Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book review: Fast Girl: Running From Madness by Suzy Favor Hamilton

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?


Apparently not for Suzy Favor Hamilton. She made a name for herself as an Olympian....and as a high paid escort. She was apparently so skilled as an escort that she even ranked #2 on an escort website at one point in time. Go big or go home. While she was touring for Run Disney and the Rock and Roll Race series, she also made arrangements to meet clients on the side. On the down low. Multitasking. Getting the most bang for her buck.

Bad pun, I know.

She didn't just meet clients in Vegas. But Vegas is where most of the action happened.

I don't know who to be more disgusted with--Suzy or her husband. This book left me speechless.

Ok, I'll back it on up. Suzy Favor Hamilton was a top middle distance runner in the 1990s, competing in 3 Summer Olympics. In her final event, she saw she wasn't going to win and faked an injury, falling to the track. She readily admits this.

Yep, she threw the race because she wasn't going to win. Just try and get your head around that one.

After retiring from competition and settling into life in Wisconsin as a partner in her husband's real estate business, Suzy was unsatisfied. Diagnosed with depression, she started taking an antidepressant. For her and Mark's 20th wedding anniversary, she suggested a trip to Las Vegas. The trip included skydiving and a threesome with an escort, both at Suzy's suggestion. She felt a rush from the experience with the escort and suggested to her husband that becoming an escort was something she'd like to try.

And he agreed? My head almost blew off when I read that part.

Suzy blames her promiscuity on bipolar disorder, which she says resulted from the antidepressant she was prescribed. Interestingly, a major side effect of SSRIs is a suppressed libido. Not in this case, it seems.

All Suzy's trips to Las Vegas were made with the knowledge of her husband Mark. I can understand that bipolar disorder leads to acting out in all sorts of ways--excessive spending, drinking and drugs, and sexual promiscuity, but instead of helping Suzy, according to her story, her husband allowed her do just what she wanted. She says he didn't approve, but he knew and he stuck around.

Does this seem odd to you?

Can you say enabler?

Or is Suzy looking for someone to blame?

Clearly she was out of control. I read most of this book with my mouth hanging open. And it's not a well written book but it is a page turner. First I had to try to fathom her husband's complicity. Right now, my husband is trying to wrap his head around my 2 spring races which involve plane tickets and hotel stays. Trips to Las Vegas to have sex with other men? For money? I believe that he might draw the line at that. Although I don't know for sure. I've never tested him on that.

What kind of husband would go along with this?

In the book, Suzy talks about being afraid of failure. First as a runner, and then as a prostitute. On her prostitution journey, her ego got the best of her and she became careless with her clients, who eventually figured out who she was. It was finally a reporter with The Smoking Gun who outed her. On the day the story went public, Suzy convinced her husband to go hiking. While they were driving, she tried to throw herself out of the car. Finally, her husband drew the line, and she got some help.

It takes a lot to get Suzy's husband to stand up to her. I probably should cut him some slack. But this story is just so hard for me to believe on so many levels. There's so much drama and so much blaming of everyone around her, as well as blaming everything on the bipolar disorder. I never felt that she had any regrets or took any responsibility for her behavior.

Initially, I found Hamilton's book to be dragged down by superfluous detail. But as the story moves forward, the storytelling improves, and I found it hard to put the book down. It was like reading a tabloid story or watching a car wreck. You know nothing good is going to come out of this story, right?

Personally, I was disappointed that there was so much detail and glorification of her sexual conquests. Clearly, she was proud of her prowess. She talked about how she wanted to be the top escort in the world.

I would have liked more detail about her life as a collegiate and Olympic athlete. She had so much talent and tons of opportunities with companies that wanted to sponsor her, based on her reputation as a runner. But that's not what this book is about. I will admit that it was fascinating to read about someone who had it all but was so willing to live life on the edge.

Maybe she was so out of control because no one around her threw out a safety net. Everyone just let her do her own thing. It seems like she had so much power over all the people in her life. The whole time I read this book, I kept asking myself why no one tried to intervene.

