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Gene & Toots: A Story of Love…and Recovery

Gene and Toots: A Story of Love…and Recovery, is a poignant and uplifting account of the couple’s nearly thirty-year love affair.

Two divorced adults with five teenagers between them, they weren’t looking for love. They were content to lay back and enjoy their freedom. But then love found them. At mid-life. When men and women often start dreaming about second chances.

Energized by hope, attracted by desire, Gene and Toots is a memoir about the power of love, how two people with plenty of baggage came together and took that second chance they’d not dared hope for. No one was more surprised than Marilea to be so smitten with Gene from the very start.

“How did I get so lucky, to have found the water, the woods, the mountains, and all the outdoors—my sanctuary—in one simple man?

Such a hard-won attitude—the healing balm for my many wounds—is resonant of many of our longings and much of our desire to live happily ever after. This is a story about the power of love—how it can mold, shape, even transform the most vulnerable human beings. Our stories, a few hilarious, some of them sad, reflect the human condition in us all.”

Marilea and Gene met in her high school classroom, but he became her teacher. He had no idea how critical that role would become as they navigated through the next three decades together. She was newly divorced; he, too, was divorced and not looking for romance. But there was magic between them—compelling and seductive—and it swept them forward into uncharted waters.


What I love about this author is her brazen honesty. She knows only too well the pitfalls of going through life wearing masks, hiding her real self from the world. And though defense mechanisms like that might have saved her some embarrassment and shame along the way, they only delayed the inevitable. At some point she must have known that facing her demons would be necessary.

But facing down her demons is one thing. Sharing her defects with the world is something else. And that takes courage. Adding her voice to that of many other substance abusers has been a gift to many: of understanding, of validation, and of recovering from the past voices that still had power over her.

Full disclosure: I have read all three of Rabasa’s memoirs, and they’re all about the same thing: recovery from substance use disorder. But they all have a different focus. This final tale encompasses the last thirty years, and the focus is on her loving relationship with Gene Dunne, who has been a critical part of her journey toward wholeness and healing.

Gene contributed his own words and perspective to this memoir, an addition that only enriched their story, A talented writer himself, his poetry and other reflections deepened the reader’s understanding of their connection.

Marilea Rabasa is an eloquent writer. Her books and essays have received many awards. Though so much of what she wrote about was painful to read, her gifts as a wordsmith made it a pleasurable exercise. Her use of metaphor is truly striking, as when she compared the loon dance on Lake Argo to her love for Gene. That’s just one example of how she elevates writing to a higher level. And I’m all the richer for having read her books. Thank you, Marilea, for sharing your story (in three parts!) with the world! ~Tom Walden

This is the third of Marilea’s memoirs and she seems to have saved the best for last. Although substance abuse is an underlying theme, the real story this time is her own personal love story with Gene, her partner of almost 30 years. In a playful and creative collaboration between two gifted poets, they share the wonderment of their love for each other, nature, and family in beautifully written vignettes. A touching and inspiring book that will resonate with those of us enjoying or looking for love later in life. Not to be missed! ~Martha Graham-Walden

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Stepping Stones

Addiction is a stealth predator. Unrecognized, it will grow and flourish. Unchecked, it destroys.

Marilea Rabasa grew up in post-WWII Massachusetts in a family that lived comfortably and offered her every advantage. But they were also haunted by closely guarded family secrets. Alcoholism reached back through several generations, and it was not openly discussed. Shame and stigma perpetuated the silence. And Marilea became part of this ongoing tragedy.

From an unhappy childhood to a life overseas in the diplomatic service to now, living on an island in Puget Sound, Stepping Stones chronicles Marilea’s experiences, weaving a compelling tale of travel, motherhood, addiction, and heartbreaking loss. The constant thread throughout this story is the many faces and forms of addiction, phantoms that stalk her like an obsessed lover. What, if anything, will free her of the masks she has worn all her life?

An inspiring, poignant recovery story, Stepping Stones tells how Marilea took on the demons that plagued her all her life―and defeated them.

