In Leah’s Wake
by Terri Giuliano Long
At the heart of the seemingly perfect Tyler family stands sixteen-year-old Leah. Her proud parents are happily married, successful professionals. Her adoring younger sister is wise and responsible beyond her years. And Leah herself is a talented athlete with a bright collegiate future. But living out her father’s lost dreams, and living up to her sister’s worshipful expectations, is no easy task for a teenager. And when temptation enters her life in the form of drugs, desire, and a dangerously exciting boy, Leah’s world turns on a dime from idyllic to chaotic to nearly tragic.
As Leah’s conflicted emotions take their toll on those she loves—turning them against each other and pushing them to destructive extremes—In Leah’s Wake powerfully explores one of fiction’s most enduring themes: the struggle of teenagers coming of age, and coming to terms with the overwhelming feelings that rule them and the demanding world that challenges them. Terri Giuliano Long’s skillfully styled and insightfully informed debut novel captures the intensely personal tragedies, victories, and revelations each new generation faces during those tumultuous transitional years.
Recipient of multiple awards and honors, In Leah’s Wake is a compelling and satisfying reading experience with important truths to share—by a new author with the voice of a natural storyteller and an unfailingly keen understanding of the human condition…at every age.
WINNER, Global eBook Award, Popular Literature, 2012
WINNER, Indie Discovery Award, Literary Fiction, 2012
Recipient of the CTRR Award for excellence
2011 Book Bundlz Book Pick
Book Bundlz 2011 Favorites, First Place
Praise for In Leah’s Wake
“An astounding story of a family in transition." -- Tracy Riva, Midwest Reviews
"A powerful and intimate portrait of a family in disarray." -- Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"Terri Long's accomplished first novel takes the reader on a passionate roller-coaster ride through contemporary parenthood and marriage. Sometimes scary, sometimes sad, always tender." -- Susan Straight, National Book Award finalist, author of Take One Candle, Light A Room
"An incredibly strong debut, this book is fantastic on many fronts." -- Naomi Blackburn, top Goodreads reviewer worldwide, Founder Sisterhood of the Traveling Book
“A very moving and, at times, heartbreaking story which will be loved by many, whether they are parents or not.”-- A. Rose, Amazon UK, TOP 100 REVIEWER
“Pulled me right along as I continued to make comparisons to my own life.”-- Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books, Top 50 Book Blog
"A masterpiece of psychological tension and unbearable suspense, a portrait of America in the present day." -- Frederick Lee Brooke, author of Doing Max Vinyl
“Multiple ripples of meaning contribute to the overall intensity of this deeply moving psychological drama.”-- Cynthia Harrison, author of The Paris Notebook
Read an excerpt:
On their way home from the workshop, Leah said, “I’m impressed, Ma.”
They were stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. Zoe looked at her daughter and smiled. “Thank you, honey. That’s sweet.” This is my daughter, she thought. This is my Leah.
“I mean it.” Leah turned the radio up. “You’re great with them.”
Why in the world were they constantly fighting? Getting along required only this: mutual respect.
The car behind them honked. The light had turned. Startled, Zoe stepped too heavily on the gas. The car jerked into the intersection.
Leah grabbed the handhold above her door, letting out a yelp.
“Sorry,” Zoe said sheepishly. “Think there’s a Success Skills workshop for driving?”
“Driver’s Ed,” Leah said, giggling. When they finally stopped laughing, she said, “Can I ask you something, Mom?”
“Certainly, sweetheart. Anything.”
“What made you do it? The seminars, I mean.”
“Tough question.” She’d been unhappy. No, unhappy was the wrong word. Frustrated. Discontented, maybe. “Something,” Zoe said quietly, “was missing.” She signaled their turn onto Main Street. Don’t get her wrong: she loved her family. She squeezed Leah’s forearm. Most days, she enjoyed her job. “How can I explain it?” She wanted to make a difference. “I thought if I could help people make important changes in their lives, I’d be doing something worthwhile.”
“Was it hard?” Leah reminded her of the long hours she’d spent developing, organizing, and marketing her workshops. She reminded Zoe of her so-called friends and colleagues, who’d warned her that in a tiny suburb like theirs she’d never attract enough attendees to make the venture worthwhile, who’d insisted that she was wasting her time. “Don’t you get tired? Do you ever think about quitting?”
