The Book of Lost Friends

The Book of Lost Friends

A Novel

Book - 2020
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new novel inspired by little-known historical events: a dramatic story of three young women on a journey in search of family amidst the destruction of the post-Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who rediscovers their story and its vital connection to her own students' lives. In her distinctive voice, Lisa Wingate brings to life startling stories from actual "Lost Friends" advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold off. Louisiana, 1875: In the tumultuous aftermath of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia's former slave. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following dangerous roads rife with ruthless vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and eight siblings before slavery's end, the pilgrimage westward reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the seemingly limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope. Louisiana, 1987: For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt--until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Mississippi River town. Augustine, Louisiana, seems suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled live oaks and run-down plantation homes lies the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, [2020]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781984819888
Characteristics: 388 pages ; 25 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 06, 2021

Best book I have read this year. Beautifully written and quickly engaged me. I gave it five stars and don't think the Publishers Weekly reviewer was right at all. This was the first of Lisa Wingate's books I have read, and I held off from checking to see if it was written by a black or white person until near the end. Will read more of hers.

Feb 01, 2021

I wasn't sure how to rate this. The story was interesting, but I felt uneasy that this was a white author telling a Black story. The teacher also was a bit of a white savior. I wish that instead of telling a Black person's story, the author would have asked the author of Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery (Heather Andrea Williams) to co-author with her, or better yet, recommend her book. She took some bits of her book directly from Williams' book (the blue beads, for example).

Jan 26, 2021

I have to say I skipped a lot of the last half. What started out to be a fairly good story turned into some kind of "how am I going to finish this thing". So much melodrama as to be silly.

Dec 26, 2020

"The Book of Lost Friends" by Lisa Wingate is an excellent historical fiction set in the American south of 1875 and 1987. It deals with the story of slavery and the aftermath of the south's recovery; with the richness of personal history and the discovery of these riches. At times the reading is emotionally difficult yet in the end, an exquisitely written book. The research done is voluminous and shared with readers who wish to explore further down a library's rabbit hole. I highly recommend this to historical fiction fans and those with interest in genealogy.

Nov 28, 2020

Excellent story of lost family histories and how they are pieced together
Lisa Wingate is a great story teller!

Nov 10, 2020

I am trying to put a hold on this book for January 28. I do not see that option.

LoganLib_Phoebe Oct 29, 2020

An absorbing story of two determined young women. Hannie is a former slave who is caught up on a journey to Texas to find her former master and - perhaps - her long lost family. Benny is a high school teacher struggling to engage her disruptive class and she stumbles upon the stories of the slaves and slave owners whose families are still in the town in the present day. Will she bring the community together or inflame old divisions?
The stories are told very well, each section ending on a cliffhanger so the pages keep turning. Each section is also prefaced with a newspaper article from former slaves seeking their family, the "Lost Friends" of the title.

Aug 31, 2020

I love historical novels and Lisa Wingate delivers. I hope she writes a lot more of them.

Aug 29, 2020

4 - 4 1/2 star read. I enjoyed this book very much. Wingate writes a novel of two different times. The first voice is Hannie's in 1875, a slave girl on a sharecrop in Louisiana. The second voice is Benny's in 1987, a teacher in Augustine, Louisiana. Hannie tells her story of setting out with two other women to search for her Master who is the father of both girls. And Benny tells her story, of arriving to teach in a marginalized school and trying to get her students to engage with her. It's only when she finds a bunch of old books in the plantation house and uses them to help her students understand history and their heritage, that the students get interested in their family histories and the Hannie's story and what happened to her get revealed. A very interesting story and a good read.

Aug 08, 2020

As a country we are going through difficult times on various fronts. This story is very meaningful at this time as it relates the history and difficulties of the slaves and their families after the Civil War as they try to reunite with their families that had been sold and moved around to various different places during their lifetimes. Hannie, whose story is set in 1875, is representative of these families and their searches for not only their families but for a place in society, Benny is the teacher who comes to work in the impoverished town of Augustine, Louisiana in 1987, who is trying to reach the students in the school. Their stories are told at the same time and in the end to bring the story of Hannie and the current members of the town together as they tell the story of the history of Augustine and its citizens.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Dec 26, 2020

"Sad thing when stories die for the lack of listenin' ears."

"Lonely perches like a buzzard on my head. It pecks at my eyes so all I can see is a blur outside the window as the half moon blows its breath over the stars, dimming them down."

"Crystalline frosts would sugar the mornings, and the first snows might tease the tips of dying grass."

"Thunder troubles the horses and lightning cuts the sky like a hawk's gold claws ready to scoop up the world and fly off with it."

"This town is an old dog with a bad temper. We have rubbed its hair the wrong way and stirred up fleas. If allowed to return to its slumber it might let me stay, but it's made sure I know that if not, it's ready to bite."

"He's a strong man, but death has opened the door. It's for him to decide if he'll step through it soon, or at another time long in the future."

Dec 26, 2020

"You know, there is an old proverb that says, 'We die once when the last breath leaves our bodies. We die a second time when the last person speaks our name.' The first death is beyond our control, but the second one we can strive to prevent."

Dec 03, 2020

"Sleep finally comes like a summer dry river, a trickle that's shallow and splits around rocks and downed branches and tree roots, dividing and dividing, till by morning it's the thin bead of gathered morning dew, dripping lazy off the army tent overhead." page 348

Nov 30, 2020

page 221 "...everyone has history. Just because we're not always happy with what's true doesn't mean we shouldn't know it. It's how we learn. It's how we do better in the future. Hopefully, anyway."


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top