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Reviewed by Jaycee Allen for Readers' Favorite
In After the Sucker Punch by Lorraine Devon Wilke, thrust into the drama of a father’s death, each sibling’s foibles in a moderately dysfunctional family are exacerbated. Topping the negative family dynamic, Tessa discovers that her father, who has kept a journal throughout his life, sees her as a failure, and he has equally condemned her siblings. Like most of us, Tessa struggles with self-doubt, especially since she has made difficult life choices: several years in a sect; an albeit short-lived career as a rock singer; and as a writer for an online magazine. Thus, her father’s condemnation can only feed her unhappiness. Yet life could be bleaker: she has excellent women friends; she works for a woman who believes in her talent; she lives with a kindly, calm man who, despite his obsession with sports and his conservative outlook, appears to be a decent partner.
Lorraine Devon Wilke has given us a delightfully written story in After the Sucker Punch. How easy it is to identify with Tessa, with her confusion, her sense of betrayal, but also her humor. We cheer her on, sympathize with her every step of the way. And when she is let down by her partner’s lack of faith in her, by his desire to change her, we are so grateful that her loyal friends and her therapist/nun aunt are there to help her in her journey of self-discovery. Unfortunately, therapy too often leads to self-obsession, and Tessa, whose human dimension has had us cheering her on, falls into this trap. From a character that we have identified with, she becomes the rather annoying picture of perfection, demanding all the attention, all the reassurance. Wilke rewards her with a perfect and seamless life in which even problem siblings become adorable.