-225
Explanation and Analysis:
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I try to imagine having a history like hers, having lived two lives, having been, effectively, two different people. I can’t. I’ve never known anything but the stalwart stronghold of the Stafford name and a family who supported me, nurtured me, loved me.

Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 23 Quotes

“I only took it fo’ safekeepin’,” the woman says. She hands me the tin piece and the papers separately. “That cross been Queenie’s, long time ago. Miss Judy write the other. It’s her story, but she never write the rest. They decide they all gon’ carry it to they graves, I guess. But I figure somebody might come askin’ one day. Secrets ain’t a healthy thang. Secrets ain’t a healthy thang, no matter how old they is. Sometimes the oldest secrets is the worst of all. You take yo’ grandmother to see Miss May. The heart still knows. It still know who it loves.”

Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Chapter 24 Quotes

The trees lean close after we turn, and I take one look back. I let the river wash away something inside of me.

It washes away the last of Rill Foss.

Rill Foss is princess of Kingdom Arcadia. The king is gone, and so is the kingdom.

Rill Foss has to die with it.

I’m May Weathers now.

Page Number: 311
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 25 Quotes

May turns to me with purpose, stretches intimately close as if she plans to impart a secret. “A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.”

Related Characters: Avery Judith Stafford (speaker), Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall (speaker)
Page Number: 317
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Before We Were Yours LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall Character Timeline in Before We Were Yours

