Book Summary: When reclusive Philip teams with a determined young woman to unravel the tragedy that shattered both their lives, he’s forced to confront his estranged family. The lies—and devastating truths—he discovers expose his family’s secrets and compel him to face his flawed assumptions. Reasons for Waking is a tale of how secrets and silence can hide the truth that can heal us.
Author’s Bio: Karen Foster was born completely blind. Multiple surgeries before she was two restored only three percent of her vision. She earned a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, and did postgraduate work in English. She worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for decades, but her true passion was raising, showing and breeding English Springer Spaniels. Her unique voice and affection for dogs shines through in Reasons for Waking, her first novel, completed shortly before she died in March 2022. Her siblings continued the quest to share their deceased sister’s story with the world.
Contact Information: Publicist, Maria Olsen, FiftyAfter50@gmail.com, (301) 520-6548
Taylor Baldwin Kiland, Coauthor of Unwavering: The Wives Who Fought to Ensure No Man is Left Behind – Reasons for Waking is a page-turner! With so many unsuspecting plot twists, this novel has all the elements of a masterful mystery: political power and intrigue, multiple suspicious characters, gumshoe detective work, and suspense. It is ‘un-put-downable’!
Lynne Rae Perkins, Author and illustrator of many books for young people, including “Criss Cross”, which was awarded the Newbery Medal– Compelling, unexpected, and unpredictable, Karen Foster’s beautifully written story illuminates how misunderstanding can lead us down a dark, lonely path. And then it shows how, talking and listening to one another, we can find our way back.
Heath Hardage Lee, Author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home– Karen Foster’s gripping Reasons for Waking draws readers into the tale of a political family shattered by unimaginable loss. The author’s skillful unraveling of events, detailed character portraits, and sense of place create a compelling story. The shocking secrets revealed in this retelling of a long-ago tragedy force a fractured family to finally face its past together. Movingly told and beautifully written, Reasons for Waking gives you a legitimate reason to stay up all night—you will be reading this engrossing novel until dawn breaks.
Please take time to visit leagueofwives.com to learn more about the important work that Heath Hardage Lee and others are doing to honor military spouses.
Denise JelinskI-Hall, Author of From the Prairie to the Pentagon, Chief Master Sergeant, 3rd Senior Enlisted Advisor of the National Guard – Reasons for Waking is a true testament of the author’s fortitude, endurance, and overcoming all obstacles. It is a story of tragedy, secrets, and healing. Once you open the cover of this compelling story – you won’t want to put it down. This book is a tribute to Karen and the love of her family.
Anne-Marie Reynolds, for Readers’ Favorite (Five Star Review) – Reasons for Waking by Karen Foster is Southern fiction at its best…an intriguing story, utterly compelling as it runs the full gamut of human emotions…you will be captivated and will struggle to put this book down.
Kirkus Reviews – A compelling novel of grief and family secrets.
Jamie Michele for Readers’ Favorite (Five Star Review) – Reasons for Waking is a wonderful read, and I’m certain those who pick it up will feel the same.
K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite (Five Star Review) –…a truly unique family drama like nothing else I’ve read this year, and one which has a poignant message about openness, communication, and the danger of not speaking up when you really should….emotionally intelligent work…hardships, struggles, and tearjerking moments of pure emotion…a stellar drama…both highly recommended and not to be missed.
Q. Why did your sister write this book?
A. Karen was very close to her five siblings (all younger than her), and she could not imagine losing one of them. But she wondered what if, when they were children, one had died and—worse—their parents refused to acknowledge that death in any discernible way. Why would their parents behave in such an unimaginable way? And how would she react?
In 2013, Karen’s 20-year-old niece, Jenny, died after suffering cardiac arrest following a surgery. After her funeral, someone asked Karen’s sister (Jenny’s mom) how Jenny’s brother was doing. She said, “Oh, he’s fine.” Karen knew she didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but she was shocked by her answer. Of course, he wasn’t fine.
Karen wrote this novel to explore the effect of tragedy and loss on family relationships. Also, she was fascinated by how ripples from events that should have no bearing on us and that we know nothing about can affect our lives.
Q. Why are you and your siblings getting the book published?
A: Writing and publishing this novel was Karen’s dream. She was so close to achieving it; she had a publisher, and was working on final edits when her health took a sudden turn for the worse. She told us that her biggest regret was that she would die without seeing her book published. So we promised her that we would do everything possible to make her dream come true. We are so honored to be able to do this for her, and so proud of her accomplishment.
Q. How has getting this book published changed your family?
A. Our family has been through some difficult challenges in recent years that have caused all of us to re-evaluate our lives, our priorities and our relationships. In 2013, Lisa lost her 20-year-old daughter Jenny (Karen’s niece) following a lifetime of health issues from birth. One year later, we lost our dad following heart surgery. In 2020, Karen was diagnosed at age 65 with a very aggressive form of metastatic breast cancer, and she passed away in March 2022. Later that year, we moved our mother, who will be 90 this year, into assisted living. Each of these events caused our family to come together to grieve and support each other. Losing family members re-emphasized how much we love each other and value our family relationships. We had to learn to process grief, choosing to allow it to strengthen us and draw us closer. Publishing Karen’s book has been a journey of healing, a way to stay connected to Karen, a way to honor her life and demonstrate our love for her.
As we talk about the book, we also talk a lot about Karen–reminiscing about our childhood, sharing memories and wondering what inspired various scenes in the book. It makes us wish we could talk to her about it and ask her questions! We had not realized just how incredibly talented she was! Both Karen’s death and the book itself have made us each reexamine how we handle hardships in our lives and the impact on our relationships.
