Monday, April 6, 2015

Hysterical Love: a novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won't be long. It's long. 

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his... soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier. 

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father's life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love. 

Lorraine Devon Wilke, author of the acclaimed debut novel, After The Sucker Punch, brings her deft mix of humor and drama to a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist. Hysterical Love explores themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love. 

Cover design by Grace Amandes @ 
Cover photograph by Lorraine Devon Wilke 

My Review

A beautiful mix of comedy and drama, Hysterical Love is a cozy story to crawl into. Welcomed me right in. Very straight forward and smart. I enjoyed the clever storyline and the realist dialog. Read this story with great enthusiasm and a massive amount of intrigue. I am delighted by the authors writing style and how she chooses her words. She is very selective and her stories are utterly satisfying. She covers some very familiar topics but does so in an unusual way.

Dysfunctional families are something most of us can relate to. This one was filled with quirks and familiarity. Had me laughing to myself thinking about my own family and the everyday eccentricities I have dealt with. Made me think back to the time I was getting married and all of the questions I felt like asking but didn’t know where to seek the answers. Those doubts that started to weigh heavily on my brain but ignored my instincts and took it as normal jitters rather than good reason to reevaluate. 

This is a 'hilarious' roller-coaster ride of emotions, filled with real feelings that resonated with me. Part pre-marital issues, dysfunctional family and self-realization, this story takes a whole unexpected direction: detective story.

Unpredictable, fascinating and deep with laughable moments that I connected to. Reality built into a fictional story. The author knows how to write a real conversation piece. There is a depth that makes this a book I will be thinking about for a long time.

I read Hysterical Love in a fury, loving every minute of it. This story not only entertains but it transforms you into someone else’s life. Reminds me why I like reading so much and why people need books in their lives. It is the best escape!

Quote ~

“Truth be told, there was part of me that wanted to marry Jane so I could contain my life, give it boundaries in which I could completely be myself and yet freely explore every possibility as a man, a husband, a friend, and a sexual partner. Boundaries always made sense to me. I needed boundaries. I was that kid who walked into Toys “R” Us and went into spasms of panic at the endless shelves of cars and trucks, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available choices. My mother would have to handpick three possibilities, then invite me to choose one of the bunch. There was relief in that, the paring down of options, the only way my little psyche could handle the “paradox of choice.” With women? The world of available, countless, lovely women?”

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. 

Author and longtime Huffington Post contributor, Lorraine Devon Wilke, takes an irreverent look at father/daughter relationships through the unique prism of Tessa’s saga and its exploration of family, faith, cults, creativity, new love and old, and the struggle to define oneself against the inexplicable perceptions of a deceased parent. Told with both sass and sensibility, it’s a story wrapped in contemporary culture but with a very classic heart. 

[As a special BONUS that brings the plot off the page, the Epilogue includes a link to the downloadable song "written by" the protagonist of the story...or, in the non-fictional world, by Lorraine Devon Wilke and Rick M. Hirsch!] 

Cover design by Grace Amandes. 

Cover photographs by Lorraine Devon Wilke. 

My Review

"She is a great disappointment. Not simply because she's failed up to now, but that endowed with so much talent she hasn't employed it for anything useful..."

After the Sucker Punch starts out with a note. Actually a death and then a note. A page from this girls dad's diary (actually "date book") that would change the way she would feel about this man, her father that had just died.This story raptures you right in and takes hold with it's sharp but clear dialog. The writing is smart, for lack of a better word and the story is intriguing with it's is emotional underbelly.

Lorraine Devon Wilke tells a story with such depth and great detail that you can't help but feel emotional. This could be many people's lives. It's familiar and relatable. The human existence. Imperfect people living with imperfect families.

There is just something too cool about the authors writing style. Maybe because she is also a musician. There is an artsy, anti-establishment feeling that drives her writing home even more. Her writing is as comforting as Anne Lamott's and Anne Tyler's but with a bit more edge. This was an easy story to get absorbed into.

By the way, I loved loved loved the last line in chapter 30. Thank you for the laugh!

Full of heart, the essence of life and still sheds enough light to find the message of hope. This is powerfully written and I ate it up. Sharp, cunning and real. Loved the bluntness in the authors writing voice and the honesty. This is a very good read that amused me, entertained me and pulled me in. So good to escape into someone else's dysfunctional family rather than my own for a change. Highly recommend After the Sucker Punch!

