What I Read and Loved by Shirley Hailstock

Many of us probably belong to some type of book club. Long before I started writing, a friend and I used to exchange books and discuss the stories. We were serious, getting into symbolism and what we thought the story or author was trying to say.

When I moved to New Jersey, I lost that book contact although we still continue to be friends and visit when we can. And we always discuss what we're reading. Today, I dont belong to a formal book club, but I belong to a forum where we talk about books, suggest books or give out non-public opinions on them.

Recently, I read a book that has kept me up at night and the characters will continue to haunt me long after even though I've finished reading the last page.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate has characters I will never forget. It tells two stories, one in the past and one in the present and how they intertwine. A family of five children in Tennessee were victims of the Tennessee Children's Home Society in Memphis. While the book is fiction, this was a real life scandal of a woman named Georgia Tann who kidnapped or duped parents into signing their children over to her. She then charged huge adoption fees to wealthy people and pocketed the money.

The process went on for decades and involved many levels of the city's politicians and some famous celebrities, including Joan Crawford and June Allyson and Dick Powell. Some of the children and their biological parents were never able to find each other after the truth came to light.

As the mother of two adopted children, I felt for the children and their biological parents. I couldn't help the tears that were falling by the end of the book.

A question that the victim of the kidnapping made had me thinking. She asked who she would have been if she hadn't been taken from her loving parents. Would she still be the same person? I'm still thinking about that. What's your opinion?

Shirley Hailstock

Comments

  1. Shirley, that is an interesting, sad story. Sort of like the one soon to be a TV movie of the Three identical strangers who were part of a doctor's trial when they were separated at birth and never knew they had been part of triplets. It was a study that went on too long and was kept from the adoptive parents, but the children were followed for their progress. I believe some of what your kidnap victim became might have been similar to how she would have turned out anyway. But of course some of what we internalize is environmental. And certainly Joan Crawford's adopted child was very unhappy.

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  2. That's a difficult question. Environment and heredity are both such strong factors, aren't they? The book sounds interesting, and also so sad. I understand why it stays with you.

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  3. Such a sad story on so many levels...the children separated from parents, the corruption of officials, the betrayal of trust.

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  4. Very sad and interesting. I'd say no, she would be different, but who can say whether that difference was better or worse or just different? It's always an interesting question of what ifs. What if my mother hadn't bought a house on the same block as the woman who introduced her to my dad? What if Dorothy had landed on the good witch instead of the bad witch? What if John Lennon had never met Yoko Ono? I can see why it stuck with you, Shirley.

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    1. We totally need to talk about what if Lennon hadn't met Ono. I read the autobiography is first wife, I believe her name was Cynthia, wrote. It was very good.

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    2. Interesting. I'll have to look for that sometime.

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  5. Shirley, I've read Before We Were Yours and it was so good. I was born in Memphis during the timeframe of the book and could easily have been one of the children Georgia Tann stole. I hope all of our readers will the book.

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  6. Loved that book, Shirley. And there's nothing quite like the "what ifs" that came up when I've thought about my son's birth family. The movie, old as it is, gave me chills. Wingate is a beautiful writer, isn't she?

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  7. I, too, love the book - though I've been checking it out on Overdrive and it went back to the library when I had just 20 minutes left to hear! It is an awesome book and made me aspire to be a better writer. What an imagination Wingate has. I love her books.

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  8. I'm going to look for that book. The question asked is one I've asked on many levels. For one, I've wondered about my father. He suffered from a painful condition most of his life. If he hadn't experienced that, he would have been a different person. Would he have been less compassionate and sensitive? Would he have had more humor? Would he have done different work and accomplished different things? How would it have affected his family relationships? We don't get to know the answers to 'what if?' Maybe that's why at least some of us write, so we can imagine some of it.

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  9. That sounds like a sad but interesting book, and I can see why the story stuck with you.

    I'd say no, she wouldn't be the same person. Biologically, she would be the same. But living with her adoptive family and in her new environment, she would grow up in a different lifestyle and be exposed to different experiences.

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  10. Loved that book. I was part of Lisa's Sisterhood of the Traveling Book.

    denise

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