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Friday, August 29, 2014

Sister Surrendered by Darla M. Grese (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Sister Surrendered by Author Darla M. Grese!

Author Guest Post

Dying Sister Made It Clear: Tell My Story

It was after coming across my sister’s journal that I knew without question that I had to share her story. It took me months to actually read the journal in its entirety, it was simply too hard. I could almost hear Kelli’s voice as I read her written words. Her entries were raw, at times incredibly disturbing, but for the most part, painfully sad. Each and every time that I read it, my heart breaks just a little bit more. It always will.

Kelli made it clear throughout her journal that she wanted me to tell her story, hoping that it could hopefully prevent other veterans from dying within the same system. Clearly she was losing her battle and knew it. But instead of battling in the trenches alone, silently, she documented her torment, knowing one day that she’d leave it behind for me to read.

Kelli referenced several times that she was surrendering to God, which is why I chose the title Sister Surrendered. Kelli had an extremely strong faith in God which is something that I ironically struggle to find.

I opted to include some of the actual journal entries within the book, not knowing of a better way to convey Kelli’s messages’. But what I didn’t anticipate was me commencing in an almost dual- dialogue between Kelli and me, which ended up setting the tone throughout the entire book from start to finish.

Sister Surrendered was actually written as a screenplay early on. I wrote it prior to the lawsuit even coming to light. Writing screenplays were familiar and I found solace in writing them. But it was after the settling of the case, a couple of years later, that I knew writing a book was the right answer, it just was. I began writing the book on Jan 1st, 2014 and finished in mid-March. It was fast, it had to be. I struggled to begin writing it, nervous of the emotional roller-coaster that I was about to embark on. So when I finally committed to putting my thoughts to the keyboard, I had to do it as quickly as possible, at times, hyperventilating between sentences. It was a painful journey, peeling back layers of grief that I’d prefer to stuff away. It’s easier that way isn’t it? At least it is for me.

About The Author

Darla M. Grese is a twin sister who lost her better half to side effects from prescribed medication. As a U.S. Navy Veteran, she is an advocate of Veteran X and Veteran Hope programs that address mental illness, PTSD, and unintentional addiction issues. Both programs are sponsored by the Veteran Affairs Medical Center and focus on Veteran recovery and independence. She raises money for “Team Kelli” and annually participates in the Out of the Darkness Walk at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach ( While continuing to bring awareness to this cause, being a loving parent is her favorite passion and the main focus of her life. Darla’s love for the arts has been expressed as a talented actress with appearances in The F.B.I. files, The New Detectives, Diagnosis Unknown, Wicked Attraction, Discovery Channel’s The Haunting, and the movie Atlantis Down. She currently works full time as a respiratory therapist at a trauma center in Norfolk, Virginia.

Her memoir, Sister Surrendered, is her latest release.


Book Review

Sister Surrendered by Darla M. Grese
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: April 10, 2014
Format: Paperback - 212 pages
              Kindle - 2314 KB
ISBN: 978-1497541207
Genre: Memoir

BUY THE BOOK: Sister Surrendered

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Visit the book’s Facebook Page.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Book Description:

When you’re a twin, loneliness is somewhat unfamiliar because you’ve always had each other. So when a twin passes, the other is left unprepared. Our loyalty was steadfast and our devotion to one another, solid. Our love was unconditional no matter what the circumstances. I’m so grateful every day for the memories of the joy and laughter that we shared together. I know the bond that Kelli and I shared is impossible for anyone to replace. This memoir has become something so much more than initially intended. It’s become a documented journey barely scratching the surface of the love between two sisters. And surprisingly, it’s also become an outlet for me to speak candidly and honestly about my struggles with the cause of Kelli’s death. This is a love story turned tragedy. An exposure of one of the greatest healthcare failures killing Veterans and civilians, and a cry for help to remedy the fiasco. I’ve stressed about who I would mention in this book, nervous that I would hurt someone’s feelings by not mentioning their names. But I’ve realized that it’s impossible to do. Kelli had so many great friends, some I’ve never even met. I need each person to know who has taken the time to reach out to me in whatever capacity that if it weren’t for your heartfelt show of support and love, I don’t know that I would be able to muster the energy to even get up each day. Kelli, we did it.

