In her début novel, In Leah’s Wake, Terri Giuliano Long takes the reader through a family’s emotional trauma as one of the daughters, a high school athletic star, suddenly abandons her straight-arrow, team captain ideals for a drug-dealing boyfriend’s party lifestyle.
Leah Tyler, captain of the high school soccer team, has a bright future. Clearly the best player in the state, she’s virtually guaranteed a full scholarship at any number of universities. Her Dad aspires for her to attend Harvard and presses her to ever-higher levels of performance.
After years spent perfecting her skills, first under her father’s tutelage and later under a demanding coach, Leah feels weary. She looks at the sacrifices she’s made and questions her priorities. She debates whether she even wants to play soccer after high school. Harvard is Dad’s dream, not hers. When an attractive older boy shows interest, she follows him into his world of alcohol, drugs and crime.
On the surface, Leah’s family is All-American. They live in an upscale community. Dad is a successful sales executive. Mom has a private practice as a therapist and leads motivational seminars on weekends. Nerdy sister Justine achieves Leah-type performance in the classroom.
But, in reality, after years of Dad and Mom working long hours to provide the best of everything for the girls and to save for their college educations, the threads binding the family have frayed to their breaking points.
Terri tells the story from the perspective of each of the main characters immersing the reader in a torrent of emotions as the family bonds unravel. When Leah rebels, as all teenagers do, we feel her pent-up emotions, her desire for independence and we understand the thoughts driving her behavior.
Leah’s father watches her duplicate his past mistakes as she trashes her future. We share his frustration and anger as he unsuccessfully attempts to strong-arm Leah from her bad-news boyfriend.
As a therapist, Leah’s Mom is supposed to know how to successfully navigate family crises. We share her stress as she works to maintain family peace and her humiliation when clients abandon her after her daughter’s problems become public.
Younger sister Justine (my favorite character) is torn between her role as Leah’s confidante and doing what’s right. Her unanswered prayers shake her child-like faith. As her sister’s actions consume their parents’ full attention, the good daughter gets overlooked. Justine first works ferociously to perform tasks others drop and, when her actions go unnoticed, she flips and begins emulating Leah — which still fails to generate much attention.
Being a stereotypical guy, when I realized the book dealt with relationships, I panicked. I thought: Real men don’t read books about families in distress, do they? But by that time, Terri already had me hooked. I had to keep turning pages to find out what happened next.
As a writer, I took lessons on the way Terri made each character real. When I finished the book, I knew the Tyler family better than I know my own. As a parent, I relived the difficult period when you realize your children are no longer under your control and are forced to observe from a distance as they stand hard on the accelerator on the road to hell.
Terri’s storytelling makes In Leah’s Wake compelling; but it’s her characters that make the journey worthwhile. I enjoyed the read and I’m looking forward to her next novel: Nowhere to Run.
Be sure to read my interview with Terri Giuliano Long, author of In Leah’s Wake.
Terri shares her experiences in writing and self-publishing her début novel. She offers insight and recommendations for other authors considering self-publishing.
Here is the book trailer:
I wrote this review as part of a Book Blog Tour arranged by Novel Publicity.
What’s a Book Blog Tour? The Book Publicity Blog has an excellent article that explains the concept.
There is no compensation for participation (that wouldn’t be ethical), but Novel Publicity rewards the blog that gets the most votes for their participation.
First Manuscript won Novel Publicity’s Traffic-Breaker Award! This award goes to the blog participating in the book tour which receives the highest number of votes. I want to express my sincere appreciation to all those who voted for us, especially my critique team who surprised me when they announced they’d all voted. Thank you!
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