The Journey of Hannah Woods

October 2013
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A Brief Excerpt from the Book

“I sensed a panic attack preparing to strike. I had no defense. It was in control. The muscles in my neck and back tightened, causing me to hold my breath. “Hannah, concentrate. Breathe. It’s almost over and then you can go home.” Gradually, the thumping slowed; I could feel the pill taking effect. As my breathing grew easier, I relaxed into the landscape, noticing that the pastor’s hair had slipped off to the right side of his head. He looked ridiculous. Nervous laughter overtook me and I started laughing uncontrollably. Embarrassed, I blushed. I caught the two pallbearers’ wives whispering as they stared in my direction. Winnie sighed and took my arm. “Everyone is watching,” I shouted silently to myself. “Stop it!” The laughter continued. “Father was right; I am crazy!”

Synopsis for The Journey of Hannah Woods

Fourteen-year old Hannah Woods suffers from panic attacks. Overmedicated by a family who has a secret, Hannah lives in a world full of anxiety and fear. This is her story; her journey from the depths of Black Hollow’s darkness, the wealthy old-money town where she grew up, to the light of Crystal Cove and the world of her hippie grandparents.

As the story opens, Hannah Woods, haunted by the neglect of an alcoholic father and the abuse of a mentally ill caretaker, is plunged into a nightmare that threatens her very existence. After her father drowns, Hannah’s world spirals out of control as she is forced to move to the other side of the island where her newly discovered hippie grandparents live.

Hannah suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. She is addicted to prescription drugs; drugs given to her for anxiety and depression; drugs given to her to keep her silent. Her heroic journey begins the moment she enters the world of Crystal Cove where she struggles to navigate the emotional world of adolescence and addiction. With the help of her Grandma Pearl and her Grandpa Hollis, the talents of a remarkable therapist, Dr. Katherine Hope, and a new best friend, Emma Matthews, Hannah discovers her amazing self.

The evolution of Hannah’s character will empower both teens and adults who find themselves addicted to drugs or who have experienced the devastating effects of physical, emotional, and/or psychological abuse and neglect.

BOOK REVIEWS – The Journey of Hannah Woods

“Intricately Involved and Absorbing Tale!”

The Journey of Hannah Woods is a gracefully written, singularly cogent, all absorbing novel. Forst has extraordinary literary power and a notable talent for language and imagination. The story is elegantly structured, gracefully written, and instilled with unusual soul-stirring lucidity.

A plot summary underestimates this intricately involved and absorbing tale that excites curiosity with its closely devised story line, and, although disquieting at times, is splendidly done. Certainly, this is a novel with far weightier aspirations than your middling YA book.

After reading the first few chapters of Helene Forst’s debut novel, I couldn’t help but think that it would make a wonderful movie. Undeniably, it makes for a good read!

Francine Silverblank, Professor Emeritus, Dowling College

“A Real Page-Turner!”

The Journey of Hannah Woods was an amazing book to read. The journey that Hannah makes from a troubled teen on drugs to a grounded, healthy young woman is indeed a remarkable journey. I work with young people and I have heard many sad stories of teenagers in all kinds of trouble. Helene Forst writes with a deep understanding of basic human emotions, emotions that the reader can truly feel as Hannah experiences extreme anxiety or moments of complete triumph. The Journey of Hannah Woods demonstrates how people can be activists on the simplest of levels. It truly speaks to the ideas of relaxation techniques for handling the stresses of life, something that few…if any…schools teach. This book has been very valuable to two of my personal friends whose children suffer with the same kind of panic attacks that Hannah Woods dealt with in this book. I strongly recommend this novel–it is a real page-turner and keeps you interested and eager to find out who Hannah will be at the end of the tale.

Alice Hartman, Director and Owner of Alice Hartman Tutoring, NYC

“An Inspirational Book!”

The Journey of Hannah Woods was an inspirational book that I would highly recommend. I honestly could not put the book down until I finished it. The story gives hope and encouragement to those who have been traumatized by a negative life experience. The book leaves you with the uplifting feeling that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

Wendy Rothkoph, Orchestra Director, Comsewogue School District

“A Wonderful Read!”

This was a really wonderful read. Even though a young adult book, any adult would find this interesting reading material. Once you begin the journey with Hannah, you cannot let go. It is easy to stay with this book and once you complete it, you will still hold it dear to you. I highly recommend reading this book.

Kathy McCormack, Manager of The Baker House, 1650

“With Understanding Comes Acceptance!”

More and more books and movies are being written about what it is like to live with a mental health disorder. It’s about time the public started to understand why these people behave the way they do. With understanding comes acceptance and the secret to living together in harmony. The author of this book shows tremendous insight into the life of a child with an anxiety disorder. Her struggles and her success in overcoming the obstacles that her anxiety creates in her life are an inspiration to us all. It will give hope to those afflicted with this disorder and assistance for those who love them and care for them and want to help them with their struggle.

Dr. Gail Schonfeld, Pediatrician

“Finally, a book that inspires and educates!”

A beautifully written story about the trauma and triumph of a young adolescent. I would recommend this book to educators, psychologists, social workers, and young people who want to emerge themselves in the inner life of those who suffer from panic attacks. The author guides the reader into the mind of Hannah Woods and takes you on her personal journey of survival. Finally, a book that inspires and educates us on this important subject. I loved it!

