Book Club Week: In Leah’s Wake – Excerpt #3

  • In Leah's Wake - Terri Giuliano Long

Book Club Week: In Leah’s Wake – Excerpt #3

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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2016-12-28T13:50:31+00:00April 25th, 2012|Categories: Book Club Week, Excerpts|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

Terri Giuliano Long, a frequent guest blogger, with appearances on hundreds of blogs, is a contributing writer for IndieReader and also wrote for Her Circle eZine. She lives with her family on the East Coast. Her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, winner of the Global eBook Award, Popular Fiction, and Indie Discovery Award, Literary Fiction, has sold over 130,000 copies worldwide.


  1. Jenn Doyle April 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I kept telling myself just one more chapter, I'm between a third and half way though and it just gets better. I was wondering where you got the idea for the novel if you don't mind sharing, perhaps that is something you will reveal as the week cntinues.

  2. Terri Giuliano Long April 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    I\’m thrilled that you\’re enjoying the novel, Jenn! Thank you so very much for telling me! You\’ve made my day!!

    The novel started with the voice of an adult woman from the imaginary town of Cortland, Massachusetts. The Tyler\’s house was for sale, and this harshly critical voice was reveling in the family\’s downfall. I wanted to know what happened, why the Tylers had been ostracized. I wrote the first draft with these questions in mind.

    I approached many of the scenes from a psychological perspective. When I wrote the early drafts, our four daughters were teens. Although no event in the story actually happened to us (thank goodness!), I drew on my own thoughts and feelings-my hopes, anxieties, fears-for inspiration or insight into the characters\’ psychology. I\’d know a character was angry or frustrated or scared, for example, and ask myself why. In a sense, understanding the psychology helped me to figure out the action.

    For specific detail, I relied on observation. Years ago, I wrote features for a local paper and I\’d done a series on teens with drug and alcohol problems. I interviewed families, talked to moms; their heartbreaking stories stayed with me. As I wrote the early drafts of In Leah\’s Wake, I was immersed in the high school world; the earlier stories echoed and provided perspective on problems and situations I observed.

    I watched, I listened, I asked questions. In some cases, local stories or events made their way into the novel. The car accident Jerry Johnson recalls, for example, is based on a horrific accident that occurred a few years before I began writing. I also drew on news stories. I would read an article about a situation where teens were arrested after a drunken party, for instance, and use bits of information to flesh out scenes.

    For me, the key is to write about problems that keep me awake at night, ideas I\’m passionate about. I adore teenagers-I love their optimism, their energy. They sometimes lack the experience to see the full picture-and their impulses can get them in trouble-but they\’re incisive and smart, and they often see the hypocrisies we adults miss. Of course there\’s also drama in the tension between parents, who want to protect their children, and teens, trying to grow up, make their own way in the world. This tension, the questions that arise, gave me a framework for the story.

    Thematically, I was inspired by questions about family, community, and shared responsibility (as Hillary Clinton has said, \’it takes a village to raise a child.”) Like In Leah\’s Wake, my psychological thriller, in progress, Nowhere to Run, is a family story. Thematically, this new story is about racism, community, rural poverty, and the plot addresses the social, economic and political divide between the rich and the poor.

    I hope I\’ve answered your question without boring you, Jenn. If you have questions about writing that you feel I might be able to answer, please feel welcome to email: [email protected] Thank you again! Your kindness and support mean a lot to me!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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