I should cut Suzy some slack because of her illness. There's probably plenty of blame to go around besides her husband. Her parents who pushed her? The University of Wisconsin for putting her in those easy classes that all the athletes pass? The coach who told her that her breasts were too big for a runner? Her competitors who were possibly doping? Her sponsors? Her doctors? Her pimp?

In the end though, she comes back to the realization that she still has running. After reading this book, I'm not entirely convinced.
"I run now for the freedom it gives me. I run because it feels good. I run because it is good for me--for my heart and for my head. But it isn't all I do. I am still constantly in motion: in my running shoes, on my bike, on my yoga mat, exercise is my drug of choice now....
...In these moments, on the path with my feet hitting the ground, I feel peaceful. I am myself, living the life I want, not the one that others expect from me or the one that I created out of fantasy and confusion. My life now isn't perfect. Far from it. But it is a life of contentment, and for this I am incredibly grateful. "

Life goes on, and now Suzy has become a yoga instructor. She also has said she's decided to devote more time to being a better mother to her young daughter.

I hope so.

I didn't attempt to contact Suzy Favor Hamilton for an interview because there are so many stories about her on the internet, as well as some live interviews. She was featured in Sports Illustrated and People Magazine as well as on 20/20. All these stories are readily available.

Did you read the book? A lot of people told me that after seeing Suzy on the news that they had no desire to read her story. I'm curious about what you think. If you don't have a blog post to link up, feel free to post in the comments. Be sure to check out the other reviews. 




Here's the link badge! Link up is at the end of the post. It will be live for 2 weeks, so if you haven't read the book, you've got plenty of time! It's a quick read. Be sure to link back to this post! Remember sharing is caring.

Next month we're shifting gears and reading It was Me All Along by Andi Mitchell. This sweet memoir was written by a young woman who struggles with body image issues and weight loss. It has received great reviews. Should be another good one! Book review and link up will go live on Friday, February 19.

Click on the photo to purchase from Amazon (affiliate link)


68 comments:

  1. I've actually not heard of her story. I only recently heard of the title of this book, sounds very intriguing, and a good page turner. Thanks for sharing the review!!!

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    1. I hadn't realized how much publicity she got over this. A very interesting story.

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  2. It was definitely hard to like her as a character or to understand her husband. My husband thinks he has to have been trying just to keep their family upright by whatever means necessary but neither of us can fathom being in that position. It's really hard to know how much is the illness talking still and how much is her as a person. I was struck by a lack of any convincing sense of remorse, but it sounds like she has stayed a little hypo manic (not unusual given how hard bipolar is to treat) so that may be the illness. Ultimately, she needed help long before she got it. I hope her daughter comes out of this okay.

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    1. I just can't imagine how her daughter will come out of this ok.

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  3. I could not be less interested in that book. I cannot even believe it was published...I mean, obviously sex sells but the whole thing seems just stupid. Also, I think I'm more appalled she threw the race when she realized she wasn't going to win! What the...???? I did not know that. She just sounds like an all around horrible person. It's sad. And her husband? I cannot even...

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    1. I wasn't going to pick it but I wanted to stir up an interesting discussion! That's what a book club is all about. Plus it is people like Suzy that make us value the good ones in our sport.

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  4. This book was on my daughter's Christmas list and she finished reading it last week. She mentioned in a phone conversation that it was salacious reading and wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. After your review, I am a bit uncertain but will probably give it a go. How unfortunate that she made money off this story and the husband, what is wrong with him????

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    1. If nothing else, read it to remind yourself how lucky you are to appreciate what you have--family, running, friends.

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  5. I don't think that I will be reading this. Because it might make me violent.

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    1. I was at first disgusted, but then I was more like WTF?

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  6. I also had a really hard time with her not taking any personal responsibility for her actions and blaming everything on external factors. When I worked in the field, taking responsibility was a key to recovery. Speaking of which, I was disappointed that she touted this as a mental health awareness book but never really talked about recovery at all. Her husband? No way that played out that way. Thanks so much for suggesting the book and I am so excited to keep participating in the book club. What a great idea!!

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    1. She really gives mental illness a bad name!