Book Excerpt:

It’s been three years now since Kelli’s been gone, but for me three minutes. At times, I feel stuck. And as time has passed, the personal messages and phone calls have lessened, people have moved on and that’s understandable. I’ve had many moments of loneliness, longing for my sister’s backing. Unless you’re a twin, it’s hard to understand what twin-loss is, but trust me when I say, it’s debilitating at times. It’s like learning to walk again, one step at a time, without your crutch that keeps you from falling. Even local musician Jessica Doran, being a twin herself, was inspired to write a song after hearing about Kelli's story. The fact is, I don’t know how to live as an individual and I need some help working through this. I’ve actually decided to look into a facility, that ironically Kelli and I looked into for her, located in Arizona. According to my therapist, The Meadows’s reputation in dealing with trauma goes unmatched. Through the help of intensive weekly counseling, which I highly recommend by the way, I’ve learned that I too suffer from PTSD, caused by the years leading up to Kelli’s death, and her death in and of itself. I need to process her death, something I’m pretty sure I’ve not done yet. Instead, I’ve focused my energy on parenting, working, the lawsuit, writing, part-time acting, keeping up the house, and anything else I could distract myself with. And proudly, I’ve done a decent job with the exception of acting. I haven’t landed a significant role since Kelli’s death which I attribute to low self-confidence and anxiety. Just auditioning for me now, is at times, very uncomfortable. But I’ll continue my pursuit in following my dream, regardless.

Brady and I have an amazing relationship. I’m not great at a lot of things, but parenting, I’m great at. As a matter of fact, I’m great at worrying about everything and everyone else except me. After all, I’ve never had to deal with myself because I’ve always concentrated on helping everyone else in my life. So taking care of me is a foreign concept. But I have to learn. I just do. So hopefully soon, I’ll leave home for a month, maybe longer, and work with professionals who can teach me the tools that I need to continue on twin-less.

This memoir was initially a screenplay which I did in fact complete only a month after Kelli’s passing. It sits on my nightstand. It wasn’t long before Kelli died that she jokingly suggested that I write a screenplay about us and then we would play ourselves. I laughed it off, reminding her that she couldn’t act and hated being on camera. But after losing her, I wished I would have responded by saying, “Kel, let’s write it together, and once it’s finished, we’ll figure the rest out.”

Although I feel strongly that the VA Hospital was responsible for Kelli’s death and years of anguish, I must also say that I feel just as strongly that the VA does in fact have great doctors, who in fact, care about their patients, mine included. I do not believe that any Veteran, ever, should hesitate in going to a Veterans Affairs Hospital because of what I’ve written. However, I do believe by telling Kelli’s story that certain practices the VA Hospitals adhere to will be looked at, hopefully. I believe that when appropriately prescribed, medicines are necessary and they’re proven to work. But it’s when they’re prescribed irresponsibly that they can result in dire consequences, including death and suicide.

Read Chapter One and Two HERE.

My Book Review:

Sister Surrendered is the poignant memoir about twin sisters Darla and Kelli, bonded by love and friendship, and their heart wrenching journey through childhood to adulthood. Through Kelli's personal journal entries, Darla weaves an emotional account of their shared lives, and the heartbreaking loss of Kelli due to the negligence of the VA healthcare system that failed to properly oversee her medical condition and needs.

This is a beautifully written and touching tribute that demonstrates the love and strong bond for a twin sister that will pull at the heartstrings and stir your soul. Through the determination and dedication to make sure that Kelli's life was not in vain or forgotten, Darla keeps her twin's memory alive through the sharing of Kelli's journal entries, and the documenting of her difficult life journey dealing with mental illness and addiction that tragically ended her life. Darla brings to light awareness for a VA healthcare system that is wrought with mismanagement, medical negligence, and utter disregard and failure to properly provide the appropriate medical service to the veterans and helpful caregivers resources for their loved ones. You can't help but feel the full gamut of emotions as Kelli and Darla's story unfolds, this is definitely an inspirational and compelling story that must be told in the hope that it will help other veterans and the general public who are in need of proper medical care.

Kudos Darla for having the strength, courage, love, and determination to let Kelli's voice be heard.


Virtual Book Tour Event

Tour Schedule:

Monday, August 4
Interview at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, August 5
Guest Blogging at Bookingly Yours

Wednesday, August 6
Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Thursday, August 7
Guest Blogging at Confessions of a Reader

Tuesday, August 12
Guest Blogging at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Thursday, August 14
Book Review at My Life. One Story at a Time.
Book Featured at Maureen’s Musings

Monday, August 18
Book Review at Authors & Readers Book Corner

Tuesday, August 19
Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, August 25
Interview at Blogcritics

Tuesday, August 26
Guest Blogging at Pink Fluffy Hearts

Wednesday, August 27
Book Featured at My Book Addiction and More

Friday, August 29
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

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