Finding Frances

ebook cover 2019 Finding Frances

Second Printing

Originally released April 10, 2010

Softcover ISBN 978-0-9826140-0-6

E-book ISBN 978-0-9826140-1-3

Gold Medal
Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards 2011 
2nd Place
Florida Writers Association Literary Award 2010 (Mainstream Fiction)


What if your mother’s last request was to let her go?

In the middle of a personal crisis and with two thousand miles between them, William Baldwin learns that his mother is ready to die, but no one is listening to her wishes for end-of-life care. Instead of taking a chance on life-sustaining treatment that can prolong her death but cannot cure her, Frances wants a natural and peaceful death. She asks William to convince the doctors, his father and his siblings to let nature take its course. Torn by her request, William, a med-school dropout, respects his mother’s dream of a good death but is not ready to let her go. Finding Frances is one man’s journey to honor his mother and to understand the larger cultural and ethical issues of death. In doing so, he is relieved of his past burdens and learns how to live.

Finding Frances tells the story of a woman who said “no” to the system that convinces us that life should be sustained at all costs. It’s a gentle, upbeat, and off-beat exploration of the love beneath a family’s defenses and contrary positions.

…There’s more to life than living and more to death than dying…


I was crouching down, reaching into my black bag, when Cheri said, “How can you just give your book out to strangers like this? Isn’t your book like one of your children?” I stood up and laughed nervously. I’d only been a member of the book club for a few months, and they were strangers, just like she said. Yet there I was, eight copies of my manuscript in hte crook of my arm like I was carrying a baby, and I was ready to hand them over. I shifted them over to my hip and headed back across the room to the group.

She was right, my books are like my children. But just like children, at some point you’ve just got to let them go into the world. Not everyone will like them, and that will hurt. But I know they’ve got some good in them and I hope they’ll find a spot to flourish. When I sent Trilogy out into the world, I knew it wasn’t my best work. It still had braces on and a few big pimples.  But it was just as I’d envisioned it, and it was a really good feeling.

My struggle giving birth to my second book was different.  At first, Finding Frances was a sort of memoir of my mother’s dying.  I don’t read many memoirs, but I could tell the one I was writing was really bad.  My mother wouldn’t even have wanted to read it.  At a loss, I put it away for a few months.

I tried again.  I wrote about my mother sitting at the kitchen window drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette.  A sob, like a black hole, began deep in my gut and sucked everything into it—my breath, my throat, my strength, and finally all of my thoughts—until nothing was left but tears flying in all directions.  This book was going to be harder to write than I thought.

I wrote a hundred pages before I realized I hated the whole thing.  I’d been raising it all wrong.  I hated the characters.  I hated the point of view.  I hated the tone and the lazy word choices.  I hated that I’d been writing in Times Roman.  But I loved Frances and I still wanted to tell her story.  My brother, who loved my first book, said he couldn’t read more than 40 pages of what I’d written.  He hated that all the characters seemed like they were taking too much Prozac.  I’d been trying to take the easy way out.  But how could I tell the story without involving my family?  After all, they were all working through their own grief.  I couldn’t bear adding weight to their hearts.  A book about our experience would put it all on my terms.  That wouldn’t be fair.  No, this baby wasn’t related to them.  After a few months of trying to engineer a solution, it finally dawned on me.  I could develop the characters around the issues.  So I created them and adopted them, and finally I could call them my own.

In April of 2010, with a gentle push and not a lot of fanfare, Finding Frances hit the market.

The book is growing on its own now.  As the months go by, I’ve learned that my story has stopped being mine.  Every time someone reads it, it becomes their story. When I hear about the difference it’s made in some people’s lives, I am amazed, proud, and sometimes overwhelmed.  At first I said that if the story could help just one person facing “the issues” of death and dying, then it would have been worth the time.  At this point, hundreds have read it and many, many have taken the time to tell me about the peace they now feel.

Parenting has its rewards.

Finding Frances is a story with a heart. And it just might change the way you think about the end of your life.  There are over 5,000 copies of this book in circulation.


“How does each person want to live? How would they want to die? Van Dyck brings these questions smoothly to the surface without ever pushing an agenda or setting up arguments.”  -Washington Times Book Review

“It is a real joy to read this novel, which is rooted in the present reality that our advances in technology have outpaced our ability to restrain them.”   -Lofty Basta, MD, Author of “Graceful Exit” and “Life and Death on Your Own Terms”

“Avoiding melodrama, Finding Frances is a great family drama that looks deeply at the impact on everyone when a loved one is dying…  insightful… a profound timely look at dying.” –Midwest Book Review

“You will be changed after reading this…you can’t pick this book up and think you’re going to be able to get through it without a lot of deep thought.”

“…fast paced novel that carries a mighty wallop…a book we all should read and no one is too young or too old… ”

“With seamless empathy VanDyck encourages the reader to hear all aspects of the sticky topic and finds a way to have the story end on a positive note.” -Top 10 Amazon reviewer

“…moving and powerful.  It speaks to the heart.”


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