      I'm so glad you're jumping in! I love to read, and this has been a fun thing for me.

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  7. I concur 100% with you assessment. Definitely a page turner but not because the plot is gripping or it's well-written.....more like "wtf" was rumbling around in my head over and over. And what in the heck was her husband thinking?!? One thing that was never addressed in this book was the risks with sex and that was a thought I couldn't shake as I read about her conquests. This is the kind of book, I would like to do in a real life book club with lots of wine because it was fascinating, but not necessarily in a good way. -C

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    1. Review this book live with wine? Now you're talking...

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  8. You reminded me that this is a book I'd been planning to read. I really do need to request some more books from the library!

    Having never struggled with mental illness, obviously, I cannot even begin to to understand. And I KNOW my husband would not turn a blind eye to such behavior, but of course, you do have to remember that there's 2 sides to every story (or more) and you're only hearing hers.

    You have to wonder what the real story is!

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    1. I think what bothered me the most about her story (and I'm not alone on this one) is the complete lack of remorse on her part. Read it and tell me what you think.

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  9. I first heard of Suzy's story when she was interviewed by Dr. Phil. Then last month when you posted that this was your book for book club, it reminded me how she wrote a book about it and I immediately got it from the library! It didn't take long to read, because like you said it is not really written that well, but it was easy and it was a page turner. I do feel bad for her because she clearly does suffer from mental illness. Her husband definitely enabled her. That was hard to understand. I was the opposite of you in that I didn't really care about reading about her running, I wanted to read about the tawdry sex!!

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    1. Haha! Then you were probably disappointed on that front as well...not a ton of juicy details...

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    2. I will admit, I would not have minded getting ALL the dirty details. :) It was not a classy book to begin with so she should've just gone all in!

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  10. This book sounds really fascinating, but at the same time I think it would anger me. A lot of people really close to me deal with bipolar, and I know it can be a really tough thing to live with. Sometimes they do things that leave me with a "WTF" response, but to them, they're doing the right thing - no matter what the logic.

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    1. You are so right. But this is such a wild story!

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  11. I haven't read the book, and it doesn't seem like something I'd be interested in, but just from your review, it sounds like the husband got some kind of thrill from the idea of his wife with other men. It certainly sounds like he was good with the money. People have strange sexual stuff. I have a FB friend who claims to be in a polyandrous relationship. There was a long thread on his page one day where it seemed like a lot of his friends are also doing that. It's like some little subculture. I don't get it, and frankly don't want to know about it. We live in a weird time where too much is shared.

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  12. Wow, I have never heard of this book before but it seems interesting in watching a train wreck sort of way. I cringe at the thought of her "escorting" while at Disney races. Those words shouldn't even be in the same sentence...lol. I am an avid fan of 20/20 and can't believe I ever missed her story on there!

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    1. I couldn't help but think about how many of us would love those opportunities with RunDisney and RnR. She just took it all for granted!

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  13. I saw her on Dr. Phil...I thought it was the craziest thing ever. The husband was right there with her. I thought are they embellishing this crap to make money or is every one involved completely bonkers...
    I have already read Andie Mitchell's book twice. It is a very easy engaging read :) That picture was me as a little girl and the food battle similar...

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    1. I figured Andie's book would be a nice change of pace after this one...

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  14. I read this book.... I had very similar thoughts to yours. I couldn't believe that her husband went along with it. I thought that she focused too much on the sex and how hot and good she was (narcissism...personality disorder) and not enough on the recovery. There is hardly any talk about the phase between getting publicly outed and then recovering.... the sex probably sells more than the recovery story, but the recovery story was more important to tell.

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    1. 100% agree. She wrote this one for the fame and notoriety. Too bad, because she could have totally redeemed herself and helped others with her recovery story. Or maybe there is no recovery story to tell?

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  15. I was so excited to read this book that I bought it right after it was released. It is a page turner but not at all for literary reasons. After I read the book I began to see her on a ton of talk shows.

