Category Archives: Non-Fiction

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

Review: Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo

Title: Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo
Finding Healing in the Arms of Your Savior
Publisher: NavPress
Genre: Non-Fiction, Christian
Length: 239 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In Return to Joy, Bev DeSalvo shares her own story of healing from past pain to draw other women along a journey toward intimacy with their Savior. The road to healing is arduous and long. But when we bow our pain in worship, this broken road leads to the heart of God, where all masks are removed and divine comfort can be experienced.

On this journey, understanding the true nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit brings healing and restoration to all father, relational, and mother wounds. Learning to aggressively fight against Satan, who is devious but not creative, replaces his evil lies with the truth of God so that they no longer define the person. Recognizing that God is always “with me” leads to a place of rest where there is no fear of being rejected or abandoned. As a result of these new insights, the reader can finally return to joy and experience emotional and spiritual balance. Out of the overflow of intimate worship, God becomes their refuge, provider, and protector, enabling them to move toward others in forgiveness and true community.

Includes a ten-week Bible study.


With Return to Joy, Bev DeSalvo uses her personal experiences, Bible verses and several discussion questions to illustrate how readers can heal their pain through Christ.

Despite a happy marriage, several friends and an abiding faith, Ms. DeSalvo continued to feel deep emotional pain, shame, loneliness and low self-worth from her dysfunctional and abusive childhood.  Her healing journey finally began in her forties when her long repressed memories began haunting her.  Her struggle to gain control over the pain of her past was long and arduous and she now shares her experiences in an effort to help other women heal their emotional wounds.

This ten week course provides in depth analysis of Scripture that will help readers begin then complete the necessary steps to heal their pain by deepening their Spiritual relationship with Christ.  The various chapters break down each of the stages of healing and at the end of each chapter, relevant Scripture, various discussion questions and prayer suggestions help readers move onto the next phase of healing.  Ms. DeSalvo also uses utilizes other women’s personal experiences to illustrate how they found peace through their relationships with their Savior.

Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo is a short, informative book that is designed to be used with discussion groups. Highly recommend to devout Christians or readers with strong faith.

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Review: All the Things We Never Knew by Shelia Hamilton

all the thingsTitle: All the Things We Never Knew by Shelia Hamilton
Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness
Publisher: Seal Press
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Length: 312 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Even as a reporter, Sheila Hamilton missed the signs as her husband David’s mental illness unfolded before her. By the time she had pieced together the puzzle, it was too late. Her once brilliant and passionate partner was dead within six weeks of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, leaving his young daughter and wife without so much as a note to explain his actions, a plan to help them recover from their profound grief, or a solution for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that they would inherit from him.

All the Things We Never Knew takes readers on a breathtaking journey from David and Sheila’s romance through the last three months of their life together and into the year after his death. It details their unsettling spiral from ordinary life into the world of mental illness, examines the fragile line between reality and madness, and reveals the true power of love and forgiveness.


All the Things We Never Knew is the absolutely heartbreaking account of author Shelia Hamilton’s experience with her first husband’s battle with bipolar disorder and his subsequent suicide. This deeply emotional but incredibly powerful story is unflinchingly honest and shines a much needed light on mental illness and how easy it is to overlook, excuse or explain away loved ones’ symptoms and behavior.  A courageous and heart wrenching story that will help raise awareness and hopefully destigmatize mental illness and suicide, I HIGHLY recommend this extraordinary memoir to all readers.

Right from her very first encounter with her soon to be husband, David Krol, Sheila Hamilton was smitten. Attracted to his enthusiastic zest for life, she fell fast and she fell hard for the successful contractor.  Sheila and David soon married and they were both overjoyed when she gave birth to their daughter, Sophie. However, their picture perfect life begins to unravel when Sheila learns of David’s infidelity and despite her decision to remain married, their marriage never quite recovers from his betrayal. This discovery was an important red flag and it was just one of many symptoms of David’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder that Sheila overlooked in the course of their ten year marriage.

When Sheila married David, she was a highly successful and well respected television newsreporter and it is almost incomprehensible to understand her decision to stay with him. Her choice was not made lightly and while well-intentioned, living with David became unbearable in the face of his increasingly erratic behavior in the years to come. Although it was impossible not to notice his mood swings, irrational outbursts and unusual sensitivity to lights, sounds and smells, she never connected these symptoms to any type of mental illness. Denial, lack of information and little knowledge of his family history made it impossible to put the pieces of the puzzle together until David’s condition deteriorated and he was hospitalized when she finally worked up the courage to begin divorce proceedings. It was during this time that Sheila uncovered the shocking state of his company’s finances and learned that David was deeply in debt. Before she could get to the bottom of the financial mess, David was released from the hospital, and he committed suicide, leaving Sheila and Sophie reeling with grief and trying to comprehend what drove him to take his own life.

The chapters alternate between the events of Sheila’s and David’s ten year marriage and valuable insight and staggering statistics about mental illness and treatment options. This information is often provided in the context of Sheila’s experiences with David but these resources would also be helpful to anyone whose life is affected by mental illness.  The narrative also offers a thought-provoking and compelling argument about the role genetics play in inheriting such illnesses. It is also provides an eye-opening discussion on how personal experiences and family history can affect the way someone deals with a loved one or acquaintance who suffers from a mental illness.

All the Things We Never Knew is an unforgettable and poignant story about Shelia Hamilton’s marriage to a man with an undiagnosed mental disorder. Although sometimes difficult to read, this heartrending memoir is as educational as it is heartbreaking and it is a book I highly recommend.

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Filed under All the Things We Never Knew, Contemporary, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review, Seal Press, Sheila Hamilton