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In Dahlia's Wake Hardcover – April 19, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1ST edition (April 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385503628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385503624
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,829,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Infidelity serves as both consolation and punishment in this domestic drama by McDonough (The Four Temperaments) about a Brooklyn couple who try to piece their lives together after the death of their only child. Rick, a podiatrist, and Naomi, a private school teacher, are devoted to their daughter, seven-year-old Dahlia. When Dahlia is killed in a freak accident, her parents are devastated, and McDonough thoroughly explores their heartache. Naomi retreats into grief-stricken isolation, quits her teaching job and begins to volunteer at the very hospital that was unable to save Dahlia's life. She finds herself drawn to the doctor who delivered the news of her daughter's death and seeks him out as a confidante and perhaps more, blaming Rick for her loss. Rick reacts to Naomi's rejection and takes solace in his work—and in the arms of a co-worker. When guilt drives Rick to confess his indiscretion, Naomi is unconsolable. A story her mother tells her about her own father's indiscretions makes Naomi see Rick's actions in a more forgiving light, but in the end it's another freak accident—dramatic and unlikely—that nips her own dalliance in the bud. Good local color and the lovingly described trappings of upper-middle-class life give McDonough's novel texture, but can't make up for contrived plotting and stock characters. Agent, Suzanne Gluck. (Apr. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

McDonough's second novel is the story of the tragic death of a seven-year-old girl and the many people who wind up being affected by it. Rick Wechsler is driving home with his daughter, who is in the backseat, when a minor fender bender at just the wrong time causes Dahlia to pitch forward and break her neck. In the aftermath of the accident, Rick and his wife, Naomi, pull away from each other, burdened by guilt and overwhelming sorrow. Rick is drawn into an affair with the office manager at his podiatry practice, while Naomi retaliates by beginning a fling with the kindly doctor who broke the news to her about her daughter's death. But it isn't until another tragedy occurs that the Wechslers and their respective lovers take a serious look at how their behavior is further destroying their lives. Like her first novel, The Four Temperaments (2002), McDonough's latest is told from the different perspectives of the characters whose lives are affected by the central tragedy, making for a gripping, involving read. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels for adults: THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS, IN DAHLIA'S WAKE, BREAKING THE BANK (which has been optioned for a film), A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK, TWO OF A KIND and the about-to-be released, YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, which will be out on October 7, 2014.

She is also an award-winning children's book author with 23 children's books to her credit. THE DOLL SHOP DOWNSTAIRS received a starred review from Jewish Book World saying that it "will become a classic." In another starred review Kirkus called the sequel, THE CATS IN THE DOLL SHOP, "a quiet treasure." THE DOLL WITH THE YELLOW STAR won the 2006 Once Upon a World Award presented by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Her most recent book for children, LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS: A BIOGRAPHY OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER, came out from Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, on September 16, 2014 and her latest in the popular WHO WAS...? series, WHO WAS SOJOURNER TRUTH?, is forthcoming from Grosset & Dunlap.

For over a dozen years, Yona has been the Fiction Editor at Lilith Magazine. She works independently to help aspiring writers polish their manuscripts. To arrange a book club visit, inquire about editorial services or just to say hi, please contact Yona via her website: or on the Facebook fan pages for her novels, which she hopes you'll "like."


When I was young, I didn't think about becoming a writer. In fact, I was determined to become a ballerina, because I studied ballet for many years, and by the time I was in high school, I was taking seven ballet classes a week. But I was always a big reader. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I used to frequent all the different libraries in my neighborhood on a regular basis. I would look for books by authors I loved. I read my favorite books--ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, A LITTLE PRINCESS, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN--over and over again. I probably read each of those books twenty times in all. I read lots of other things too: I loved comic books and magazines, like Mad and Seventeen. But when you are reader, you just need to read. Sometimes you read books that change your life, like OF MICE AND MEN, which I read--and adored-- when I was in sixth grade. Other times, you read the latest adventures of Betty and Veronica. You'll read a three-day old newspaper some days or the back of the cereal box if that's all that there is available, because readers just need to read. So I kept reading, and I kept dancing too, though by the time I was a senior in high school, it was pretty clear to me that I was neither talented nor driven enough to become a professional ballet dancer and I stopped taking lessons and went off to college instead.