This has truly been a family effort. We have each taken a different role based on our individual strengths, backgrounds and experience. Lori worked with Bold Story Press on the book’s final edits and has been the liaison between the publisher and the family. As the two retired siblings, Lisa and Lori have worked closely together on all aspects of the book, particularly marketing materials; Lisa is a master of getting to the heart of the emotion behind the words. David and Nancy have lent their extensive business expertise, while Beth handles social media and event planning. Our spouses have been extremely supportive through all of this. Beth’s husband developed our website, and David’s wife added her graphic design talent for the website and other materials.
Although we may each contribute in a different way, we come together for decision-making as a family. Our zoom meetings often turn into marathon chats after the business part is finished. The good news is that we get along well and work well together as a team. We all have the same goal–to fulfill our promise to Karen to get the book published, and to share it with the world! We hope others will love it as much as we do!
Q. Did you know she was writing the book?
A: Karen told each of us individually that she was writing the book, but not until it was almost completed. She wanted to make sure she was going to finish it–and that she was happy with it–before she mentioned it to us. None of us had read it at the time of her death; she wanted us to wait until it was published.
Q. Does the book draw threads from your family’s history?
A: Although the storyline itself is very different from our family’s history, there are certainly elements of the story that remind us of things in our childhood (e.g., holiday traditions and family routines), or of things in Karen’s life specifically (e.g., a small college town in Virginia, a dog with epilepsy and the unwavering dedication of the owner, the main character’s love for horses). We also see glimpses of Karen in Phillip, the main character. Both were devoted to their dogs, both were English scholars, both were introverts of few words, who rarely spoke before processing information.
Q. Your sister had a visual handicap. How did that impact her life?
A. Karen would hate that we are talking about this, but her very limited vision did have a tremendous impact on her life, which makes her accomplishments even more incredible. Karen was born completely blind and multiple surgeries restored only three percent of her vision. When we were kids, Karen’s handicap limited her activities (for example, she couldn’t play sports), but she had other interests–books, dogs, horses, journalism–that she pursued. She was never able to drive and had to rely on public transportation (and, later, Uber or Lyft) and her friends and family to get where she needed to go. She chose where she lived based on its access to a bus route. While she did require some accommodations at work that allowed her to see what she was working on, she preferred not to make a big deal about it. She learned Braille as a child, and had a white cane, but chose not to use either. She did not like to draw attention to herself, and she found other ways to compensate; she counted steps between places, she always put things in specific places so she could find them easily, she walked slightly behind whoever she was with because she had no peripheral vision. When we watched TV together as kids, she had a specific viewing spot–on the floor immediately in front of the television. When she read books, she often used a magnifying glass and held the book very close to her face; she told us that she didn’t read by seeing letters that formed words, but rather by seeing the shapes of words on the page. When she went off to college, and then grad schools, and then moved to Atlanta, our parents went with her each time to help her get acclimated and help her learn her way around. Her dogs were her constant companions and provided some degree of comfort to her as she adjusted to new places. She did not ever let her very limited vision prevent her from accomplishing what she wanted to do. She traveled, had a large circle of close friends, was actively involved in several dog organizations, and was very accomplished and well respected professionally. Within our family, she was never treated any differently than the rest of us, which is probably why she was so fiercely independent.
Q. Why do you think dogs figure so prominently in the book?
A. Karen spent much of her life raising, showing, and breeding English Springer Spaniels. Her dogs were very special to her, and were her constant companions. They provided emotional support, and she considered them her family. Karen was also an advocate for maintaining the highest breed standards. She was very involved with several dog organizations, where she had many close friends. Dog-related activities were a significant part of her social life.
Q. Who took over the care of Karen’s dog?
A. Karen had two Springer Spaniels, London and Brinkley, at the time of her death. She loved her dogs, and wanted to be sure they were with her to the end so they would know she had not abandoned them. She had provided for their future and had planned for close friends to take them after she passed. Both dogs are now with those friends and are doing well. We receive regular updates on them.
Karen’s friends from her dog clubs really looked out for both Karen and her dogs, and helped her in very practical ways. Towards the end of her life, they went to her home regularly to bathe and groom the dogs, took food and gifts to Karen, drove her to medical appointments, and when she was up for it, took her out for dinner. After she died, they hosted her Celebration of Life at the home of close friends. In January 2023, the Chattahoochee English Springer Spaniel Club of Greater Atlanta (CESSCGA) and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of Greater Atlanta (PWCCGA) dedicated their Specialty Shows and All Breed Obedience and Rally Trials to Karen’s memory. Her friends are waiting with great anticipation to read her book, and they frequently ask for updates on the release. They are helping us to set up a launch party this summer in Atlanta.
My favorite portraits were those with the horses. When my brothers and I each turned ten, we posed with our first big horse. The portraits of Teddy and me were nearly identical: boys with wavy light brown hair and root-beer eyes, each of us looking shyly away from the camera, right hand grasping the reins just below the bit on a gentle-eyed gelding. Their heads rested on our shoulders, ears attentive. But those photos—and horses—were long gone. Had my parents stored the photos and now forgotten where they were? No, they’d have discarded them altogether. I squeezed the handle of my suitcase and wondered whether I’d ever ask.
After hesitating for the briefest of seconds when I reached my father’s study I slid aside the pocket door, surprised it wasn’t locked. The room was as I remembered: book-laden built-ins; enormous oak desk, bare except for a blotter and phone; plush office chair; wall-mounted television; and in the left corner closest to the door, a wet bar. The air smelled of old books, leather, and bourbon. If I rifled through Dad’s desk drawers now, when no one was there to know, would I find anything about the shooting? About Emily? Notes stuffed into a nook revealing information or an unexpected secret? Was a dark secret the reason, when I’d walked in on my parents a few months after the shooting, they’d abruptly silenced their tense, hushed voices?
Learn more about this captivating story in the recently released book, Reasons for Waking.