Linda Fuller, Retired Middle School English Teacher

“A Message of Hope!”

I loved this book! This story can inspire both teens as well as adults to learn how to be free from anxiety, addiction and scars of the past. Overcoming addiction and a troubled youth with the love of others and a new-found love of self, is possible for all. I highly recommend this book, as one can learn from Hannah and the other characters in the book, about the power of love and the courage it takes to be free to be who you are. I couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to know how Hannah’s story turned out. And I also loved the other characters that were a part of Hannah’s journey. Thank you to the author for sharing Hannah’s journey with us. It is truly a message of hope.

Robin Kuntz

“A Good Read!”

I won the The Journey of Hannah Woods in a Goodreads giveaway.

The Journey of Hannah Woods was a fairly easy read. It took me awhile to get into the book; however, when I finally began my journey with Hannah I enjoyed watching her emerge from the darkness of her past. Forst’s ability to address real topics truthfully is noteworthy for a first time author. Hannah struggles with typical teenage issues but her sheltered yet abusive childhood renders her incapable of self-managing these issues. Hannah’s previous upbringing left her stagnated in many areas but she found strengths intertwined with the negative experiences.

After tragedy strikes Hannah is given an opportunity to live the life of a “normal” teenager. Hannah’s new home offers: encouragement, love and support but the painful past clouds her ability to accept other’s motives as genuine. Hannah has some serious struggles but she is made to identify her part in her pain and recovery. In other words if she wants to be free she has to give the past its place and create the story of her future. In addition to Hannah’s emotional struggles she is battling a prescription drug addiction. Forst shows how prescription drugs find their way from helping to hurting an individual. The topic is introduced delicately; however, Hannah’s road to recovery is realistic as we witness the side effects of coming clean.

I share the sentiment of another poster who thought Forst was mild in her approach, but I soon realized that Forst’s goal was to ease us into the mind of Hannah Woods. This a good read for both young adults and those of us who interact with young people personally or professionally.

Keisha Watkins, Goodreads Giveaway Winner

“A Delicate Subject – Brilliantly Handled!!”

Such a delicate subject, but with tremendous insight, the author brillantly combined the fear, challenges and the instinct to survive, into belief in oneself and a wonderous victory over a lifetime of addiction. The unconditional love Hannah unexpectedly received, allowed her to believe in herself and become the beautiful person that was always inside waiting to come forth and flourish. A must read! I Loved it and learned so much from it!

Pati Smith, Guild Holistic Practitioner, West Islip, NY

“Fosters An Understanding of Sensitive Subjects with Insight, Sensitivity, Compassion, and Hope!”

The Journey of Hannah Woods is the story of a young adolescent whose world has become a daily struggle to cope with anxiety and to ward off the fear of another panic attack. Hannah’s struggles are compounded by her reliance on medications prescribed to help her maintain a sense of equilibrium; however, both the panic attacks and the medications commit Hannah to a life so carefully lived that she fears new experiences and does not believe herself worthy of new and close relationships. A family crisis requires Hannah to live with grandparents she has never known. Hannah, with the encouragement and understanding of these “new”, kind, wise and loving grandparents, begins to take steps–slowly and carefully at first–to see herself as a valuable, loveable, capable person who has the power to relinquish her dependence on medications and to gain control of life. The Journey of Hannah Woods fosters an understanding of sensitive subjects with insight, sensitivity, compassion and hope. …a good read for all young adolescents; a “must read” for young adolescents who can directly relate to Hannah’s journey.

Gail Parker – Retired English teacher and Middle School Principal

“I Applaud The Courage to Tackle Such A Sensitive Topic!”

Before I start my review, I will say that I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

When I first started reading The Journey of Hannah Woods, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The description of the book was raw and gritty but I was disappointed as I began reading because the story was told in such a positive, almost syrupy-sweet style. I felt the book was unrealistic in its treatment of some pretty serious topics, child abuse and addiction, and I was turned off by the way the author seemed to be glossing over the subject matter. For the first 2/3 of the book I felt that things went too well and too smoothly for Hannah; everything seemed too easy.

However, as I read the last 1/3 of the book, I understood (I think) why the author approached the subject the way she did. Because the subject matter IS so difficult, she wrote the book in a way that would feel approachable and safe for the reader. In the last 1/3 of the book, Hannah’s journey does indeed get a little less easy and I got a feel for what someone in her shoes might be going through. Still, though, the author’s treatment of Hannah’s struggles was one of caring, compassion, and sensitivity to emotions the reader might be feeling if they could relate to any of Hannah’s experiences.

Having worked in the social work field for more than 20 years, the last seven of them working directly with children who have suffered abuse or neglect, I have seen the effect that abuse can have on children. I have also seen the effects of addiction (mainly, however, in the parents’ lives) and how incredibly difficult it can be to overcome such hurdles. Although my initial disappointment in the lack of realism and grittiness nearly caused me to stop reading the book, I now understand and appreciate what the author’s intent might have been. I applaud her for tackling such sensitive topics in a way that is non-threatening and non-judgmental.

Laura Zimmerman, Social Worker, Goodreads Giveaway Winner