As a student at Vassar College, I never once took a writing course. I was not accepted into the poetry workshop I applied to, so I avoided all other writing classes, and instead focused on literature, language and art history, which was my declared major. I was so taken with the field that I decided to pursue my studies on a graduate level. I enrolled in a PhD program at Columbia University where I have to confess that I was miserable. I didn't like the teachers, the students or the classes. I found graduate school the antithesis of undergraduate education; while the latter encouraged experimentation, growth, expansion, the former seemed to demand a kind of narrowing of focus and a rigidity that was simply at odds with my soul. It was like business school without the reward of a well-paying job at the end. Everyone carried a briefcase. I too bought a briefcase, but since I mostly used it to tote my lunch and the NYT crossword puzzle, it didn't do much for my success as a grad student. But I have to thank the program at Columbia for being so very inhospitable, because it helped nudge me out of academia, where I so patently did not belong, and into a different kind of life. I was allowed to take classes in other departments, and by now I was recovered from my earlier rejection so I decided to take a fiction writing class--also, the class was open to anyone; I didn't have to submit work to be accepted. This class was my 'aha!' moment. The light bulb went off for me when I took that class. Suddenly, I understood what I wanted to do with my life. Now I just had to find a way to make a living while I did it.

I finished out the year at Columbia, got a job in which I had no interest whatsoever, and began to look for any kind of freelance writing that I could find. In the beginning, I wrote for very little money or even for free: I wrote for neighborhood newspapers, the alumni magazine of my college. I wrote brochures, book reviews, newsletters--anything and everything that anyone would ask me to write. I did this for a long time and eventually, it worked. I was able to be a little choosier about what I wrote, and for whom I wrote it. And I was able to use my clips to persuade editors to actually assign me articles and stories, instead of my having to write them and hope I could get then published.
But all the while I was also writing the kind of fiction--short stories, a novel--that had interested me when I was still a student at Columbia. And eventually I began to publish this work too.

I presently live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband and our two children and two small, yappy dogs. I have been setting my recent novels in my own backyard so to speak; Brooklyn has been fertile ground in all sorts of ways.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shirley Priscilla Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have to be honest, when I was first asked to read this work I wanted to decline. I suppose, with all the sadness happening in the earth today, I just did not want to read a tear-jerker about the death of a child.

However, as it sat in my reading pile I decided to give it a try and I am glad that I did.

Author Yona McDonough's novel certainly touches on the death of 7-year Dahlia in a freak accident, but the true essence of the story surrounds the grieving parents, Rick and Naomi, and the events that this tragic happening brought about in their lives.

Rick, who is ridden with guilt since he was driving that day, feels separated from Naomi, who herself is struggling to cope with the emptiness inside.. Thrown further and further apart, both of these people seek solace in others.

Naomi, who is volunteering at the hospital her daughter died , finds comfort in the very doctor who informed her that her daughter was dead. Rick, a podiatrist turns to his helper Lillian, who herself desperately needs a man to lean on and is drawn to the wandering soul of Rick. So the drama begins, and lives are touched and changed in ways that neither Rick nor Naomi thought possible, including their own.

The author does an outstanding job in examining the minds and hearts of each character. She brings forth raw emotions, the unbridled grief and anger, fear and frustration that burns inside of them; and shows the often tragic consequences of being lead by these feelings and how far reaching they can become in all the lives they touch.

I recommend this work, it reaches deep into the heart and soul of the grieving spirit, shows wisdom from unexpected sources and actually leaves you with a deep respect and understanding for those who have walked this road.

Shirley Johnson

Senior Reviewer

MidWest Book Review
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Format: Hardcover
In the months since their seven-year-old daughter Dahlia died podiatrist Rick and schoolteacher Naomi Wechsler have grown apart rather than finding comfort with one another. Neither can explain to the other how they feel; as each day passes, the estrangement widens.

Overwhelmed with obsessive grief and ignoring Rick's censure, Naomi quits teaching to volunteer at the Holy Name of Jesus Hospital where Dahlia died. Unable to obtain solace from Rick because she holds him culpable since he was driving when the accident that killed Dahlia occurred, Naomi turns to Dr. Michael McBride for consolation; he informed the couple that their child died.

Rick feels guilty over Dahlia's death, but also believes that Naomi blames him for the death. Needing comfort, he turns to office assistant single mother Lillian whose ex has let down their eleven year old son again; Lillian finds warmth and understanding in his arms.

Remorse over cheating on top of his feeling guilty for the death forces Rick to confess his affair; this drives Naomi further over the edge as she considers philandering with Michael. Will she cheat or forgive?

IN DAHLIA'S WAKE is a deep look at grieving an unexpected loss of a beloved preadolescent child by her parents. The lead couple has been close since college handling rough situations like Naomi's miscarriages as a team, but Dahlia's death is different. They mourn their loss in dissimilar manners, which cause a schism that feeds on the other's personal grief. Although an unnecessary improbable final spin occurs and several pivotal moments seem contrived to make infidelity to easy an option, family drama fans will appreciate this strong look at loss.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book at the library by chance and started to feel very connected to Naomi (Dahlia's mother) and Lillian (the other woman) very quickly. I loved how each chapter is told from a different character's point of view - although Estelle (Naomi's mother/Dahlia's g-mother) I found slightly boring. Other than that, a good read for the beach or on a plane.
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