The 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?
Jodi Picoult fans will love In Leah’s Wake – a heartbreaking, ultimately redemptive story about family, connection and our responsibility to those we love.
I took a step out of my comfort zone when I decided to read In Leah’s Wake. My comfort zone is normally filled with fiction that takes me far away from real life issues. In Leah’s Wake is the exact opposite of what I normally read in that it features very real life problems. When Leah Tyler trades in her straight A student, star athlete lifestyle for one of rebellion, her family and even her whole town feels the weight of her shift in behavior.
Told from the alternating perspectives of the member of Tyler family and a local police officer, the reader experiences the all sides of the story. Leah’s descent into disorder begins when she meets Todd, a high school drop out and drug dealer. She falls hard for Todd and soon she begins cutting class and skipping soccer practice to be with him. He introduces her to drugs, sex, crime, and in many ways turns her against her parents. When her parents finally catch on to her behavior, they over react to point where they end up driving Leah deeper into the arms of Todd and further away from a healthy lifestyle.
When Leah’s father, Will, learns of her behavior and her lousy boyfriend, he looses his temper merely upon the mention of her boyfriends name. He see Todd as the sole reason why his daughter has changed so drastically from the little girl he once knew. Although Todd has a key role in Leah’s behavior, her father also pushed her too hard to be perfect. He also refuses to curb his temper when around his daughter and so the fighting becomes inevitable.
Zoe, Leah’s mother, is a stark contrast to her husband behavior. In fact, she barely reacts to Leah’s behavior. As a self help speaker, one would think Zoe would be an expert in correcting her daughter’s misbehavior, but instead she chooses to ignore and escape. Her worst moment is when Leah actually comes to her for help and she tells her daughter she is too busy with her self help business.
Justine, Leah’s younger sister, is the one stuck in the middle of all the chaos. She is a straight A student, responsible, hard working, and overall good girl. At first she is confused and disappointed by her sisters behavior, but as the family fighting goes on Justine begins to understand Leah’s behavior and turns against her parents.
Author Terri Guiliano Long expertly develops her characters and paints a picture so real that you can’t help but feel the effects of the characters decisions. There are many points in the book where you see things starting to go wrong and you want to scream at the characters to save them from their horrible decision. Long’s character develop is so solid that despite of all the characters bad decisions, you truly understand their reasoning. You know why Leah’s mom chooses to escape, you understand why Leah lashes out, and you feel Will’s frustration as he sees his daughter drive off with Todd.
In Leah’s Wake is a well written journey into a family’s soul. There were times where I wished the author would take a break from problems and interject some scenes with joy. Rather the scenes with any ounce of joy were quickly quelled and the Tyler family storm would strike back at full force. For most of the book, there is a feeling of a constant downward spiral only to hit bottom at the end. It takes a lot for me to pick up a book when I know I will encounter turmoil upon reading its pages and I had to really push myself to keep reading. A few times, I wanted to throw the book across the room I was so made at the characters (that was until I realized I was reading it on my Kindle).
Long’s writing no doubt stirred up emotions within me and I have a feeling that was her precise intent. I gave the book three stars mainly because I don’t like being dragged through book that consists almost entirely of sad and painful to watch scenes. I have nothing but praise for the Long’s writing but the story she created it wasn’t one that I was particularly enjoyed reading. There was very little light in this dark story. I recommend this book to readers of women’s fiction and to those who can weather heavy subject matter.
Thank you to Terri Giuliano Long for providing a copy of her book to review in exchange for an honest review.