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Book Review: In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

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In Leah's Wake book coverIn Leah’s Wake is a coming of age novel with a harsh outlook that life is not as rosy as it might seem to be. There are bumps along the way during the adolescence period, and no one is spared of them, not even those from families seeming to have it all on the outside. I’ve not read such a novel that reminds me so much of the detrimental consequences of teenage rebellion than In Leah’s Wake.

The Tyler family is perfect… externally. The parents, Will and Zoe, work hard to ensure the family leads a comfortable and respected lifestyle. The eldest daughter, 16-year old Leah, is the most promising soccer star in the state and has high chances of obtaining a scholarship from the best colleges in the country. The second daughter, 13-year old Justine, is a smart girl on track to succeeding in life.

Things go horribly wrong for the family after Leah makes one bad decision after another under the influence of her friends and Todd, her boyfriend. Soon, Justine, then Will and Zoe, are each faced with their own problems and the unity of the family is being torn apart. Is it possible for things to become normal in this family again? Can they ever live peacefully under the same roof again? Will things ever become better for the Tyler family?

The anger, frustration and devastation Will and Zoe go through as they see their family unit disintegrate after Leah chose to walk away from the family pulsates in the novel. The heartache and pain they feel is keenly reflected in their actions and words. As I read In Leah’s Wake, I found myself aching for them. Why should any parent face such a terrible deed?

Again and again in the novel, I wished I could shake and pound sense into Leah. On one hand, I pity her. I sometimes even catch a glimpse of myself in her. I think I understand why she does certain things and I’m pretty sure I’ll do them if I had to. On the other hand, I dislike her for her strong influence on Justine. It was just like a cycle. Her friends and Todd influences her. She influences Justine. I found myself wondering if the cycle was ever going to break.

Justine has such a character that makes her easy to be influenced by those she looks up to. In this novel, the person she looks up to is Leah. Partly due to Leah’s influence and partly due to her own rebellion, Justine travels down the path leading to destruction. Her actions are unreasonable and unlike Leah’s, it is as if she intentionally, repeatedly does bad so that she could be bad. Although both Leah and Justine feel the thrill in what they do, Leah is reasonable sometimes, while Justine was nearly never reasonable.

Todd is the bad boy in the story. He does every bad thing you can imagine a bad boy does. His actions made him a very easy target for dislike. He has the type of character personality no parent would want their daughter or son near. As I turned the pages of In Leah’s Wake, I constantly felt myself wishing that Leah would stay away from him.  Unfortunately for her and her family, she doesn’t.

Nearly every page is filled with gloom and doom. There is an air of despair hovering throughout the entire story, but indications of hope for the Tyler family lie on the horizon. I found the middle part of the story a bit too long-winded. After re-reading the novel, I think that perhaps the long-windedness is good after all. There needs to be a kind of emphasis on how bad a family situation can be. The actions of each member of the family drives that point home.

The ending is definitely not the type of ending those wanting happily-ever-afters will like. It doesn’t hold much promise, but there is hope in it. And I love the epilogue ending because of that. I did not quite like the ending Justine’s character received. I felt that it did not do justice to her and I had questions left unanswered.

In Leah’s Wake is a strong reminder that things aren’t always the way we want them to be. We are never promised that life is easy, because it isn’t. It is what we do and the choices we make that shapes our future. In one sense, we have the responsibility and the potential to change our future for good or for bad.

Everything we do affects others in our life because we are no hermits. There are consequences to everything. We can do things to hurt others or make them happy. Leah made her choice and the family lived in the wake of her choice.

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About Evangeline Han

  • http://www.tglong.com/blog/ Terri Giuliano Long

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful review, Evangeline. Your points about choice and interpersonal responsibility touch on key themes. Thank you so much for emphasizing this!