Book Review: “Before and After” (the Must-Read Companion to “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate)

Last month, I had the opportunity to join a Zoom virtual event with my local library. The special guest was Lisa Wingate, a popular fiction author of several titles.  The most notable is Before We Were Yours: A Novel, published in the spring of 2019.

I received Before We Were Yours this past Christmas. Although I haven’t read much from Lisa Wingate, I knew this title was one I had to read after hearing so much talk about it!  

During the Zoom book talk, Lisa shared how she was inundated with questions from those who came to see her on the book tour for Before We Were Yours. People wanted to know: Was the basis of the story factual? Is Georgia Tann an actual person? If so, how did she get away with doing what she did for so many years?

There were also some on the book tour who connected with Lisa to share their own stories about being one of the children adopted from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. 

Georgia Tann was a real person. In Memphis, she operated the Tennessee Children’s Home Society from 1924 to 1950. She preyed on single mothers by taking their babies at the time of illegitimate birth. Mothers were often required to sign paperwork they didn’t understand or were told that their baby had died. And that was just one way Tann stole babies and small children to sell. With her political alliances, she was able to conduct her business and remain untouchable.

Approximately 5,000 children passed through the agency’s doors during the time TCHS was in business. Parents who had an ardent desire to adopt gladly paid the high fees Tann required in exchange for a child.  

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It was from the library book talk that I learned about the newer, culminating book.  Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Co-authored by Judy Christie, the book shares the unbelievable real-life accounts of several people who survived this children’s home (TCHS) and Georgia Tann. Some tell happy versions of being reunited with family members later in life, others express disappointment. But all the stories are heart-breaking.

Another part of the book talks about the reunion. One of the last children adopted from TCSH is Connie. After reading Before We Were Yours, she reaches out to Lisa, sharing her idea of forming a reunion for TCHS survivors in Memphis. The gathering would coincide with Lisa’s book tour (for Before We Were Yours), providing survivors a chance to connect, share their stories and encourage one another. Through this connection with the reunion, Judy, a journalist and close friend of Lisa’s, records survivor stories.  

It is amazing how one book, and a fictional one at that, can make such an impact on so many lives. Lisa states in Before and After: “You create these fictional people, and you send them out into the world, and the craziest thing is they come back home, tugging real people by the hand with them.”

I am currently reading Before We Were Yours, and I am thoroughly enjoying it and glad that I read Before and After first for background. If you have not yet read Before We Were Yours, you can most certainly read this book first.

Quotes I recorded in my reading journal from Before and After: 

“Each of us creates our own life story, the one we tell ourselves and others.
Or choose not to tell.” (p 179)

“We have no way of changing the past. Anger and resentments can hold us captive there, bring us back again and again. Forgiveness frees us to move forward, into the now, into new possibilities, into the future.” (p 193)

“The realities of what happened at TCHS are hard to contemplate,
but they are necessary to revisit. The history we deny is the history
we are most likely to repeat.” (p 271) 

Disclosure: As an Amazon Affiliate, there may be links in this post, which if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission that helps support this blog. You are in no way obligated to use these links.

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