Monday, September 15, 2014

Sharing the 'Secret' of Domestic Violence

Several women in the news media revealed this week that they had been victims of domestic violence. “I didn’t discuss it before this because I didn’t want to be perceived as a victim,” one newswoman admitted on a cable television station.

In the Women’s Writing Circle we have shared many stories of violence, not just physical violence but emotional and verbal abuse; and it is not always a partner or a spouse, but a family member who intimidates and then violates a woman's physical and emotional boundaries pushing her to the brink of despair and depression.

 In the five years of leading the Circle, I would say without a doubt that stories of domestic violence and abuse – spouses who verbally, physically and emotionally abuse, and parents who do likewise – engaging in abuse of their daughters, have been the most prevalent in read around.

Yet it takes a professional athlete beating his wife to bring into national focus the epidemic of domestic violence against women. The NFL is a culture of cover-up. So is our society when it comes to abuse against women. Domestic violence and abuse against women have remained a shameful secret, swept under the rug, the victim often blamed.

My first encounter with domestic violence occurred when I was a beat reporter for a suburban weekly newspaper. I covered police news and was leafing through the police reports one night when I recognized a name. It jumped out at me because she had been one of my best friends in high school, a big girl, star athlete, lacrosse player. Now I read how her husband had thrown her up against a kitchen wall, punched her and bloodied her nose.

Three weeks later, a similar report appeared and yet another six months later about my friend and her husband. He had again beaten her, neighbors heard shouting and screaming, and police were called. The details are vague now, almost 40 years later, but I remember I phoned her. We had drifted apart since college. I felt at a loss for words. I wanted to help, but not violate her privacy. As I recall she did plan on leaving him, had even gotten a protection from abuse order against him, but he stalked her, begged her to take him back. Our friendship was never the same, maybe because I wanted to help but didn’t understand why she didn’t just change the locks, divorce him, or maybe it was her inability to ever call me to talk. I believe she felt humiliated and embarrassed that I knew. I’ll never know since our friendship faded.

With the Ray Rice NFL scandal, the lines have been drawn, once again, in the usual fashion. Although Rice was caught on tape punching his then fiancĂ©e, now wife, in the face, women who believe Rice is not at fault wear T-shirts with his name and proclaim it is the wife’s fault for what happened.  Some - men and women have called her a “gold digger” for remaining with him. Psychologists say battered women remain at an abuser’s side because she believes she is the only one who “can heal him.”

While statistics show that one in seven men is a victim of domestic violence, this is in reality a woman’s issue affecting one in four relationships. Name calling and putdowns, withholding money, keeping a partner alienated from family and friends – stalking and sexual assault form the gristmill of abuse. Women who remain in abusive relationships, I believe, often struggle with guilt and shame . . .  even misplaced pity for their abuser.

 As we write our stories and share them in the Circle, we empower ourselves and say, this can happen to anyone. "Shame" becomes a shared experience, a validation that we are not alone, the "secret" is out in the open.

I think about the many women who wrote the truth of their stories.  They have come to me in the Circle or privately with their stories of partners who abuse them, parents who did the unthinkable. That's when I remember that line from one of my favorite movies, Goodwill Hunting where Sean, the psychiatrist played by Robin Williams, finally gets through to his client, Will Hunting, abused by his stepfather,

“It’s not your fault,” Sean keeps repeating to Will, played by Matt Damon. “It’s not your fault.”

Here in my own little corner of the world, we are doing what we can in our community to bring the issue of domestic violence to light. My church is presenting on Sept. 23, Domestic Violence in Chester County: Awareness, Prevention and Healing. If you live locally, I hope you can join us for this important discussion.

You are also invited to share your comments and thoughts here.

ALSO:  Last week's winner of  a free copy of Karen Levy's In My Father's Gardens goes to Cathy Coffman.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Price and Prize of Going Public

As a writer do you feel unnerved at the thought of going public with the personal? Terrified of revealing family secrets and then being asked to explain in interviews, signings, talks?