“Sure,” Zoe admitted. “Sometimes. Then I think about the women I’m helping and I get excited again.” She told Leah about the cards and letters she received after the workshops, thanking her, telling her—she laughed—she was an angel. “The confidence I see in their eyes at the end of the day. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
After that, Leah grew quiet.
They passed a cornfield, the harvested stalks lying in the furrows, to be shredded for compost. Soon the fields gave way to forest.
Leah yawned. Within minutes, she was asleep.
Zoe turned off the radio and plugged a CD into the changer. The Liszt piano solos had been a gift from a student. “You’ll like the freethinking music,” the woman had said, and she had been right.
Zoe stroked Leah’s temples, pushing the hair out of her daughter’s eyes. Zoe felt sick about their blowout yesterday. The business with this Todd was her fault as much as Leah’s. If she’d paid closer attention to her daughter, instead of allowing herself to be driven by the demands of work, Leah would not have looked for affirmation from a person like Corbett. That’s all in the past, Zoe vowed. From now on, she planned to be available for her children. She’d rearrange her patient schedule so that she was there when Justine came home from school. She’d pick up Leah after practice; she’d attend every game. She would set aside at least four hours of individual, quality time, per week, for each of the girls. She’d pack healthy, appetizing lunches. Bake cookies. Sew Halloween outfits. She’d be the perfect mother. Better than perfect, she thought, and brought herself up short. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s take this one step at a time.
On Old Orchard Road, a mile from home, Leah opened her eyes, yawning. “I was having this crazy dream,” she said, yawning again.
“What were you dreaming about?”
Leah rubbed her eyes. “I can’t remember. What’s this music?”
“Liszt. Hungarian Rhapsodies. A student gave it to me. Like it?”
“It’s cool,” Leah said, fingering her belly ring. “Kind of—wild.”
“It’s gypsy music.” Zoe eyed the ring. “Did it hurt? Getting pierced?”
“Not too much. You still mad?”
Zoe squeezed Leah’s thigh. “No, sweets. But I wish you’d talked to me first.”
“You weren’t home,” Leah said, a hint of accusation in her tone.
“Sorry. I’d like to have been there for you. That’s all I meant.”
“Dad was pissed.” Leah scraped her thumbnail, chipping the garish blue polish.
Zoe remembered. Will had been angry with her, too. In the Tyler household, by order of both parents, belly rings were forbidden. If you’d stay on top of things, she might not have done this, he’d charged, after the girls had gone to bed. “So it’s my fault?” Zoe shot back. “Like you’re ever around?” The argument ended in a stalemate. “Dad doesn’t mean to be so hard on you, honey. He just worries.”
Slouching, Leah slid her hands under her thighs. “He doesn’t need to.” She wasn’t a baby.
“I know, sweetie.” Zoe signaled their turn onto Lily Farm Road. “It’s just, it’s scary being a parent. The decisions you make now—”
“Will affect the rest of my life. God, Mom. Can’t you say something different for once?”
“We’re your parents, sweetie. It’s our job to provide guidance.”
Leah bolted upright. “You are such a hypocrite. All day long you tell those women to make their own decisions. Then you tell your own daughter she’s supposed to listen to you?”
Zoe tightened her grip on the wheel. True, she advised her students to take control of their lives. But that was advice for adults. “You’ll be an adult soon enough, Leah. Then you can make all your own decisions. For now—”
“I’m an adult already.”
“You’re sixteen, honey. I know you feel like an adult—”
“Well, guess what, Mom?“ Leah shifted aggressively toward her door. “In November, I’ll be seventeen. You’ll have no say over me then.”
Zoe’s jaw clenched. A therapist, she was well aware of the state law governing the legal age of adulthood. “Until you’re a responsible adult—living on your own—your father and I make the rules.”
“So I’m irresponsible now?”
Zoe caught herself, before she went on a rant about Corbett. She felt closer to Leah today than she’d felt in ages. She refused to end the day with a fight. She reached for Leah’s arm. “Honey, listen. All I said is—”
Leah jerked away. “You said I’m a baby.”