    While I believe she definitely suffers from mental illness I also believe she is manipulative, refuses to accept the blame for her own behavior, and likes the attention. Except that instead of getting attention from her 'johns' she now gets it from the media and she may have gotten it from running previously.

    I don't understand her husband at all and obviously there is something wrong in his life that he would put up with that type of behavior from the mother of his child.

    And I agree with you, I would have loved to hear more about her running career but she hardly mentions it. Sadly, I think she probably has more talent than a lot of the runners she competed against but based on the way she faked an injury, I think she ran for all the wrong reasons.

    I know people aren't perfect and that we all have faults but this woman has a lot of work to do and she could start by accepting some of the blame. I'm sure I might upset some people but I think she does more harm than good in trying to bring awareness to mental illness.

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    1. I struggled with this review, because I don't want to shine a negative light on BPD. But I agree with you 100%. There are so many people struggling with mental illness who don't have the talent, support, or resources that Suzy does. Too bad she chose to exploit it instead of doing good.

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  16. I did hear part of her story on the news previously and it unfolds like a trainwreck! I can't believe #1 the lifestyle and now she wants to share it. UGH - I guess sex sells, so..... Sounds like a page turner with a glass of wine :) or two!

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    1. Oh, yes! Wine would go well with this one...

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  17. I haven't read this book, but read the NY Post story about the book...so know some of the details. And I'm fascinated with this story. How does one go from Olympian to hooker?!! And - I agree about the husband....especially given they had kids.

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    1. Actually - had one other thought about the husband...was she paying his bills? With either her pst-running career speaking and endorsement earnings or her hooker earnings?!

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    2. No, the husband had his own successful real estate business. From the book it is my understanding that they were quite comfortable.

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  18. I found out about your book club from Confessions of a Mother Runner - if there's one thing I like almost as much as running, it's non-fiction about runners and other adventurers. I have a couple book reviews up already on my blog, which is pretty new. Do I need to formally sign up for the club? Should I just post the badge and start reading? Thanks for the recommendations.

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    1. I'm so glad you are interested in the book club! There's no formality, you just read the book and post your review, linking back to my review! I've got the next 2 months picked out, but if you don't want to read my selections, you can read and review any fitness related book. Let me know if you have any questions..

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  19. OooooKKKaaayyy! So did you know that this book was about her dark side rather than the running side or did you find that out as you read it? Actually your right it stirs up a lot of....discussion. There are so many outstanding books I NEED to read and don't but the edginess of this does peak my interest. You said you wouldn't interview her but if you did what would you ask her, tell her?

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    1. Great question! I would want to know 2 things...if she has any remorse about hooking (because that doesn't come across in the book) and how she plans on telling her daughter about this (since she's been so public about the whole thing). So sad.

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  20. I'm adding this to my maybe-to-read list. I won't get to that list or any other reading list until after July when I complete yoga teacher training :)

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading about your teacher training!

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  21. Blech. Just blech. This one sounds like a freakshow.

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    1. Right? Like something off Maury or Jerry Springer.

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  22. I heard an interview with the author a few months ago. It's on my "to read" list too.

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    1. It was an interesting story. Kind of troubling tho.

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  23. Sounds like an interesting read, though I'm not sure its the book for me. I'm having a bit of trouble believing that she's been able to make money off of publishing this story of hers.

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    1. After reading this, I don't think she wrote it for the money. I think it was about the notoriety. Deborah nailed it when she said this is classic narcissistic personality disorder.

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  24. As insane as this whole thing is I'm intrigued by it and added it to my list after seeing it mentioned on Deb's blog too. Call it morbid curiosity haha!

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    1. I think we all enjoy a little scandal once in a while!

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  25. I really need to get back into this running book club!! Once I catch up on my backlog, I promise I'll be back.

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    1. The next couple of books look good! I'm glad you're back! Are you blogging again?