In this essay Karen Levy discusses what many memoir writers grapple with . . . the unnerving aspects of going public with the personal after leading a very private life. Yet as Karen writes: "There is really little point in writing a memoir if you don't give away pieces of yourself, and just as I discovered when I honed my writing voice, the more power I gained in writing and in speaking, the stronger my voice became, the more I enjoyed this next phase of the writing adventure."

Please welcome Karen Levy, author of My Father's Gardens, nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize, to the Women's Writing Circle ~ Susan

Writing is such a strange business. It begins as a most private endeavor, the glimmer of an idea, just you and the glaringly white screen, blank with anticipation at the wondrous words and worlds that will soon fill its emptiness.

If you are like me, you do battle silently, painfully, saying little to others about your work in progress lest it fail miserably and you will have nothing to show for the months and even years spent crafting and deleting, weaving and dreaming your characters to life.

Yet for being so private, the kind of writing I do is unnervingly public, a discovery I did not make until my memoir, My Father's Gardens, was published and in other people's hands.

I would be lying if I said that I had not hoped for a publisher who would come along and say yes, offer a contract and make all those years of effort justified, legitimate. But when I pressed send and watched my manuscript vanish from the screen and hurtle through cyber space on its way to my publisher's desk, I panicked briefly, suddenly realizing that the story to which I had given voice, my story, was no longer mine alone.

Others would now read it, judge it, judge me, and the thought was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

Little did I know that the journey into my private world would not end there, my book on the shelves of the local bookstores where I had dreamed it would one day be. While the writing part of the adventure had ended and successfully at that, the promotional aspect of having written a book had just begun and I found myself standing before groups of people who actually expected that I speak about what I had written. Just read the book! I kept wanting to say at first. Yet it had not been enough that I had exposed family secrets for which my mother, brother and a couple of friends had stopped speaking to me.

Now audiences wanted to discuss these secrets, open them to interpretation even though what I had written was a memoir, my version of the truth which my mother claimed was fictional. It took a few months of appearing in various venues to ease into this aspect of the writing life.

And I soon discovered that despite being a painfully shy individual, in my writing and public appearances I keep revealing secrets. There is really little point in writing a memoir if you don't give away pieces of yourself, and just as I discovered when I honed my writing voice, the more power I gained in writing and in speaking, the stronger my voice became, the more I enjoyed this next phase of the writing adventure.

Over the past year of promotional events my motto has become say yes to everything. I said yes to readings in hole in the wall art galleries, warm and welcoming poetry centers, and dubious open mic nights as young men sang of lost love and broken hearts while I sat waiting my turn on a ratty sofa in the gathering dusk.

I said yes to the Sacramento Library Fund Raiser and found myself in the company of impressive fellow writers. I said yes to the auction portion of that evening despite not knowing what it entailed and a few weeks later, found myself part of a sumptuous dinner with those generous contributors who had bid on my book.

I've said yes to bloggers all over the country and to newspaper articles in which they always get something wrong.

I've said yes to book clubs and retired teacher associations and have had confirmed what I've known all along - words are powerful, and while mine have severed some ties, they have also traveled across borders and cultures and into hearts and homes of readers. I would not have otherwise reached. I hope to be asked to many more events so I can keep saying yes.

How do you feel about going public with your family secrets and memoir?  What are the rewards of sharing you story? 

Karen is giving away a copy of My Father's Gardens to a commenter selected in a random drawing.

Karen Levy is an Israeli-American writer. Born in Israel, Levy spent most of her childhood traveling between her native land and the United States. Commuting between these two countries and having a keen eye for detail have afforded Levy the knowledge necessary to recount the immigrant experience in a very candid style. Following her military service, Levy pursued her studies in the United States where she earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Davis, and an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Sacramento State University where she teaches composition and interpretation of literature. My Father's Gardens is nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Davis, California with her husband and two children.

