After the Sucker Punch
By Lorraine Devon Wilke
What's on the cover?
They buried her father at noon, at five she found his journals, and in the time it took to read one-and-a-half pages her world turned upside down… he thought she was a failure.
Every child, no matter what age, wants to know their father loves them, and Tessa Curzio – thirty-six, emerging writer, ex-rocker, lapsed Catholic, defected Scientologist, and fourth in a family of eight complicated people – is no exception. But just when she thought her twitchy life was finally coming together – solid relationship, creative job; a view of the ocean – the one-two punch of her father’s death and posthumous indictment proves an existential knockout.
She tries to “just let it go,” as her sister suggests, but life viewed through the filter of his damning words is suddenly skewed, shaking the foundation of everything from her solid relationship and winning job to the truth of her family, even her sense of self. From there, friendships strain, bad behavior ensues, new men entreat, and family drama spikes, all leading to her little-known aunt, a nun and counselor, who lovingly strong-arms Tessa onto a journey of discovery and reinvention. It’s a trip that’s not always pretty – or particularly wise – but somewhere in all the twists and turns, unexpected truths are found.
This book is all about how a daughter, thirty-six-year-old Tessa, comes to terms with finding out what her recently deceased father thought of her when she was a young woman – and unflattering thoughts they were, too. Tessa is knocked completely off course by the revelations in Leo Curzio’s “date book” – the situation affects her relationships with her family, her partner and her friends, and her work. There are some quite vivid descriptions of her unravelling, and lengthy details on how she pulls her life back together with the help of her father’s sister, a nun she hasn’t had too much connection with before now. This allows us to look back at Tessa's life and how it was affected by being drawn into a cult-like religion. She also had success as a singer with her own band, which she misses like crazy but doesn't feel able to go back to. Along the way she lost her individuality, but her father's revelations give her the impetus to try to regain it.
This is primarily a story about father-daughter relationships. But it is also about families and friends and how each person within a situation can have wildly differing views and memories of it. There are six siblings and we get glimpses into their lives, but no in-depth analysis. Their mother, Audrey, is a self-absorbed and needy woman who seems to be bipolar. There are subplots involving Tessa’s two best friends: the slightly prissy Kate with her near-perfect lifestyle, and the self-destructive Ruby, who has her own problems and ways of dealing with them. Tessa’s Aunt Joanne is the stabilising aunt we all want in our lives. Tessa’s romantic interests all seem pretty well adjusted compared to the Curzio family.
My favourite character is Vivian, Tessa’s boss and friend. She has Tessa’s interests at heart but isn’t afraid to speak out and tell Tessa when she is being ridiculous. And that’s a lot of the time. Tessa isn’t a very likeable character. I found her self-centred, immature and selfish. It is possible to have sympathy with her predicament and thank goodness she has some insights into what a bitch she can be, or she would be quite insufferable. I couldn’t connect with her and that made the book a little hard going for me – I like a character with flaws, but I want to get in their head and feel the way they do.
This is very much an American novel and I think will probably be easier for the American reader to identify with. The story is told in the third person from Tessa’s point of view. There is some fine writing, but also a little too much stepping outside of the characters to give the reader information, which I felt spoilt the flow. There is some good dialogue, but then this can be interrupted by a paragraph or two to talk at the reader.
Most of the story is quite believable, but I did have a little trouble understanding how a parent could write such damning things in a journal that he wants – we are led to believe – his children to read. Why would he do this? Why would he want his children to read about it?
Editorial Input & Design
I think the developmental edit could have been a bit deeper, but the copy-editing appears to have been done well. Proofreading has been done, but there are a few errors – nothing that will spoil your enjoyment of reading, though.
Cover: Nicely designed, but nothing that makes it stand out particularly. The picture isn’t all that clear at thumbnail size, although the title can’t be missed.
Internal design: Well designed and professional looking, for both e-reader and print.
Book Clubs & Reviews
This could make a nice book club read, with plenty to discuss on relationships within families – between siblings and between a parent and a child – and our need for parental approval. There could be some interesting talk on how people view a situation differently. Apart from these things, though, I would be hard pushed to find much else for discussion. UPDATE See Lorraine Devon Wilke's comment below, where she gives some other suggestions for book club discussion.
Nothing leaps out as refreshments, except pizza and Chardonnay.
What others are saying: Amazon UK readers give it 4.8 stars (5 reviewers); Amazon US readers give it 4.9 stars (42 reviewers); Goodreads readers give it 4.18 stars (11 ratings).
Buy & Author
Amazon (Kindle £5.65/$8.66; paperback £7.15/$11.95)
Follow the author:
Website www.afterthesuckerpunch.com (for the author’s writing)
www.lorrainedevonwilke.com (for LDW’s professional interests – writing, music and photography)
Twitter @LorraineDWilke (interesting to follow – LDW comments on a number of different topics)
Facebook (for her writing; LDW has facebook pages for other aspects of her life – see her website)
www.layeredpages.com Interview with the author about this book