This is one of those books which exceeded all my expectations. I was expecting a romance with a couple of twists to the tale but what I got was something far deeper and more satisfying.
Lorraine Devon Wilke writes from a male perspective and does so very well. Here we have Dan, who life seems fairly well mapped out. He has the job prospects, the house and the beautiful woman whom he is about to marry. A passing comment, as the blurb says, lands him out on his ear and unsure of whether he still has a home. On top of that, he starts to questions his own feelings and wondering whether there is such a thing as a soul mate for everyone when he reads a long forgotten story his father wrote and sets out to find the answer.
As I read on I really couldn’t blame Jane, his fiancee, for kicking him out although how she managed not to say anything for several weeks to him was a bit hard to take. I admit a couple of times I cried. Yep, the tears welled during some of the scenes with Dan’s father and remembering my very own Esther at her beloved’s bedside being bright and breezy when she was anything but inside. Lorraine certainly pulls at the heart but she also lightens the mood and had me in snorts of giggles on occasion.
I was a bit confused by Fiona the floaty hippy chick and Dan’s relationship with her. It was like he was dreaming. Just laying there imagining this other woman with no substance and a waft of patchouli. Maybe he had eaten a slice of bad pie in one of those dodgy cafes in the novel and was suffering from indigestion. I think she just represented what he thought he needed and what his heart thought a soul mate was or should be. That was my only puzzlement with this book.
The rest was very much on point and a very enjoyable read.If you want a book with many layers and to be thoroughly entertained by a cracking story then this one is for you.
I read Hysterical Love at one go, sitting on a park bench on a sunny afternoon at the Tuileries Garden in Paris while my daughter toured the Louvre. She came out before I was quite done, so I sent her for ice creams. Toffee, of course. She came back with salt caramel. Close enough.
My Review: 5 out of 5 stars
I like relationship books and movies. Always have. When I was twelve, it was Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades. I moved on to Shakespeare, Love Story, Jane Austen. It was all good in a boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love-and-they-either-die-or-HEA kind of way. Then I hit University as an English major and my advisor slotted me into the D.H. Lawrence seminar. On the first day, the professor told us Lawrence was important because his books – especially Lady Chatterley’s Lover – pierced the artificial barriers that intellectuals use to obscure the true nature of relationships and ushered in a brave new reality. All righty then. I tore into Lady C. And came up… empty. This was the great voice for women’s sexual freedom? Someone who couldn’t even figure out what a clitorus is for and says women use their ‘little beak’ to “tear, tear, tear, as if she had no sensation in her except in the top of her beak, the very outside top tip, that rubbed and tore” (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence, 1928)
Years (and many soothing Austen re-reads) later, I realized two things. First, Lady Chatterley was a man. Or at least, the voice of an insecure, self-centered, immature, misogynistic man who just happened to be one hell of a writer. Second, although most of the relationship stories I read involved men who just couldn’t commit and women who had to come to terms with/wait out/eventually get commitment/live HEA, the men I met in real life were almost all the exact opposite. As the boys I knew grew up to be men, the big-O that concerned them was the one that followed a 3 as their thirtieth birthday approached. The girls around me weren’t focussing on getting their man – women I knew were busy pounding on that glass ceiling. It was their men who were nervously standing on the sidelines holding the ticking biological clocks. They wanted the whole nine yards: wife, kids, house, lawn mower, and labrador retriever named Lucy.
But I never found a writer who was as good as DH Lawrence, but who could also get into a man’s head and tell that story. Until now. In her new release, Hysterical Love, writer Lorraine Devon Wilke introduces Dan McDowell, a thirty-three year old Los Angeles photographer. Dan and his beloved Jane are all set to be grownups. They have the bungalow with the handpainted “Dan and Jane Live Here” door plaque. They live in a neighborhood filled with families, kids, and a daily visit from Tomas and his ice cream truck laden with toffee ice cream bars. They know each other’s likes and dislikes, favorite foods, and families. They have just set the date for their wedding. A chance remark leads to questions about commitment, and the next thing Dan knows, his HEA has blown up in his face. She gets the house, he gets custody of their gay best friend Bob. The plaque disappears.