The timeline below shows where the character Rill Foss/May Weathers Crandall appears in Before We Were Yours. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Personal Identity Theme Icon
May describes the difficulties she’s been having with her mind, which occasionally conjures up old memories... (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... (full context)
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Rill sees Briny look out the window of the shanty while the midwife yells at him... (full context)
Chapter 3
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...old job in Maryland until Elliot briefly puts her on hold. Her thoughts turn to May and how certain May seemed that Avery was actually Fern. Avery wanted to be Fern... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...called to say that a resident there was found holding Avery’s dragonfly bracelet. Avery realizes May must have taken the bracelet when she grabbed Avery’s arm earlier. Avery tells Leslie she... (full context)
Chapter 4
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Queenie is laid out on the shanty porch while Rill and her siblings watch her moan and scream in pain. Lark tries to distance herself,... (full context)
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Rill tries to comfort Queenie while she screams and thrashes around. Briny left to get help,... (full context)
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Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Once the motorboat is out of hearing, the kids wander into the shanty. Rill finds a chunk of cornpone and some pears that they can all share for dinner.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...desk. Avery and the director talk for a bit and the director tells Avery that May is struggling to adapt to life at the facility. Hearing about May’s struggles makes Avery... (full context)
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May isn’t there, so Avery looks around the mostly bare room, silently comparing it to Judy’s... (full context)
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Avery struggles to get a good picture of the photo in the dark. May walks in on this and tells Avery that going through someone else’s things is rude.... (full context)
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May asks if Judy passed away and Avery explains that Judy had to be moved to... (full context)
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...start winning over female voters. Avery asks if Judy ever played bridge with someone named May Crandall. Honeybee says Judy only played bridge with close friends and that they don’t know... (full context)
Chapter 6
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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Rill dreams that she is on the boat with Briny and Queenie. Queenie is singing into... (full context)
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...leaves the teenager, Silas, on the boat to help take care of the younger kids. Rill and Camellia don’t like this, but Zede insists upon it and warns them one more... (full context)
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After everyone’s eaten, Silas and Rill start talking. Rill tells Camellia to help clean Gabion up, which irritates Camellia. Silas asks... (full context)
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Just as Rill is beginning to think the person in the woods is gone, a voice calls out... (full context)
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Rill tells Silas to leave so she and her siblings can go see their parents. Rill... (full context)
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Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Having captured all the kids, the men set out by boat for Memphis. Rill considers calling out for help but realizes nobody will help them because they are with... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
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...but says he needs a bath to get rid of the smell of the river. Rill wonders why Gabion would need a bath if they’re going to see their parents and... (full context)
Chapter 7
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...that Judy is having a rough day and won’t be able to answer questions about May Crandall. (full context)
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...in the dirt” no matter how much they want to. Avery shifts the conversation to May Crandall and asks Judy if she knows the name. Although Judy acts like she’s thinking... (full context)
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Avery shows Judy the picture she took of the photo in May’s room and asks Judy if she recognizes the people in it. In her mind, Avery... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The car carrying Rill, her siblings, and the two other children pulls up to a large house in Memphis.... (full context)
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Inside the house there are two more kids and Rill begins to wonder where all these kids came from and why they’re there. Tann leads... (full context)
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Tann asks Rill how she got her name and Rill says it reminded her father of the river.... (full context)
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From her spot by the stairs, Rill can hear Mrs. Murphy and Tann talking. Tann says something about surrender papers at the... (full context)
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Rill does her best to keep the kids quiet, but they’re hungry, and nobody acknowledges them... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Avery asks Honeybee again if the name May Crandall is familiar. Avery explains that May was the woman who took the dragonfly bracelet... (full context)
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...away from her family when they get back home so that she can go see May Crandall again. Honeybee thinks Avery wants to talk to Elliot to settle wedding plans and... (full context)
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Avery is driving to May’s nursing home when her sister Allison calls her and asks her to pick Courtney up... (full context)
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...doesn’t know who Trent Turner is but keeps going through the book to look for May Crandall’s name. When she reaches entries for January of that year, Avery again sees Trent’s... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Rill wakes up confused about where she is and what’s happening. Once she opens her eyes... (full context)
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Rill dozes off until she notices a man in the room walking from one cot to... (full context)
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A group of older boys tries to stop Rill and the younger kids from passing. Camellia wants to fight them, but Rill decides to... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...her to take a vacation. On her way out of town, Avery stopped to visit May only to learn that she was hospitalized for an infection and hasn’t been released yet.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
It takes Rill two weeks to learn that all the kids in the house are wards of the... (full context)
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Rill also learns that she and her siblings are being saved for a viewing. She doesn’t... (full context)
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When Rill leaves the window, she takes care to hide her tracks both to avoid being caught... (full context)
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Once she’s back with her siblings, Rill holds Stevie, who has a painful goose egg under his hair from a nurse hitting... (full context)
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...is coming, but only the most well-behaved kids can borrow a book. Mrs. Murphy makes Rill leave her siblings in the house while she picks a book for them to share.... (full context)
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About a week later, Rill sees Tann’s car pull up at the home again. Rill finds a safe spot to... (full context)
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Rill goes back to her siblings but doesn’t bother telling Camellia they might need an extra... (full context)
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...are herded through the doors. Inside, couples mill about, talking to Tann and the children. Rill sees Lark coloring with one woman, Gabion playing with a couple, and a woman reading... (full context)
Chapter 13
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...immediately sets off alarm bells in Avery’s mind. Avery connects this to the picture in May’s room of a pregnant woman and wonders if the woman is a relative who gave... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The viewing party winds down later in the night. Rill isn’t ready for it to end because all day she’s been able to eat cookies... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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As Rill and the others are getting ready to leave, Rill notices that the couple who has... (full context)
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While Rill, Lark, and Fern sit in the car waiting, Rill tries to convince herself that Tann... (full context)
