Reckless Grace. Make sure you continue on to read more about this powerful memoir and an interview with the author. You'll have the chance to win a copy of the book too!
First, here's a bit about Reckless Grace:
Fourteen-year-old Rachel guards a collection of secrets for ten years, journaling to vent her terror and loneliness.
Following Rachel's fatal overdose years later, her mother, Carolyn DiPasquale, stumbles upon her daughter's diaries. Shattered, she searches for answers, retracing her steps to figure out how parents and doctors missed three major mental illnesses.
What the single, working mother recalls is a far cry from what happens, as dramatically revealed in tandem chapters gleaned from Rachel's journals. While the mother sprints from task to task, the daughter details the baffling emergence and frightening progression of bulimia, diabulimia, and borderline personality disorder; her eventual substance abuse; and heart-wrenching reasons for not seeking help.
Despite her loss, DiPasquale hopes her story lights a path for victims of mental illness while awakening all readers.
Publisher: E.L. Marker
Print length: 546 pages
Purchase a copy of Reckless Grace on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.
About the Author, Carolyn DiPasquale
Carolyn DiPasquale grew up in Franksville, Wisconsin, graduating from UW-Milwaukee with a double major in English and French. In 1983, she moved to Rhode Island where she raised three children while pursuing her Master’s in English at the University of Rhode Island. Over her career, she taught literature and composition at various New England colleges; worked as a technical writer at the Naval Underseas Warfare Center in Newport; and wrote winning grants as a volunteer for Turning Around Ministries, a Newport aftercare program for ex-offenders. She has been an active member of the Newport Round Table, a professional writing group (founded in 1995), since 2013.
DiPasquale currently lives in Richmond, Rhode Island where she has started working on a sequel to Reckless Grace. She has also ventured into writing children’s books. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and baking with healthy ingredients, hiking and trapshooting with her husband Phil, and volunteering at the New Hope Chapel food pantry in Carolina, Rhode Island.
-- Interview by Nicole Pyles
WOW: This is an incredibly powerful memoir filled with raw honesty and insight. What inspired you to write a memoir about your experience with losing your daughter and what have you learned about her mental illness?
Carolyn: What compelled me to write Reckless Grace was my daughter’s extraordinary journals. When I uncovered them—twenty volumes penned over ten years—I knew I’d struck gold. Rachel was guarded, and her death was abrupt. These diaries would let me in and answer my gnawing questions. I never dreamed they’d serve a greater cause. Then I started reading, and her secrets began to emerge: she’d hidden three major mental disorders with symptoms so tormenting she’d imagined her own funeral. These secrets had to be shared. Other people, especially parents of teenage girls, would want to know how Rachel had fallen through the medical cracks and why she kept quiet for fourteen years.
WOW: I can only imagine how profound it must have felt to find those journals and gain those insights. What was your writing process and what surrounds you while you write?
Carolyn: I treat my writing like an eight-hour workday. After a shower, breakfast, and prayer, I retreat to my study where I open a Word doc on my laptop and read what I wrote the day before. I shoot for three hundred words a day. I know this is a modest sum. I should write in bulk and clean it later, but if I don’t like what I wrote, I can’t move forward. Sipping my Starbucks Sumatra, I read yesterday’s text as if through an enemy’s eyes, like Donald Murray. If my words are cogent and lyrical, I keep going. If not, I rework them before tackling my daily quota.
On nice days, dappled light pours into the small room. Through the two closed windows, all I see are trees the color of green beans on my wooded lot in Richmond, Rhode Island. My octagonal oak desk that I found at a yard sale and was once a kitchen table has worked well while writing Reckless Grace; especially during my research when books and hard copies of academic studies were strewn across it.
Except for birdsong and the occasional remote zoom of a passing car, my study is quiet. I need silence to write. Therefore, I decline my writer friends’ invitations to Starbucks where amidst the music, chatter, and barista clatter they say they produce their best work. At home, chores yank them from their desks. I can stay on task without forsaking my housework, I brag. During bathroom breaks, I scour a toilet or sink. While reheating my coffee or grabbing lunch, I wipe a counter, pack, or unpack the dishwasher. When I get stuck, I throw in a load of clothes, vacuum a room, prep dinner. Invariably, by the time I return to my desk, the problem is solved.
