As reviews and letters began to flood in, I saw that I'd been correct in feeling that people would have a personal, visceral response to my story. One letter said, "Page after page of my life is written as I read…your book finally gave me words to articulate and see things as I never knew them…I never expected the journey to be so personal, painful and healing all at one time."
Another said, "It has touched me so deeply that I have had to go slowly and take time to let it all percolate. In the process, I have made some decisions about my own 'third act.'"
A woman from Michigan wrote, "I have never contacted an author to share my feelings and thoughts after reading his/her book. I read the last chapter out loud to honor the last pages and I cried openly as I choked out the last few sentences…Grief in knowing you will not be a daily part of my life any longer."
At a book signing in Missouri, a woman leaned across the table and whispered to me that the book had saved her marriage. I asked her to explain but she was reticent and moved on. At the end of the signing she was waiting, wanting me to know. "I read your book first and then I gave it to my husband. I wanted him to read it," she whispered. "He got to the part in act one where you write that you never told your husband how it made you angry when he'd have other women in your bed with you. That's when my husband slammed the book down and said, 'Why didn't she just tell him she was angry, for chrissake?' And I said, 'For the same reason I haven't told you that I was angry.' And for the first time in our marriage, he actually listened to me."
As we looked into each other's eyes, our differences dropped away. We were broken open, as women are when we speak our truth.
Another woman wrote that her first husband had brought other men into their home and expected her to have sex with them. "I didn't want to do this, (I really, really didn't) but at the time I felt like I had to….reading your book, my god -- I'm not the only one! Just knowing that there is one other person out there who might understand and not think bad about me helps." I wrote her back telling her lots of people out there would understand.
These are the things I hold close when other people ask, "How could you have been so honest?" There is a way of doing healing that starts with shared experience. It is in the deeply personal that the universal appears.
During my month and a half on the road doing book signings, I was surprised at how much the book resonated with men as well as women. At my book signing in Atlanta a man came up and said, "Your book has changed my life." A number of men admitted to me that they identified with the feeling of never being good enough -- not "manly" enough perhaps, or ambitious enough, or too emotional. And so I discovered that men, too, were vulnerable to the Disease to Please!