Praise for Stepping Stones

“Stepping Stones is a spectacular gift from Rabasa’a heart to, first of all, herself. And now she has generously shared it with the world. You will not forget this 5 star, exceptional and beautifully written memoir.” – Mary Jo Doig

“An inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring read from beginning to end.” – The Midwest Book Review

“Reading that book was like watching someone carve out her heart to place on an altar before me. It’s like a confession of Marilea’s humanity.” ~ Kristin Jensen

“The memoir is written in beautiful prose with insightful passages on life, suffering, inner freedom, and personal transformation. The author writes beautifully about family, motherhood, and work, filling the pages with vivid imagery from her life. ” – Reader’s Favorite Reviews

“A satisfying, graphic and engaging read about one woman’s journey to peace and healing from addiction. I admire this author’s courage in telling her painful story so eloquently. I highly recommend this memoir for anyone who has felt emotionally abandoned and finds her way back home again.” – Kathleen Pooler

“I applaud Marilea Rabasa for delivering such a profound and real experience of her life and its challenges and, in the end, the victory of recognizing the sorrows, some joys and ultimately arriving in a place where she has gifted herself with true peace and tranquility. Bravo Ms. Rabasa. Excellent read!

Quill says: Stepping Stones is a memoir that depicts the essence of its title throughout the entire read in that life, after all, truly is a series of ‘steppingstones.’” ~Feathered Quill

“Beautifully written and with amazing recall for details, Marilea C. Rabasa tells her life story in Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation.  Always an attention seeker, adolescent Marilea looked for the spotlight.  By smashing her sister’s figurines, slitting her wrist and risky behavior with boys, she got it.  Eventually, she sought alcohol as an escape.

Stepping Stones is 310 intriguing pages divided into mini-chapters, some only one page long.  Because Rabasa uses bite-sized pieces to tell her story, there is little chance of getting bored.  Before tedium sets in, the reader is absorbed in the next nugget.

Rabasa’s tough fight with alcohol was eventually won, if one can ever say this battle has been permanently won.  In the book’s most powerful paragraph she remembers: “That did it for me.  When I saw the look in their eyes…” (page 285). After twenty-five years she concluded, after being gently confronted by her son and his wife, that the relief alcohol provided was not worth the anguish it caused the people who loved her.  As she recalls, alcoholics must hit bottom before they change, and her relatives’ concern in the gentle confrontation was exactly what she needed.

In American society, there is the phrase that ‘there is a book in every person.’  Rabasa is owed a debt of gratitude for exploring her transformation and sharing it with the world.  Hopefully, it will be a guide to others lost in the numbness of addiction and to all of us wrestling with inner demons.” – Judge, 28th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards 

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A Mother’s Story

International Book Awards Winner
USA Best Book Awards Finalist
New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Finalist
The Great Southwest Book Festival Honorable Mention

A Mother’s Story is a searing and intimate portrait of addiction and how it has been passed down in Marilea Rabasa’s family from generation to generation. Marilea is herself an addict, and when Angie’s drug addiction, at age twenty-two, became apparent to her, she jumped into a recovery program to cope with her daughter’s illness. The subsequent twelve years have proven to be a powerful and poignant redemption journey, as she has gradually come to claim recovery for herself even as she’s watched her beautiful daughter continue to struggle. This award-winning memoir is a story of hope and recovery that will resonate with many people, as epidemic as addiction is in our society. Many will benefit from her experience and the lessons passed on.

Written under the pseudonym Maggie C. Romero.

Praise for A Mother’s Story

“Her insightful reflections will resonate with parents or anyone facing a like challenge and her final acceptance of herself after a spiritually compelling search is truly inspiring.” – Martha Graham-Waldon

“One of the most honest and insightful accounts to date of a mother’s struggle to win the battle over her daughter’s addiction. This is not just a recovery book but a riveting story from beginning to end that flies in the face of despair and embraces the strangest paradox of all – absolute surrender in order to win.” – Claire Demers

“An often poignant recollection that details the demon of addictive behavior.” – Kirkus Reviews