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John Wallis
After Claire: In Search of a Habitable Life
On a routine trip to the grocery, Paul's wife tells him she wants out of the marriage. Shocked, Paul runs a red light and Claire is killed in the ensuing accident. When nine-year-old Allie learns her father was responsible for her mother’s death, their relationship becomes fraught for many years. A psychotherapist, Paul begins working with Angela, a young woman wanting to end her relationship with Ricardo, a drug cartel-connected attorney in Miami. Ricardo will have none of it and threatens to harm Paul, forcing him to terminate his work with Angela and work with him instead. AFTER CLAIRE tells the story of Paul’s struggle to overcome events that push his competence and personal safety beyond their limits.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10


Plot/Idea: The author offers an intriguing plot that depicts a tricky and complex premise. Subplots are also engaging as the reader struggles right along with the characters as they try to work through their challenges.

Prose: The author demonstrates strong command of language and storytelling. There is ample balance of action, dialogue, and description, which make for an engaging and quick read.

Originality: This is an original work with distinctive characters and a unique plot.

Character Development/Execution: The characters here feel like living, breathing authentic people. The reader is drawn into their complicated and very real situations and feels for their plights.

Date Submitted: July 07, 2022

Wallis draws on his professional experience to imbue the protagonist of this thoughtful literary thriller, Florida psychotherapist Paul Mason, with authenticity as Mason copes with the untimely death of his wife—and a threat to his daughter. Mason is riddled with guilt after his inattentive driving and running a red light results in the death of his wife, Claire. Not only is his relationship with his nine-year-old daughter Allie fractured when he reveals his role in the accident that led to Claire’s death, but he and Allie also become the target of Ricardo Raphael, a powerful attorney who defends drug dealers. Pressuring Mason to stop his therapy sessions with Angela Morales, Raphael’s lover, Raphael indicates that he knows where Allie goes to school, an “expertly ambiguous” threat.

While Wallis’ ability to grab the reader’s attention from the very first page deftly propels the story forward, it is the simmering question that Mason wrestles with that keeps the reader guessing. What did his wife mean when she said, just before the accident, “I can’t do this anymore…I’m seeing someone”? Mason’s quest for answers becomes complicated by his everyday struggles connecting with Allie and trying to make the best professional decisions that will keep his daughter safe while meeting his ethical standards.

Some of the most compelling material in Wallis’ debut digs, with illuminating insight, into Mason’s skills and conflicts as a therapist, plus Mason’s need to seek therapy himself, which of course causes more compelling complications: Mason understands his own potential therapist’s reluctance to treat him because of Raphael’s threats, but he also realizes the impact on his life without being able to address his difficulties with another mental health professional. The result is an ambitious novel that’s perceptive and persuasive in its depiction of Mason’s profession, all while finding suspense in thuggish lawyers and ethical quandaries but never losing sight of the Mason’s most crucial relationship.

Takeaway: The thoughtful story of a psychotherapist coping with guilt, grief, and the threats of a dangerous attorney.

Great for fans of: B.A. Paris’s The Therapist, and Suzanne Steele’s The Club: Colombian Cartel.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A