Karen's Facebook page is - My Father's Gardens

On Twitter - @Jerusalemlevy

About the Book: My Father’s Gardens is the story of a young girl who comes of age in two languages, and on two shores, between warring parents and rules that change depending on the landscape and the proximity of her mother. Struggling to find her voice and her place in the world as a result of her frequent travels between her native Israel and the United States, she feels that she must choose a place to call home. As her scenery alternates between warm Mediterranean and snow capped mountains, loud-mouthed Israelis and polite Americans, so do her loyalties: Is she more Israeli or American? How will she know when she has arrived? And while she chooses she is slowly transplanting bits of her father’s gardens on foreign soil.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Memoirist Honors Her Story of Abuse

Sometimes the hardest part of writing memoir is putting the first word on paper. Along with all the do's and don't's that have plagued women writers throughout the ages, our fear that our story isn't "worth" telling overwhelms us. In this essay, Kellie Springer shares her writing process and urges us to honor our stories simply by beginning without censorship or rules. A former psychiatric nurse, now holistic practitioner and reiki instructor, Kellie began coming to the Women's Writing Circle this summer. She read from her work-in-progress memoir about being a victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse. Please welcome Kellie to the Circle. ~ Susan

"Many of us have a call to writing. In today's world there are numerous avenues to express ourselves. Children's books, memoirs, novels, magazines, blogs and poems are but a few that call to us, begging expression. Yet that calling is often met with inaction and impotence as the would-be author instead pens a mental list of reasons why they are undeserving of such public utterances. Most aspiring writers are left paralyzed with fear and doubt, never allowing pen to hit paper.

Our minds have been saturated with the rules of writing, not the freedoms of sharing our voice. The entire process of getting our written words before the eyes of others is fraught with a system that deems our work worthy...or not. Our unique voice appears utterly dependent on the approval of others.

Or is it? Can we boldly bring to life the message we seek to deliver to the world without fear of judgment and analysis? My answer, indeed we can.

It can be that simple, really, if we allow it. As in everything we do, the first step is always to begin. You need not have a step-by-step plan or even a concept of its ending but action, in any form, is key. Attempt to be committed to action instead of the approval, or imagined disapproval, of others.

Once we permit ourselves to move forward, however imperceptible, the energy of who we are and what we long to share gains momentum. Take just one step, and then one more, repeatedly.

There need not be methodology to your composition in this infant stage, simply allowance to be present to the style and manner that words are most comfortably conveyed through you. This is a time of creativity, the technicalities and proper arrangements can come in a later phase. There are many well versed in the schema of writing, and it is during that time that we call in the support and guidance of others to bring closure and clearer comprehension to our work.

If action is the first step, then speaking from your heart is what follows. Share with the world your personal passions and others will be drawn to your authenticity.

Our mindset limits and contains us, but speaking from that place where you feel alive is powerful and one of the greatest gifts you have to share with others. The work and the words you express can only come from a perspective and understanding that you solely possess. It will be like no others' because you are like no other. Embody and embrace that last sentence, and you will begin to see the wonder in the words as they flow from a mere concept to sentences on a page.

Prior to typing the first words of my memoir, I felt what could only be described as a compulsion. I truly felt I could no longer contain the ideas and thoughts that floated repeatedly within my awareness. The drive to "speak" my words felt vastly greater than the warnings my mind flashed before me. I had no idea where or how to begin, and it was then that I realized that was my starting point. I simply began to type what was happening to me in that moment: "How do you put over twenty years of purging, insight and growth into a book?"

Instead of forcing myself to create what I thought should be my beginning, I allowed the truth and energy of that event to speak for itself. It wasn't a confidence that fueled me, writing 144 pages in perhaps 10 months, but a need; a need that only only I could fulfill.

Sharing your written word can be a profound event for both you and the reader. I encourage you to simply begin, if only with one word, allowing your stream of consciousness to flow from its confines. Cease thinking and allow the words to move through you. Seek not the permission of others, but instead your own, bringing to light the gifts which you have come to share with our world.

What messages or gifts are you drawn to share with the world? What step will you take to begin to fuel the momentum and energy of your work?

