It is a mythically beautiful Sunday evening in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, the sun reigns the sky for hours into the party on this tucked-away estate, inviting strangers to sip their cocktails outside on the patio. Guests eventually sift in through French doors, navy-wrappered books in hand, and wait for the hostess to take the stage at the front of the room.
Patti Callahan Henry inches through the crowd, seizing each friend or admirer that she meets in a bear hug. We are here to celebrate the launch of Patti’s new book, And Then I Found You, but we also know this is very much a family affair.
And Then I Found You is a novel inspired by the true story of Patti’s sister, Barbi, who gave a child up for adoption. Some 20 years went by with Barbi always wondering what had happened to the baby girl she’d named Janelle at the hospital. Then, one morning, Barbi and Patti both received friend requests from a beautiful young girl on Facebook who resembled Patti’s daughter. To read the best account of what happened after that, you’ll have to download the ebook Friend Request.
At the launch party for And Then I Found You, Patti and Barbi each share that they’ve been writing or journaling for years. “Becoming” fictional characters and writing their stories is child’s play for Patti Callahan Henry, who’s been assuming the identities of her characters and writing fiction since she was six years old. Patti, a preacher’s daughter, jokes, “How do you think I got through two-hour sermons?”
However, when Patti attempted to write a nonfiction account of Barbi’s adoption and reunion story, the words would not come. In real life, Patti’s parents, sisters and their families were extremely supportive of her efforts to tell the story. But in the solitude of her writer’s workspace, Patti says the room grew loud and crowded with negative voices, and she succumbed to the fear of not getting it right.
At the same time that she was struggling to write the story, Patti was experiencing major life changes: she and her family were relocating to Alabama, and her first child was getting ready to leave for college. Patti says the only solution was writing a fictionalized account of her sister’s reunion story and incorporating the move and other life changes into the framework of her main character, Kate. The result is And Then I Found You.
At least two women in the audience at Patti’s book launch party ask questions about how to support their adopted children who may be searching for their birth parents. Patti says she consulted with an adoption specialist/psychologist when writing the novel. She asked him, “What’s the one thing that adopted kids want to know?” The consultant answered that adopted children want to know why they were put up for adoption, but more than that, they want to know their story. And like all great works of fiction, And Then I Found You is a great conversation starter based on soulful, real-life questions and every human being’s search for the answers–for their story.
Important to note: Patti Callahan Henry’s And Then I Found You is the April She Reads Book Club Selection. I was able to catch up with Kimberly Brock and meet She Reads founders, Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon. What a treat! And not only did I get one of those great big bear hugs from Patti, but I also secured a signed copy of the hardback for one lucky Southern Spines reader. Please comment below or post on the Southern Spines Facebook page to enter to win a copy of the book.