This book will probably appeal more to people who read Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours. I actually started that book, but after a few chapters I just wasn’t getting into it and then it had to go back to the library and I just never bothered to check it out again. So I probably should have expected a similar lackluster response to Before And After, which Lisa Wingate wrote along with Judy Christie. This book came as a response to the many, many people who saw their own stories in Before We Were Yours.
It’s definitely a compelling story. Georgia Tann ran a black market baby store at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in the first half of the 20th century. She would purchase or even steal babies from mothers — often those who might not be in the best social or financial standing. These women were frequently pressured by their parents or the fathers of the babies to give them up. Tann would then turn around and sell the babies for an exorbitant amount to new parents. She did not vetting of the families taking the babies, and employed shady methods in order to hide the identities of the babies. This prevented their mothers from finding them (or vice versa) later in life.
On the plus side, the stories within this book are generally good ones. It is terrible to think of the mothers who lost their children in this way, but because it’s been so long, those are not the interviewees in Before And After. Instead, we hear story after story of children who were adopted under these terrible circumstances but generally grew up in happy households and found success. I’m not saying that was every story, and I’m not saying that’s okay or somehow justifies what Tann did, but it is nice to know that overall, these kids turned out okay. One of the major themes that runs through the stories is that these children often felt like outsiders as they grew up. That applies to those who knew they were adopted as well as those who did not. I imagine that’s pretty similar in a lot of adoption stories, although I’m hardly an expert. I do hope these men and women found closure after reading Before We Were Yours and meeting some other people from similar circumstances.