Alternate Ending—A Memoir

Alternate EndingSYNOPSIS

Lisa “Jean” Féinics tells a riveting true story about what it was like growing up with a mother suffering from a sickness she did not understand; as a foster kid lost in a world where love and warmth were hard to find; and no one to believe she had the ability to beat the incredible odds stacked against her.

The story opens in the 1970s when Jean is made a Dependent of the Court in California after her mother is hospitalized. Jean then bumps from foster home to foster home and, sometimes, back home again. Through it all, Jean remains deeply devoted to her mother and does all she can to protect her. Just before her 16th birthday, Jean decides she can’t change her own fate while she’s stuck in the foster care system. She runs away in hope of finding something “better”—but better is hard to find when you don’t know what it looks like.

At age 17, Jean has a daughter whose birth transforms her life. Vowing not to make the same mistakes as her mother, Jean embarks on a difficult journey to give herself and her daughter a better life by achieving the unexpected.


“Dr.  Féinics has written a deeply personal and insightful book about her extraordinary journey to and through foster care. Her perspective as a child and young adult experiencing neglect, abuse, and instability provides readers with clear evidence that resiliency can be a powerful factor in overcoming adversity. This book should be must reading for social workers, child welfare leaders, family court judges, teachers, advocates and foster parents. Dr. Féinics’ insights into her journey from multiple foster care placements to earning several college degrees and achieving career success is a call to action. Throughout her time in foster care, Jean’s voice is seldom heard or valued as decisions are made about her life. What others define as improved stability and safety, she describes as continual disruptions and distancing from those she cares about the most. After earning her GED, a trusted friend encourages her to go to college. The simple act of encouragement and personal attention by a college admission staff person changed her life. “I knew I was being given the chance to start over, a chance I wasn’t going to waste.” The power of perseverance and her passion for educational advancement has served Dr. Féinics well. Her story is compelling and important as so many other children and youth face similar overwhelming challenges. Her message needs to be heard.”—John Emerson, Education Consultant 

“L. Jean Féinics shares a lifetime of trauma with stunning, haunting detail. In doing so, she gives clarity to chaos and hope to those born into hopeless circumstances. That Dr. Féinics survived her childhood is remarkable. That she did so with the courage and compassion necessary to use her story to help others is a gift to us all.” —Jeff Hobbs, Author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

“Through the eyes of Jean, the reader will see a world often hidden—poverty, violence, mental illness, and foster care are portrayed in vivid and heartbreaking detail. And yet, there is a light and hope that continues to blink through the darkness and guides the reader toward an understanding of what it truly means to be resilient.”  —Maddy Day, MSW, Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University

 “Alternate Ending is a truly inspiring story that captures the voices of those that so often go unheard. I spent 11 out of 18 years in the foster care system. It’s tough on everyone and leaves a permanent scar only the person affected can see and feel. I thank Jean Féinics for not giving up on herself. I thank her for choosing life. And, for all the foster youth that feel alone, I thank her for telling her story. Jean Féinics is a hero!” —Raven Jones, BA Psychology, Former Foster Youth, Fostering STARS at Lansing Community College

“I couldn’t put down this memoir. Jean Féinics’ writing is immediately accessible, subtly layered, and thoroughly engaging. In Alternate Ending, Féinics lays out the fragile, the broken, and the cruel aspects of humanity in bright sunlight, but she does so with an astonishing lack of contempt and bitterness. As a result, the reader is left to feel whatever it is he or she might feel without interference. It is a humble account of a horrible childhood and the writer’s emergence from that childhood. It is a book written from the point of view of one who has walked through fire, was burned, felt all that burning does, found healing, and who now looks back with clear eyes. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the ripples and waves that emanate from mental illness, and a must read for anyone interested in exploring the tenacity of compassion.”  —Anne Dohrenwend, PhD

 “An intensely personal account of the impenetrable bond between a mother and her daughter.” —Mary Jo Sekelsky, Ed.D. University of Michigan-Flint