WOW: I love how you construct your day around your writing! What have you learned while writing this memoir?
Carolyn: I learned that the human mind has superpowers. When I started writing Reckless Grace, many large problems loomed: How could I choose from among the sea of gripping poems and entries in Rachel’s journals? How could I do justice—write clearly and effectively—about four major illnesses? How would I organize this gargantuan lot? Most baffling, how could I write this story when I was so numb, not only from the shock of losing my daughter but from her string of crises leading up to it, that I honestly couldn’t recall a thing? My memories were gone.
Amazingly, my mind conquered all these problems and many more, not while I was writing, but while I was jogging or sleeping. I began to realize there was no problem, at least in this project, my mind could not solve. No matter how daunting the roadblock, my brain quickly found a good way around it. For the first time in my life, I was tapping into those infinite mental reserves we all have but few use. What a rush!
But you’re probably wondering how I regained my memories, my first and most pressing glitch. Well, I thought Rachel’s journals would do it; as I read what she had recorded between ages fourteen and twenty-four, everything would come rushing back. But her diaries were not cut-and-dried; she wrote more about her feelings and illnesses than actual events. Therefore, I closed the last volume with still only a hazy notion of what had happened, feeling like I was back at square one: I’d have to write this book based largely on my shoddy memory.
But then I was heartened, recalling from past projects the magic that occurs through the simple mechanics of writing—putting pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard. Though frozen, I started typing, and as I did, the timeframe I was trying to capture opened to me. I recalled key events and places with vivid clarity—felt the heat and smelled the rubbing alcohol the day Rachel was diagnosed with diabetes; saw her lawyer’s fiery eyes and accordion forehead the day he questioned her for heroin possession; felt my heart fail when I got that doctor’s call. I heard pivotal conversations and recalled thoughts and even motives from years ago. My fingers couldn’t record the flow of description and dialog fast enough. Not one memory had been lost. My wonder brain had stored them all!
WOW: How incredible that your memory returned like that! What sort of response did people in your life have about your memoir?
Carolyn: While the responses have been overwhelmingly positive, some have surprised me.
My mom, sisters, and closest friends have gushed praises. Some recurring comments I never tire of hearing are: “I love how you alternated the mother’s and daughter’s voices,” “It’s beautifully written,” “I couldn’t put it down.” One friend said she felt blue after finishing Reckless Grace because she missed reading it. A 25-year-old said she began re-reading Rachel’s chapters the moment she finished the book.
I knew Rachel’s raw journals would resonate with young women with EDs and other mental illnesses; however, I did not anticipate healthy young women being captivated by Rachel’s writing. One friend’s eighteen-year-old daughter, who’d bought the book herself, texted me to say she was touched by Rachel’s struggles: “I’ve found myself going through a lot of similar things.…it’s made me rethink how I should be carrying myself in life.”
Other (mainly Facebook) friends who expressed excitement after receiving their copies of Reckless Grace never mentioned it again. I know some people read slowly, and this is a long, heavy book. Still, I’m puzzled. Did they lose interest, or were they too distressed by the content, especially the ending, to comment at all? It’s chillingly familiar, redolent of family and friends who reacted similarly to Rachel’s death: said nothing because they didn’t know what to say.
Also, surprising—and troubling—is the seeming disinterest in my book from people with whom I have a history and good relationships (or so I thought), such as certain in-laws and my ex-husband. Though, I can count this group on one hand, it still hurts. And it bothers me that it does. I’ve taken a break from writing to market Reckless Grace. Maybe it’s time to pursue more productive thoughts. Yup. My sequel is calling.
WOW: It can be hard to feel that lack of response, but I'm so glad that you did get those positive reviews. How, if at all, did writing this memoir help you with grieving the loss of your daughter?
Carolyn: Doctor Charles L. Whitfield says that the only way to deal with your pain is by going through it. Writing this memoir did help me process my pain, but it was taxing, time-consuming, and often excruciating. I had to read hundreds of pages of journals, as well as thick files containing Rachel’s doctors’ reports, court papers, and personal correspondences. From these documents, I pieced together a timeline of Rachel’s decline, following her diabetes diagnosis. Researching her mental illnesses was another feat, the body of data vast and complex. Many times, while trying to decode the technical language and quantitative results in academic studies, I thought my head would burst. Other times, hot tears flowed as I contemplated how much my daughter had suffered. Guilt taunted me throughout: I hadn’t played with, talked to, or touched Rachel enough. Hadn’t kept her safe.