Quote ~

"As they walked to their cars, Tessa and Kate were unusually quiet. Something about the gravity of this time hit them both. They were no longer youngsters having romantic tantrums, high-strung girls getting traction with boys by creating melodrama to keep things interesting. This was real life with kids and husbands and the very real threat of divorce and broken families. Grown-up stuff."

New Year’s Eve. It's late, well past the midnight hour. A woman looking for respite from noise, champagne, and tensions with her boyfriend steps out to clear her head. She calls out that she’ll be back shortly and heads down the quiet neighborhood street... and never comes back. 

A man with too much to drink and too fast a car roars by on that same darkened road and, in a flash of motion and impact, is stunned to see the face of a startled woman smash into his windshield. When the car stops he shakes in silence, waiting for... something. But when no one approaches, no cars go by and no inquiring lights flicker on, fear and panic take over and he makes the unfathomable decision to drive away... and never look back. 

She Tumbled Down,” a short story by longtime Huffington Post contributor and author (After The Sucker Punch) Lorraine Devon Wilke, follows the ripple effects of this tragic hit-and-run, attempting to answer that unanswerable question, “Who could do such a thing?" From that first fateful moment through the months and years that follow, the narrative weaves through the lives of seemingly disparate characters, threading the initial event into another story, a love story, that ultimately links to the tragedy in unexpected ways. (Short story: 7300 words) 

My Review

She Tumbled Down: a short story by Lorraine Devon Wilke pulls the reader in from the very first paragraph. The author has a fine gift of telling a story in a way that plays out in living color. There is an authentic life-force in her voice. Real heartfelt emotion that comes across as true as day.

There is lightness and there is dark. The story travels around to both sides. As a reader I wanted, hoping to know everything would turn out okay but guessing it would not. I was left to guess as I read at a feverish pace.

There are two stories paralleling each other. One was a happy story and one was not. Would they intersect? I was hoping not.

This story is written in such a way that you can't help but want more. I ate it up at a devil's pace. The suspense never subsided, nor was my ability to figure out how it would all conclude. This is a great read that packs a punch. Highly recommend.

Quote ~

"The most immediate next chapter led to her home and the cocoon of her long-neglected bed, where everything changed amidst tenderness and hard passion. It was one of those nights when the ephemera of life shifts. The walls open, the ceiling rises, the air sweetens; even the hope for a better world is suddenly imaginable. Love and sex may not possess such powers in reality, but on this night, in this bed, with this man, they were a force for good..."


Author, photographer, singer/songwriter, and Huffington Post contributor, Lorraine Devon Wilke, started early as a creative hyphenate. First, there was music and theater; next came rock & roll (big hair, '80s, great music!), then a leap into film when a feature she co-wrote (To Cross the Rubicon) was produced by a Seattle film company, opening doors in a variety of creative directions.
In the years following, she wrote for and performed on theater stages, developed her photography skills, and accrued a library of well-received feature screenplays; most recently, her script, The Theory of Almost Everything, was a top finalist in the 2012 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest. She kept her hand in music throughout - songwriting, recording, performing - leading to the fruition of the longtime goal of recording an original album (Somewhere On the Way). Accomplished in collaboration with songwriting/producing partner, Rick M. Hirsch, the album garnered stellar reviews and can be found at CDBaby and iTunes (see website for links). She continues with music whenever she can (which, she maintains, is never, ever, enough!), with her most current repertoire up at SoundCloud ( stop in for a listen!
Devon Wilke's current life is split between Playa del Rey and Ferndale, California, and is shared with her husband, Pete Wilke, an entertainment/securities attorney, and son, engineer/web designer, Dillon Wilke. She's curates and manages both her fine art photography site and her personal blog (, contributes regularly to The Huffington Post, and writes a column for the award-winning newspaper, The Ferndale Enterprise. To enjoy her essays and journalistic pieces, go to, a writer's archival site (
Her debut novel, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH, is available  at Amazon, as is her recently published short story, SHE TUMBLED DOWN

Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke:

Her article archive can be found at Contently, her photos at Fine Art America; details and Links to her other work at

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