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When they get back to the house, Rill starts thinking about Camellia and how Rill is supposed to tell her about Gabion. Rill... (full context)
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Rill grabs Camellia’s hand and pulls her over to the rain barrel to wash her up... (full context)
Chapter 15
Family Secrets Theme Icon
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...of this has to do 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... (full context)
Chapter 16
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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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,... (full context)
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Rill worries that Miss Dodd—who has four little siblings to support—might get in trouble for hiding... (full context)
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Rill runs around the yard until she hears Fern and Stevie screaming. She rescues them from... (full context)
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That night Fern is inconsolable and begs to see Lark. Rill loses patience with Fern and threatens to spank her, which terrifies Fern. Suddenly, Rill realizes... (full context)
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When Rill wakes up, she’s happy to see that Fern used the “slop pot” instead of wetting... (full context)
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Rill loses count of how many days she stays in the basement before Mrs. Pulnik brings... (full context)
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Tann asks Rill if they understand each other and Rill nods even though she hates herself for it.... (full context)
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Rill falls asleep under the bush until someone on the other side of the fence touches... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...falls to the ground. Avery picks it up and realizes it’s the same photo from May Crandall’s room. (full context)
Chapter 18
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The house is dark and quiet as Rill slips out as quietly as she can to meet Silas at the fence. On the... (full context)
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When Rill slips back into the house, she runs into Mr. Riggs on the stairs and he... (full context)
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...she found muddy footprints in the kitchen that indicate someone snuck out during the night. Rill is nervous because she knows her feet made the prints. Before Murphy can check her... (full context)
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Mrs. Murphy brings Rill into one of the rooms. Tann is there already, and they leave Rill alone in... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Avery is driving to May Crandall’s nursing home—Avery got Ian to call ahead to make sure May is out of... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...to see a loved one living in a facility like this. Once they get to May’s room, Avery realizes she doesn’t know what to say and pauses at the door to... (full context)
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May is in her bed when Avery comes into the room. Avery tells her that Judy... (full context)
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May looks intently at Trent and asks what his last name is. When Trent tells her,... (full context)
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Trent asks May if his grandfather was adopted from the TCHS and she tells him he was; furthermore,... (full context)
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Avery shows May the picture of the four women on the beach and asks if they are May’s... (full context)
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Trent tells Avery they should leave but Avery pleads with May to tell her if her family is involved in the TCHS. May tells Avery that... (full context)
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Avery tells May that she’s sorry for what May had to go through as a child. May tells... (full context)
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Trent tells Avery that the revelations May made about his grandfather make him wonder what his grandfather’s life would have been like... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Victoria and Darren Sevier tell Rill to call them Papa and Mommy. To Rill, this doesn’t seem like a betrayal because... (full context)
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Zuma doesn’t like Rill and Fern because the Seviers buy presents for them instead of Hootsie now. Sometimes Zuma... (full context)
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One morning Victoria tells Rill she doesn’t have to get herself and Fern up so early in the morning. Rill... (full context)
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Victoria tells Rill that she is going to bring Fern on an outing alone so that Fern will... (full context)
Chapter 21
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
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...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,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...middle of a room and wets herself—Victoria is talking to Georgia Tann in the parlor. Rill tells Fern to go hide and then sneaks closer to hear what they’re talking about.... (full context)
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...Augusta, but Darren doesn’t want to do that either. Instead he gets ready to leave. Rill hurries into the kitchen and grabs a basket of food that’s meant for the people... (full context)
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Rill talks Arney into running away with them by saying Zede will take care of him.... (full context)
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Victoria sings a lullaby to Fern while she carries her up the stairs and Rill notices that everything is getting “tangle[d]” in her head—her adoptive parents and biological ones, the... (full context)
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When Rill wakes up, she is exuberant because she knows they’re close to where the Arcadia must... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...to know where she was. In her thoughts Avery says that it’s no coincidence that May mentioned her home is in Augusta and that Judy was sneaking off to Augusta every... (full context)
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...know the cottage is there and Avery agrees. Privately, she wonders if this is where May was found with her sister’s body. They climb up the steps and knock on the... (full context)
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...dog away before asking Trent and Avery what they need. Trent says that they know May and Avery and asks the man if the cottage is May’s house. The man confirms... (full context)
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...The woman explains that secrets aren’t healthy and tells Avery to bring Judy to see May. (full context)
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...tells her that it’s better for her to know the truth. Avery thinks about how May described their decision not to tell their families and realizes that the powers that kept... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Rill has a dream that she, Lark, Fern, Gabion, Camellia, Queenie, Zede, and Silas are all... (full context)
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Silas tells Rill to let Briny know that Zede is leaving in four days and if Briny isn’t... (full context)
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Rill and Fern go to bed and fall asleep before Briny comes home, but Rill wakes... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Silas tells Rill that Zede will bring the boat down and they can all live on it happily... (full context)
Chapter 25
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May ends her story and asks Avery if she’s happy or if it’s too much of... (full context)
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Avery says she agrees with Hootsie that the truth is valuable. May snorts and says Hootsie just likes to stir the pot. May tells Avery that Hootsie... (full context)
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Avery asks May if she ever saw Silas again; in her mind, Avery knows she’s asking about May’s... (full context)
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May turns to Avery and tells her that a woman’s past doesn’t have to determine her... (full context)
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May asks what they are doing at the cottage since she’s already told them the rest... (full context)
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...are shocked but follow Avery and Judy into the cottage. As soon as Judy sees May, she lets out an exclamation and hurries over to hug her. May has to remind... (full context)
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Avery tells Honeybee and Wells about Judy and May’s history. Although Honeybee tries to question the story’s plausibility, Wells seems to accept it rather... (full context)
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Wells says he wants to talk to May, and Avery says May would like that. The three of them head back into the... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
In the present day, May says that their story might have begun in a distant white room, but it didn’t... (full context)