How often I wanted to quit, but Rachel couldn’t walk away. She lived with mental illness, like 44 million other Americans. I kept thinking of the girls who at that moment were living in her former hell, and of their parents, who were inhabiting my former ignorance. I had to share what I knew. Granted, it wasn’t much, but even faint light is a godsend when people are walking in darkness.
For me, healing came not just from venting my emotions but also from understanding what had happened. Comprehending Rachel’s illnesses helped me grasp some of her strange thought patterns and dangerous behaviors. Finally, I fathomed her attraction to drugs. Suddenly, it all made sense; and, though horrible, somehow this revelation gave me peace.
WOW: That understanding is an incredible part of the healing process. What do you hope people take away from this book?
Carolyn: I want readers to close Reckless Grace with a clearer understanding of mental illness. I want them to know how painful it is for people—especially adolescents—to live with serious disorders. I want them to know how often and how long victims live without treatment as their symptoms get more and more unbearable. I want readers to feel the voltage of that suffering so they’ll show those people kindness and/or get earlier mental health care for themselves or their loved ones. Finally, I hope Reckless Grace makes it to the nightstands of influential individuals, such as doctors and nurses and CEOs of health insurance companies, hospitals, and eating disorder (ED) facilities, inspiring them to review and improve practices and policies that would give young people with co-existing mental illnesses a fighting chance to improve their health.
WOW: Thank you so much for talking with us today and I truly feel your book will resonate with our readers.
-- Blog Tour Calendar
August 1st @ The Muffin
Join us at WOW! Women on Writing as we celebrate the launch of Carolyn DiPasquale's memoir Reckless Grace. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.
August 1st @ Mindy McGinnis
Join Mindy as she features a guest post by author Carolyn DiPasquale on the topic of how mental disorders travel in packs. Don't miss this!
August 3rd @ Pages and Paws
Join Kristine as she reviews Carolyn DiPasquale's memoir Reckless Grace. You don't want to miss this powerful memoir!
August 8th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Join Anthony as he features Carolyn DiPasquale's guest post about lessons learned from querying agents and publishers.
August 9th @ The Faerie Review
Join Lily as she features Carolyn DiPasquale and her memoir Reckless Grace.
August 10th @ Word Magic
Come by Fiona's blog where she shares the author's guest post about memoir writing. Don't miss this important post if you are interested in this writing genre!
August 13th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Join Linda as she interviews Carolyn DiPasquale about her memoir Reckless Grace.
August 15th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra as she features Reckless Grace by Carolyn DiPasquale.
August 18th @ Pen and Prosper
Join Jennifer as she interviews Carolyn DiPasquale about her memoir Reckless Grace.
August 19th @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog and read her review of Carolyn DiPasquale's memoir Reckless Grace. You don't want to miss this touching memoir.
August 20th @ Choices
Join Madeline as she shares Carolyn DiPasquale's guest post about whether women can age with grace.
August 22nd @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog as she reviews Carolyn DiPasquale's powerful memoir Reckless Grace.
August 24th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Join Anthony again as he reviews Carolyn DiPasquale's powerful memoir Reckless Grace.
August 28th @ Liberate and Lather
Join Angela as she reviews Carolyn DiPasquale's memoir Reckless Grace.
September 1st @ Peaches and Cream Pages
Join Kelly as she reviews Carolyn DiPasquale's memoir Reckless Grace. You'll definitely want to add this book to your reading list.
September 2nd @ Heidi Lynn's Book Reviews.
Join Heidi Lynn as she features Carolyn DiPasquale's memoir Reckless Grace.
September 3rd @ Kelly Sgroi's Blog
Visit Kelly's blog today and read the guest post written by Carolyn DiPasquale about how to make your writing sing. Feel inspired today!
September 4th @ Free to be Me
Join Leslie as she reviews Reckless Grace by Carolyn DiPasquale.
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