Kellie Springer previously worked as a psychiatric Registered Nurse. She is currently a holistic practitioner, practicing as a reiki master and intuitive guide. For more than twenty-five years she has traveled through her own journey of healing and self awareness. It is through her sojourns that she seeks to support and inspire others to find their own truths, nurturing self compassion and understanding. She currently posts a weekly inspirational blog and is working on a memoir of her lifetime experience as a victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse. She lives in Chester County, PA . She may be reached through her website:

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Grandmother's Life Inspires Historical Fiction

Mary at 23
It's not unusual for writers to stay "close to home" as landscapes and way of life provide ongoing inspiration. In her memoir, Growing up Country, Carol Bodensteiner writes of family life in Iowa. The rural Midwest also sets the stage for her debut novel, Go Away Home. The  main character, Lidde Treadway, is based on Carol's grandmother, Mary Haylock, a farmer's wife and woman of courage and fortitude. I invited Carol to talk about her writing process, women's empowerment which is a theme in the novel, and the research that goes into historical fiction. My review of Go Away Home can be read here.

Carol's essay on her memoir, Growing Up Country, which she wrote for the Women's Writing Circle last year, can be read here. Please welcome Carol to the Circle. ~ Susan

Mary E. Haylock
Your main character, Liddie Treadway, is a woman much like your grandmother. What made you decide to write a novel based on her life?

The seed for this story was planted when I learned as a child that my grandfather died of the Spanish flu in 1918. My connection to that major world event and the grandfather I never knew stuck in my mind.

I always knew my grandmother as a stern, often critical, old woman. Even though she lived until I was in my 20s, I never asked her a single question about him or their lives together. So while the story started with a few tidbits of family lore I picked up from my mother over the years, it truly is fiction.

 After I published my memoir and was looking for the next writing project, the idea of doing something that started with my grandparents finally took root and grew. In a way – for me – Go Away Home creates a life for my grandparents before they married. But the story is fiction.

What are the challenges of historical fiction, in terms of research, writing about social conditions of the time, creating an accurate setting?

Farming in the early 1900s was similar in many ways to farming in the 1950s, the time of my memoir. A closely knit family, hard work, limited yet strict expectations of what women can do. So I started with an understanding of the place and dynamics. The challenge was getting my head around life before electricity, travel before cars, and how the Great War impacted life on the home front. I have to be able to picture things in my mind to write about them, so I went “on-site” as often as possible, to the Living History Farms, the streets of Liddie’s town, Chicago. The county and state historical societies, libraries, websites, and first-person stories were also rich sources.

Liddie dreams of adventure and a career. In the end she realizes her happiness lies on a more traditional path. What was it like for women at that time, what did you learn and how could you apply that to your own life?

Carol and her mom
Women of that time, particularly rural women, didn’t recognize a lot of options for their lives, which does not mean they didn’t have opinions and aspirations. Young women were expected to get married and raise a family. A girl might teach school for a while but when she married, she was not allowed to teach any longer.

Liddie wanted to be a seamstress but the expectation was that she’d do that only until she married. Women were dependent on men for respectability and security, but they were pushing the boundaries. Women like Liddie’s maiden Aunt Kate were single and successful in a career. Women were speaking out to get the vote. Throughout the 20th century, women traveled along a spectrum that led to ever-greater independence and equality for women. That journey continues. I admire Liddie’s willingness to keep pushing to pursue her dreams, and being strong enough to take a path she originally thought she didn’t want when her heart led her there.

Liddie’s sister, Amelia, is shamed for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Forced to leave home and marry the father, she becomes old before her time. What did you hope the reader might learn from Amelia’s story?

We all make choices in our lives. Some of them turn out well, some of them not so well. That’s as true today as it was 100 years ago. Amelia made choices in the beginning that she thought would make her happy, then she had to live (as we all do) with the consequences of her choices. We also have a choice in how we handle the tough times. Do they make us bitter or do we learn and grow? Amelia sets up a discussion of these issues as well as any character in the book.