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    2. I don't know if you would call what I do as blogging. It's spotty at most, but I'm trying to get back into a groove. :)

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    3. Hey, I'm just glad to see you back in the mix! :)

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  26. P.S. I fixed my new computer's security preferences and now I can comment. It was me not your blog. :)

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  27. Yeah, I saw the 20/20 special about her right before this book came out. Your reaction to the husband is pretty spot on (they interviewed him extensively). He is maddeningly meek about the whole thing. I just couldn't wrap my head around his reactions to the situation, even now in hindsight. I felt bad for Suzy and her mental health struggles, but you do also get a sense that this book/publicity is just another way for her to glorify herself. After seeing the tv program about it, I've been torn about reading the book. Part of me wants to know more, and the other part of me gets the sense that the only new information in going to glean from it is all those gritty sex details that everyone keeps mentioning! I will likely take a pass.

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    1. LIke you, I was torn between feeling bad for Suzy's mental health issues and my skepticism about her glorification of the whole experience. I know that's part of the illness but she just doesn't come across as one bit remorseful.

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  28. I had never heard of her story. Sounds like quite the page turner. While I have little time to read right now, it sounds like a fun beach read :) If I ever get to a beach..

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  29. Hmmm...I heard an interview with her, and it seemed to me that she published her book because someone else was going to do it (the Smoking Gun?), and she wanted to tell her own story. I thought her husband was crazy to let her do the escorting, but I don't live in their house, so I can't really say what works for them. I didn't get a sense of a lack of remorse from her. I took it as more of "this is what I did". I imagine she has shown remorse to her family and friends, so I didn't really expect that she would need to have that tone in the book. Just my two cents, though.

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    1. I hope she showed remorse to her family and friends. I hope.

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  30. Still in shock after reading this book. I wanted to write a review but I have nothing good to say about it. It's not well-written as you mentioned and there were moments I felt she was contradicting herself especially when she talked about how being an escort wasn't about the money at all. Her husband - where do I even start? What kind of person accepts to be in that type of relationship? How could he agree to such an arrangement? It would be interesting if he were to write a book from his perspective. I am very familiar with BPD as I knew someone close who had it. Suzy hopes the book raises awareness about BPD, but really all she did was allow her illness to take responsibility for her actions. And even after she was aware of it, she still thinks what she did was fine - that an exchange of money for sex between consenting adults is an acceptable norm. This made me think, if her daughter chose this route when she's older, would she be fine with it as well? Truly screwed up. Anyway, as you can see this book left me frustrated and angry. It was still worth a read though as I was interested in finding out how an Olympian managed to become an escort.

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    1. I think this book was worth the read, if for nothing else but to be grateful for the run and what it gives us. Clearly, she and the people around her don't realize that.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  31. Wow! I've heard of this book before...but didn't realize how intense it was! I went ahead and put it on hold at the library...I'm curious to read it!

    I just checked out "It Was Me All Along" so hopefully I can join you for your next book club discussion! I've been looking for an online book club for awhile now! So fun!!

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    1. I hope you join us every month! It's pretty loose--if you don't read the selection, you can post about a different fitness related book.

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  32. Just realized in my review I forgot to mention that we are only hearing one side of the story, after all. Which begs the question, how much of it is true? Although I'm guessing a lot of it!

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  33. I have to say after I finished this book I actually felt yucky. Just the thought of all those men using her body makes my skin crawl. Yet, she loved every minute and then would go home with God knows what to her husband. This woman's ego knows no bounds. She described her husband as very handsome and she boasted on all her compliments she got from Johns. When I googled pictures of her and her husband I was expecting much more than what they actually look like. I also saw her husband from the gate as an enabler and such a wus to put up with this selfish woman when she was a runner and then when she decided to be a prostitute. He should have left her ages ago and taken their daughter far, far away. Despite the fact she has a disease she knew right from wrong. I am sober 30 years and I know when I did something bad back then. I would at least be a little impressed with her if ALL the money she makes off this book ( I got mine at library so I would not contribute to her fund) was given to causes for Bi-polar. However, sounds like all she is doing is finding another way to make money off her cheap self. Her husband is a complete fool and deserves what he gets. Their daughter? She will have this follow her for life and no doubt will read this book one day. What a horrendous legacy the mother is leaving for this child. Not to mention the embarrassment and harm she did to her birth family. I agree. I hear no remorse at all.

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