Patience, Zoe told herself. Take a breath. She eased the Volvo alongside the mailbox, pulled out the mail and set it on the console, then turned into their driveway. “Honey,” she said, forcing a smile, “think about it. How would you feel if your daughter came in at three—”
“Oh my God,” Leah spat. “That’s why you were so big on me coming.” She scooped her team jacket from the floor. “So you could get me alone. Try to get me to dump him. I hate to break it to you, Mom. You wasted your time. It’s up to me who I go out with.”
“Leah, please.” Zoe stopped at the foot of the drive and pressed the button to lift the garage door. Leah’s dollhouse sat on the metal shelf at the back of the garage. When Leah was six, Zoe and Will had bought two houses, one for each of the girls, at a yard sale. At night, after the kids had gone to bed, they’d decorated the houses, painting and papering the walls. She’d cut squares from scatter rugs to carpet the floors, sewed tiny Cape Cod curtains for the miniature windows. Until last summer, Leah had kept the dollhouse on a table next to her bed. One day, she’d decided that she was too old for a dollhouse, and carried it down here. Leah wasn’t a baby. Zoe knew that. She wanted to protect her daughter; keep her safe. “I didn’t say a word about your boyfriend.”
“Right, so lie to me now.”
“Well, honey, admit it, he’s not exactly a person any parent—”
Leah clapped her hands over her ears.
“—wants to see their child—”
“La, la, la, la, la,” Leah sang.
“Listen to me.” Zoe pried her daughter’s hands away from her head. “He’s not good for you, honey. He’ll hurt you—”
“La, la, la, la, la,” Leah trilled, her voice drowning Zoe’s.
“Damn it, Leah. He used to be a roadie. This is not a good guy.”
“I don’t need this.” Leah flipped the lock on her door.
Zoe caught Leah’s wrist. “The kid sells drugs, for God’s sake.”
“You tricked me,” Leah spat. “I’m done with you,” she shouted, wrenching free. “I’m never going with you again. Anywhere. Ever.”
“No problem,” Zoe spat back. She was sorry she’d talked the little brat into coming. Big mistake. She should have known this would happen. “Believe me, I have no intention of asking again.”
“I hate you,” Leah cried. “I hate you. I’m not pretending I don’t anymore.”
Leah slammed the door, and went hurtling into the house.
The histrionic gypsy music rang in Zoe’s ears. She slapped the dash, her fingers fumbling with the dial, and cut the music off.
She’d lost her cool, said all the wrong things. Leah was spewing words, trying to hurt Zoe as much as Zoe had hurt her. Leah wanted reassurance. She wanted to be told she was capable and smart. She wanted to know that Zoe was proud of her, that she trusted her to make her own decisions. Zoe had let her down. She’d seen the ache in her daughter’s eyes, the disappointment. Maybe this was what people meant by the term “growing pains,” not the pain children experienced in their joints as their limbs grew, but the ache they felt in their hearts.
Zoe stared at the discarded playthings in their garage, Leah’s dollhouse, her tricycle, her wooden blocks dissolving in a watery blur. If only you knew how hard it is to watch you stumble, to see you in pain. Pull yourself together, Zoe told herself. Don’t let your failures defeat you. Yet here she was, her failures an anchor, sucking her under the sea.
This is a painful book to read. You can feel the angst of Leah and her family from the very first page. They love each other and everything seems to be going well, but so much can change so fast. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when everything went wrong. Everyone is at fault, even if they don't realize it.
I feel like I have personally known every character in this book. Perhaps I have even been in some of the situations. Life is a roller coaster ride with unexpected twists and turns, all of which you find in this book. Perhaps it will help some parents remember what it is like to be in the throes of teen angst. Perhaps it will help some teens realize how those seemingly innocent decisions or risks really aren't the greatest idea.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Terri Giuliano Long is a frequent blog guest, with appearances on hundreds of blogs. She’s written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. Her debut novel, In Leah's Wake, was a Kindle bestseller for more than 6 months. For information, please visit her website: www.tglong.com
Terri will be awarding a $100 Holiday Cash Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Follow the tour for more chances to win!