Review: Before & After by Judy Christie & Lisa Wingate

Title: Before & After by Judy Christie & Lisa Wingate
The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Non-Fiction
Length: 295 pages
Book Rating: A+ & Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


The compelling, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal—some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach

From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents—hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.


Before & After by Judy Christie & Lisa Wingate is the non-fiction follow-up novel to Ms. Wingate’s blockbuster bestseller, Before We Were Yours (read my review HERE).

This emotionally compelling book documents the stories of real life adoptees whose adoptions were part of Georgia Tann’s black-market adoptions through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society (TCHS). Following the release of Before We Were Yours in 2017, many of the adoptees were compelled to shared their stories after reading the heartrending novel.  Several people reached out to Ms. Wingate to tell her of their deeply personal connection to the Georgia Tann scandal.  At the suggestion of one of the last babies adopted through the TCHS, a reunion of adoptees was set in motion.

After hearing the adoptees’ stories, Ms. Wingate teamed up with Ms. Christie to ensure their histories would be told. Although their identities have been protected, through in-depth interviews by Ms. Christie, their heartrending accounts have been now memorialized in this poignant and captivating book. While some of the children grew up in happy homes, many of them struggled with feelings of loss and abandonment by their birth mothers. Their respective searches for their birth families has been an long and arduous journey that, in some cases, culminated with happy reunions with siblings and extended family members.

Before & After is a bittersweet book that is heartbreaking yet also uplifting.  While the narrative focuses mainly on the adoptees, the story also touches on the manner in which Georgia Tann stole children from their families in order to sell them to adoptive families. Through pictures and poignant narratives from the adopted children,  Judy Christie & Lisa Wingate have given a voice to the many victims of a horrifying crime that spanned over 25 years.  Keep tissues handy because it is impossible not to shed tears while reading this deeply affecting book. HIGHLY recommend.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society, Contemporary, Judy Christie, Lisa Wingate, Non-Fiction, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review

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