Justine watched her sister take another long drag from the cigarette. ‘Leah?’

Her sister peered at her.

Justine crossed and uncrossed her feet. She’d been practicing the runaway arm, a trick she’d made up for her sister, to make Leah laugh. Justine lifted her right knee, pulling it into her chest, and wound her left arm. ‘Look,’ she cried, winding, winding, her arm spinning, spinning, out of control. ‘The runaway aaaarrmmm.’

When they stopped laughing, Justine said, ‘Can I ask you something?’

Leah brought the cigarette to her lips, her eyes squeezed into slits. ‘If you want,’ she said, through a mouthful of smoke. ‘Can’t promise I’ll do it.’

Stop smoking, Justine wanted to say. ‘It’s not anything big. I don’t want you to take me anywhere or lend me anything or anything. I just want you to-‘ Justine felt like a six-year-old, talking too fast, tripping over her words. ‘Want you to-‘

‘Spit it out.’ Shpit, it came out.

‘Stop smoking,’ Justine blurted. ‘Cancer runs in the family. I’m scared you’re gonna get cancer, like Grandma.’ And die, she thought. I don’t want you to die.

‘Don’t get liver cancer,’ Leah rolled her eyes, ‘from smoking.’

Of course you don’t get liver cancer from smoking. Justine was not a moron. It was the predisposition to cancer she worried about. Her honors science class was doing a section on genes. Their grandmother dying of liver cancer, she’d learned, put them at risk. Justine didn’t say that, of course. She would feel like a geek. Instead, she said, stupidly, ‘You sure you’re all right?

About In Leah’s Wake

The Tylers have a perfect life-beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong.

As Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family-leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.

Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? What happens when love just isn’t enough?

***

Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, calls In Leah’s Wake, “A beautifully written and absorbing novel.”

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