The Contract by Sheila Grinell

“How do you encourage curiosity in a place where thoughts are policed?”

Joanna Dunhill knows just how difficult it can be working with family, and now that she has an opportunity to finally, in mid-life, achieve professional and financial success, family—and Saudi Arabian culture—stand in the way. Author Sheila Grinell flawlessly depicts female empowerment and cultural dissonance in this story about the difficulties of owning and growing a small business. Her new novel, THE CONTRACT (She Writes Press, October 2019, Original Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-63152-648-0, $16.95), explores the many “contracts” we enter in our lives, implicitly in marriage and with siblings, as well as explicitly on the job.

Joanna and her husband, Ev Dana, operate a museum design company to which Ev supplies brawn and creativity in an abstracted, laid-back way that irks Jo no end. Given her drive and management skills, though, she’s convinced they can win a much-prized deal with the Saudi Arabian government. The mission: to create a new children’s museum focused on renewable energy.

When Jo’s competitor and archrival, Phil Owen, becomes involved in the deal, Jo must find a way to look past their personal drama and join forces. Harder still, she must probe the limits of what she will be allowed to accomplish in Saudi Arabia as she seeks to expand opportunities for the mothers and daughters who will patronize the future museum. Meanwhile, it seems Ev would rather pass on the entire project and explore one of his own at a local art gallery. Will Joanna’s over-ambitiousness and Ev’s side-gig get in the way of both their business and their marriage?

“The test was about to begin. Not the presentation she and Ev would make to the review committee–they knew how to present their qualifications. No, the test would be learning the ropes of a society that repressed women yet where the potential client, the deputy director of the agency that had summoned them, was female.”

 In THE CONTRACT, Grinell draws complex characters who share many of the struggles Americans face in business, especially when confronted with gender and cultural differences. Even here, where we enjoy the freedom to choose our own paths, we are often unsure how to take the next step.


Sheila Grinell spent forty years developing science centers in the US and consulting on museum projects around the world, including in Saudi Arabia. She turned to literature in her sixties, publishing a debut novel, Appetite, in 2016. The Contract is her second work of fiction. Born in a taxi in Manhattan, she studied at The Bronx High School of Science, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and their dog.

Rock the Boat by Resmaa Manakem

Rock the Boat


A new book by Oprah and Dr. Phil guest Resmaa Menakem challenges the relationship status quo and says friction between partners is helpful rather than harmful. His revolutionary approach challenges couples to face issues head-on as he guides readers to use conflict as a way build a more mature union that will help partners grow as individuals and as a couple.

ROCK THE BOAT: How to Use Conflict to Heal and Deepen Your Relationship (Hazelden; April 2015; $15.95; Original Trade Paperback) by Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, is an honest look at how people navigate the relationships in their lives and how their past influences the now. It provides lessons and advice that helps create profound individual transformations that act as a catalyst to form deeper bonds with loved ones. Menakem is a licensed clinical social worker, a divorce and family mediator, and a certified Military Family Life Consultant who has worked with hundreds of couples, families, individuals and organizations for more than 24 years.

Most couples avoid conflict, but Menakem points out that this will only lead to increasing friction. The frustration that both partners feel is normal and every moment presents the potential for peril and pain, as well as the potential for growth and transformation. Difficult decisions must also be made, but the choice not to choose can be just as detrimental. Menakem also examines some of the most common perceived issues that cause conflicts in relationships: money, sexual intimacy, kids, and in-laws. Power and control also play roles in emotional stalemates as both are often misunderstood. Learning to care for yourself benefits you and your partner and contributes to more intimate, healthier relationships. Menakem also discusses how therapy really works, what couples should expect when going to therapy, and what they should learn from it.

ROCK THE BOAT teaches:

  • Aspects of conflict in relationships and how they affect partners
  • Real reasons that people get involved in romantic relationships
  • Differences between growth cycle and commonplace cruelty cycle
  • Ways that power and control are used in relationships
  • Five anchors that hinder self-confrontation

ROCK THE BOAT is the essential guide for partners who wish to strengthen their relationship, learn to retain integrity and mature as individuals while at the same time appreciating the others’ needs in a more caring way. The practical tools in this book, in addition to the real life examples and tips at the end of each chapter, will help readers to evolve together in harmony by rocking the boat without tipping it over.

Resmaa Menakem, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in couples therapy and domestic violence prevention. He has served as the director of counseling services for Tubman Family Alliance, a domestic violence treatment center, and as the behavioral health director for African American Family Services in Minneapolis. He is a former radio talk-show host who has appeared on Oprah and Dr. Phil as an expert on domestic violence and couples in conflict. From 2011 to 2013, Resmaa was a family counselor for civilian contractors in Afghanistan, managing the wellness and counseling services on fifty-three U.S. military bases.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation helps people reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. It is the nation’s largest nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 15 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care for youth and adults. It includes the largest recovery publishing house in the country, a fully-accredited graduate school of addiction studies, an addiction research center, an education arm for medical professionals and a unique children’s program, and is the nation’s leader in advocacy and policy for treatment and recovery.