By Carolyn DiPasquale
Publisher: E.L. Marker, an imprint of WiDo Publishing, 2022
Pages: 419 + Several pages of Endnotes and Works Cited
How do you help a severely ill loved one who can’t or won’t get healthy? How do you help someone who doesn’t necessarily want help? How do you help someone if you don’t really know they need help, or what kind of help is needed?
These questions and more are raised in this finely crafted, heartrending memoir. Reckless Grace is the shattering true story of a mother’s journey through her daughter’s physical and mental illnesses, told in retrospect following the daughter’s fatal overdose.
Carolyn DiPasquale’s piercing narrative recounts her daughter Rachel’s physical, mental and spiritual struggles in pellucid prose. The author’s account is interwoven with actual passages from Rachel’s journals, revealing hard truths about Rachel and her struggles that were largely hidden during her life.
As DiPasquale searches for answers after her daughter’s death, she contrasts her experience and perspective with those revealed in Rachel’s own words. It’s jarring, jolting, and heartbreaking, revealing an acute and tragic downward spiral.
At age 21, for example, Rachel develops neuropathy – irreversible nerve damage -in both feet. The condition is related to diabetes.
While Mom and husband Phil are tearing their hair out trying everything and everyone they can possibly think of to get Rachel the help she so desperately needs – including a two-month intensive residential treatment program in Arizona, to the tune of $125K – Rachel’s response is pretty much, “So what”? (p. 302). She becomes suicidal.
Suffering from diabetes, bulimia, a drug addiction, mental illness and a string of toxic relationships, Rachel will do anything – lie, cheat, steal, sell herself – for her next hit of heroin. She’s soon arrested for possession. The cycle of hope and despair continues, with many highs and lows along the way.
Throughout this dark and disturbing journey, DiPasquale tries to understand how so many medical professionals and others failed to notice and adequately treat Rachel’s illnesses. They include diabulimia, bulimia, and borderline personality disorder.
Raw, intense, and brutally honest, Reckless Grace opens a window into the inner turmoil and tumult of a tortured soul. It’s a difficult, exhausting read. But it’s also informative, eye-opening, and quite possibly ground-breaking.
It took me a long time to finish this book. I had to put it down and walk away several times, picking it up later. Frankly, there were times I just wanted this book to be over. It’s heart-rending.
Not an easy read, Reckless Grace isn’t an easy review, either. I rewrote this review multiple times before posting. It still falls short. (We’re not rating this book. It’s not that kind of book.)
Overall, this book is beautifully written, achingly articulate, and searingly transparent. It pulls no punches. Yes, it’s a tough read. But for a select audience, this poignant and powerful memoir could be an invaluable resource as well as a lifeline to hope. It’s a clarion call to end silent suffering and to “embrace the unembraceable” and treat those struggling with mental illness with “respect, patience, and love.”
Indeed, this book deserves a wide audience and much attention. Saturated in courage and buoyed by grace, it’s a remarkable achievement, especially for a debut work.
About the Author:
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.