At the end, Liddie faces difficult circumstances and decisions that family and society might say she has “no business” making. How much or how little have society’s views of the single woman changed? Was women’s empowerment an issue that drew you to writing your grandmother’s story?

I believe women have always sought to find their voices. The obstacles to doing that have changed over the centuries, but the desire remains. Some find fulfillment with home and family, some outside the home, some pursue happiness in both. No one approach is right or wrong. Today, women can vote, run for office, own property, have a career, marry or not. But individually and collectively, women are still reaching for their dreams. My writing goal was to tell the story as well as I could. If that story speaks to women’s empowerment, I’m happy.

Carol Bodensteiner is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published her memoir Growing Up Country in 2008. Go Away Home is her debut novel.

Go Away Home is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl is available on Amazon paperback and ebook


Tweet @CABodensteiner



Monday, August 18, 2014

Spiritual Memoir Leads To Self-Discovery

In her new memoir, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life, Lorraine Ash eloquently writes about her search for meaning after the stillborn birth of her only child, a daughter. She asks: What does it all mean? What matters in life? How do we reconcile faith in light of unknowable and often senseless tragedy?

Sharing our stories is an act of generosity and spirituality. That's why we light the candle before our Women's Writing Circle read around. The light illuminates the sacred container; the "magic" that storytelling evokes.

In this essay, Lorraine discusses how penning memoir with the hindsight of midlife maturity leads to self-discovery. As part of the WOW! (Women on Writing) tour for Self and Soul, please welcome Lorraine to the Women's Writing Circle.

Some years ago, I sat around a table with eight other essayists at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the door open, the salty smell of the ocean entering the room. The writer next to me, a blond gay man pushing forty years old, shared an essay he wrote in response to a writing prompt.

Steve wrote about his high school days and his first sexual experiences with another gay man, who directed the singing or acting troupe to which Steve belonged. For years, he'd thought fondly of their trysts but, later in life, he realized that he'd been too young and that his mentor should have resisted - not indulged - his impulses. As a middle-aged man, Steve felt he'd been used in the relationship, not loved.

“The director was about thirty-seven when it happened. When I turned the same age, I realized what he had done," Steve told us with a look of befuddlement, anger, and amazement on his face.

Thick, full context

By midlife, we’ve done enough living, and had so many diverse experiences, that we can see patterns in human behavior. We’ve had encounters with people older and more experienced than we were. We looked up to some and struggled with others. But it isn’t until we achieve their age that we can fully grasp their effects on us.

Writing memoir at midlife is an act of becoming fully conscious through storytelling. The past needn’t claim us, or mire us in its traumas or challenges. Science has shown us that a memory is reconstructed from different parts of our brain. When we write a memoir, we weave new insights into old memories, changing them and helping us decide what to do next.

Authoring the future

In writing, we tell, first ourselves, where we’ve been, even as we realize we are the older people now, capable of authoring our own lives and mindful we are playing key roles in the lives of those around us. That way, we’re less likely to become a person who unwittingly shows up as a problem twenty years from now, in someone else’s book.

As Jan Rubin, memoir teacher, wrote in her book Looking Back, Moving On: Memoir as Prologue: "Our autobiographies, begun with the intention of leaving behind a record of who we were, become an instrument for discovering who we are as a first step into moving forward in our lives.”


What questions come up for you in midlife? Does a particular memory, even years old, pop up? Does a statement you once heard enter your thoughts, unbidden? At this time of life memories and thoughts surface so they can be resolved. How might you begin to reckon with yours on the page?

Your comments and observations are most welcomed and appreciated.

Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is available as a digital audiobook. Find it at and as well as in the iTunes store.

Lorraine Ash, M.A., is a New Jersey author, award-winning journalist, essayist, book editor, and writing teacher. Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life, her second book, is available in a variety of formats and online stores, all presented here, . Reach Lorraine at, , or @LorraineVAsh.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Writing With An Eye Toward Literature

Writing is healing, but it can also be emotionally and psychically draining. Over the summer as I worked on my novel and sent it out to readers for their feedback, I felt the effort had taken a toll on my body and soul.

