A woman is shaken by her late father’s scathingly critical journal entries in Wilke’s debut novel.
Leo Curzio, a professional writer, avidly chronicled his thoughts for his entire adult life, resulting in boxes of journals containing his meditations on just about everything. After he dies of a stroke, his adult children start to read them, and some are shocked by his brutal judgments. His harshest criticisms were aimed at his daughter Tessa, and he expressed profound disappointment in the distance between her considerable promise as a musician and meager accomplishments as a writer. Tessa is distraught after reading the entries, and she starts to rethink her life in its totality: her failed relationships, her abandoned music career, her abandonment of Catholicism and temporary embrace of Scientology, and her writing career, which she loves but frustrates her. She turns to her aunt, Joanne, a therapist and spiritual counselor, for some solace, and she delves into an assignment for the magazine that employs her—a series on father-daughter relationships. But all this angst-ridden self-reflection takes an emotional toll on her, and her relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Dave, starts to molder under the strain. Wilke writes with razor-sharp wit and radiant flair, and the prose’s high quality is the novel’s principal strength. She also sensitively portrays how real love and affection can survive and even flourish in an otherwise dysfunctional family. However, Tessa’s world-weariness, while often a source of comedic relief, eventually becomes tedious and, at times, painfully self-indulgent. For example, when Dave offers her a heartfelt apology for missing Leo’s funeral, she acidly responds: “Maybe when you’re reviewing your new corporate candidates for your next relationship, you can make sure none of them actually expect you to show up for the important moments. Because while you were busy judging me and my pathetic worldview, you forgot to realize what a shallow, meaningless, unforgivable prick you are.”
A well-written but overlong emotional drama with a far-too-churlish protagonist.