Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

In Leah's Wake
by Terri Giuliano Long
Release Date: September 27, 2011
2011 CreateSpace / Inspired Quill
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-9754533-9-1
Genre: Fiction
Source: Pump Up Your Book Tours

4.5 / 5 Stars

Tyler family had the perfect life - until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn't want to be perfect anymore.
While Leah's parents fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah's younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake.
Will this family survive? What happens when love just isn't enough?

My Thoughts
In Leah's Wake is a disturbing, yet at the same time heartrending, look at a contemporary middle class family that is torn apart in the wake of of the eldest daughter's breakdown; it is a look at a normal family dealing with the results of a teenager caught in the midst of drugs and alcohol, slipping out of control, and the stress and pressure it puts on each individual member of that family.  By turns sad and disturbing, the novel draws you into the characters and their story, and makes you feel the downward spiral of each member in the wake of Leah's breakdown.  At the same time, I also found it to be inspiring and full of hope; In Leah's Wake was an absorbing read and I couldn't help but be drawn into the characters and their pain right from the beginning of the novel.

One of the things I found to be disturbing is the fact that it could be me in a few years.  Zoe and Will represent the ideal middle-class family who are trying to raise their two daughters the best way they know how by providing a nice house, good schools, and an environment that stresses high academic and sporting achievement.  Loving and nurturing, both parents are intimately involved in their children's lives, perhaps a little too much, not realizing the pressure they put on their children to always be perfect.  As Leah breaks down, Zoe and Will find themselves questioning their past behaviours and how they could have done things differently with the girls.  Will finds himself losing interest in his job and in the travel it requires, while Zoe slowly slides into the depression she fights so hard against.  What truly scared me is how easily this could be me in the future, and I found myself constantly comparing my life to the Tylers, wondering if perhaps I am too hard on my own kids, or too soft, letting them get away with too much.  It's not always a comfortable spot to be in when you start analyzing your own life and things that you are doing as you are reading, but the book sort of forces you to do that, without judging you. 

In Leah's Wake is emotionally engaging and absorbing, but it was the writing style that naturally drew you in as much as the story.  I really enjoyed the different points of view, and liked how the author used this technique to tell the story and reveal information about the characters without necessarily just telling you.  I learned a lot about Zoe for example, through her interaction with Officer Johnson and through his own eyes and not through her own.  I thought it added that little extra touch to the novel that made me empathize more with the characters than I would have.

The characters themselves were fascinating, but while Leah drove me crazy, as did Will, I really enjoyed Justine, and her slow breakdown as she tries to keep the family together.  Her strong faith and her belief in God and in her family helped her to get through many difficult times, but I was afraid she would slide down the same path as Leah, something that often happens as parents focus on one child so much they forget about the other.  I also found the interaction between Will and Zoe quite interesting, and can see how couples can grow apart if they live vicarously through their children.  It made me think a bit about my own relationship and how important it is to have your own quality time. There were times when I wanted to bang their heads together and make everyone see reason, but that would not have been realistic as people deal with issues in so many different ways, something that Ms. Long really shows very well in this novel.

In Leah's Wake was a gritty, yet sympathetic look at teenage drug use, infidelities, miscommunication, distrust, and self-growth.  The characters are given a chance to explore and develop, and given a chance to come to terms with their self-discoveries and their experiences.  It also shows that perhaps not all is perfect underneath the show and pomp of a nice house and nice cars; one can't hide behind the veneer for long before it cracks.  I would highly recomment In Leah's Wake to anyone as it will make you think and ponder about your own life, and perhaps the fairy-tale life is not about walls and floors, but goes so much deeper than that.  And perhaps the most realistic thing, the ending is not perfect, unlike fairytales, but that makes it so much more realistic and gives it that much more depth. 

Read an excerpt here.

Check out the trailer!


  1. Great review. This is one will will definitly put on my "check out list" Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you so very much for this beautiful - and wonderfully thoughtful - review. You capture the story - its heartbreaks and its frustrations - so perfectly! That you liked the characters, despite their flaws, also means a lot to me.

    It's an honor to be here!! Many, many thanks to your readers for taking time out of your busy lives to read about my book.

    Warmest wishes,


  3. Thank you so much for your interest, Tammy! I agree - it's a terrific review!

  4. In Leah's Wake is a dramatic contemporary novel about the average suburban family. Will and Zoe Tyler are both hard working parents trying to provide the perfect life for their children: a nice house, good schools, sports and academic enrichment. Leah is a soccer star, groomed for a future in collegiate sports, captain of her team and a positive role model for her younger sister. Justine's strengths are in academics, a compassionate heart, a desire to please her family and an unquestionable faith. The Tyler family seemed to have it all, a life of promise and privilege, and a life, not too unlike my own. Until suddenly, they find themselves drowning in the wake of Leah's tumultuous teenage transformation.

    Early in the novel, Terri pulled at my heartstrings so much, the story became personal. My identity started to intertwine with Zoe Tyler. Her voice echoed in my head, the same as so many other moms.