My readers are professional writers, trained social workers, psychologists and family. They read the work with an eye toward character, motivation and psychology. 

What motivates a person to do what they do? Are they repeating the self-defeating behaviors perpetrated in their family, generation after generation?

Every writer needs to be a psychologist in his or her own right, a keen observer of human nature. She needs a fair modicum of emotional intelligence. Good writers see the complexity of their characters; this is the stuff of literature. Poorly written stories present cardboard characters, black and white images . . . caricatures.

Whether memoir or fiction, it often takes a toll on the writer's mind and soul as she digs deep, searches within the far recesses of her mind to remember, comprehend and present with empathy what drives a person to do what ultimately leads to his downfall – or renewal.

That's the value of literature – the story well told that represents the human condition. In a day and age where the superficial story, the hackneyed plot, the lack of writing craft pervades brick and mortar and digital bookstores, the value of literature for individuals and our society as a whole deepens.

I discovered this article in TIME magazine entitled Reading Literature Makes us Smarter and Nicer: "Deep reading" is vigorous exercise for the brain and increases our real-life capacity for empathy.

In part, it states: “Deep reading” — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them."

For the writer - penning the deeper story, the one that plumbs the depths of the human condition takes tremendous effort. It's why writers often smoked or drank themselves to death. In the end, however, it is our job – our obligation to our readers - to write the dark and the light; portray what drives and motivates people in our own little corner of the world, like Jane Austen, one of my favorite authors, did.

Her genius resided in painting indelible portraits of the contemporaries of her time and place from wealthy young men searching for wives, old maids, squires and country gentlemen and clergymen. She wrote what she knew and lived.

This past week I took a break from the rigors of writing a complex story. I traveled to places that serve as touchstones to my past – the beauty of Pennsylvania’s small towns, as if in them I might slow down, take a deep breath and revel in summer; maybe even regain some lost innocence. 

I saw a comedic play by a local playwright, enjoyed conversation with a close friend, ordered homemade gazpacho watermelon soup . . . sat in a small coffee shop with a view of the street where American flags flew from corniced window tops.

I sat on a bench and watched ducks glide along the Delaware River, their green and brown feathers bristling in the sunlight as they shook water off their sleek bodies. I took a deep breath, appreciating the beauty of my surroundings, no timetable. I owed it to myself and my story to restore my energy.

What about you? How do you restore yourself from the rigors of writing?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Is Life Too Short For Bad Books?

Recent headlines indicate that more and more readers purchase ebooks, but never make it beyond the first 10 percent of the book before putting it down.

I admit I've become a fan of the shorter book, particularly in a day and age where many people, myself included, are pressed for time and have other options, including movies and Internet.

Are readers telling us life is too short for bad books? 

Take the case of a recent bestseller: Writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof 

We may now have a new “most unread best seller of all time.” Data from Amazon Kindles suggests that that honor may go to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which reached No. 1 on the best-seller list this year. Jordan Ellenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, wrote that Picketty's book seems to eclipse its rivals in losing readers: All five of the passages that readers on Kindle have highlighted most are in the first 26 pages of a tome that runs 685 pages.

Writes Ellenberg in a column entitled The Summer's Most Unread Books - How can we find today's greatest non-reads? Amazon's "Popular Highlights" feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book's Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.

It's interesting, too, that Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited subscription pays author royalties only after readers have read the first 10 percent of the book.

"KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted."


I used to force myself to continue reading a book, even when it was bad, just to give myself a sense of accomplishment. Now, if I’m not enjoying a storyline, the characters are poorly developed, or the plot could have been written in 100 pages less, I close the book.

I admit it.  I'm all about the page turner. Is life too short for bad books? 

Do you have books in your bookshelf where bookmarks show you stopped reading? 

What are your thoughts on book length and trends that reveal people are not making it to the end of the book?  

Your comments are most welcomed and appreciated.