As I read this, I was increasingly uncomfortable. You see, I read relationship stories. A lot of relationship stories. And I realized that Wilke was writing Dan as the girl role, the one ready to be in love, get married, and have the whole package. Jane was the boy, the one with commitment issues. Wait, I thought. That can’t be right. But… it felt right. I started to think about the men I know, including the one I married. As they approached their thirties, they (most of them anyway) jettisoned their inner Peter Pan and wanted to be grownups. (Some of them reclaimed Peter Pan down the road, but that’s a completely different genre.) Once I mentally adjusted to seeing Dan through my real life counterparts, I realized that Wilke is a kind of genius. Or a damn good writer doing a better job of getting into the head of the opposite sex than DH Lawrence anyway.
After that, she had me. When his father Jim is hospitalized, Dan’s complicated, competitive, and ultimately loving relationship with his father sends him on a ‘vision quest’, the heart of which is an investigation of what it means to be a soul mate. His spiritual journey (to Oakland) leads to truths about his parents’ relationship, the meaning of soul mates, and the importance of pie.
Wilke combines humor, terrific writing, and some none-too-gently acquired truths into a different kind of relationship story. It might just be because I also grew up in California, but I felt like I knew these people. I had the same parents. (Okay, maybe my mother wasn’t quite so angelic as Dan perceived his mother Esther to be. I don’t think Esther was either.) But my father certainly would have said any of the lines that Dan’s father, Big Jim McDowell, pronounced.
“Goddammit, what is it with you kids? You make everything so damn convoluted! This theory, that theory—you want a theory? You’re dealt a hand and you play it. End of story.”
(I kind of love Big Jim.)
The pace is perfect. Or maybe it’s just that I couldn’t put the book down. But Hysterical Love was actually the perfect vacation read. At 282 pages it was the ideal length, Wilke’s feel for dialogue was funny and dead-on, the inside of Dan’s head was a slightly clueless but good place to be, and (warning: if you read this book, you WILL want ice-cream) there were plenty of ice cream vendors all around me. So five stars to Lorraine Devon Wilke for Hysterical Love. I can’t wait to go back and read her earlier novel, After the Sucker Punch, or to see what comes next. — Barb Taub
A beautiful mix of comedy and drama, Hysterical Love is a cozy story to crawl into. Welcomed me right in. Very straightforward and smart.
I enjoyed the clever storyline and the realistic dialog. Read this story with great enthusiasm and a massive amount of intrigue. I am delighted by the author's 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.
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 wholely 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!
— Brenda Perlin
In Wilke’s second novel (After The Sucker Punch: A Novel, 2014, etc.), 33-year-old photographer Dan McDowell’s fiancee kicks him out for an old transgression.
Dan and Jane have already set their wedding date when he admits he slept with an ex-girlfriend after he was already seeing Jane. She’s furious, but he doesn’t see the big deal—soon enough, though, he’s occupying a friend’s spare room and mulling over his sister’s suggestion that he and Jane just aren’t “soul mates.” On the other hand, Dan’s father, Jim, tells him to play the hand you’re dealt—“end of story.” Caught between cynicism and idealism, Dan finds inspiration in an old manuscript of his father’s—the story of his meeting beautiful Barbara on the beach 50 years ago only to discover that she was engaged to another. Is this what killed his father’s belief in love? When Jim has a stroke, Dan interprets his repeated cries of “cah...baaa...baaa” as “call Barbara.” Impulsively, he decides to drive to Oakland and track down his father’s lost love, armed only with her first name, a couple of snapshots, and an ancient phone number. While he investigates, he stumbles into an infatuation with gorgeous 23-year-old Fiona, and he starts to wonder whether there’s something to this soul mate thing after all.
Wilke is a skilled writer, able to plausibly inhabit Dan’s young male perspective—but for some, this strength may also be a weakness. Dan is a man-child in the modern mode: immature, aimless, self-absorbed, thoughtlessly leaving his sister and mother to deal with the stress of Jim’s illness while he looks up Barbara and dallies with Fiona (a figure of pure wish fulfillment if there ever was one). While he eventually makes some grown-up decisions, they may come too late to satisfy readers glutted with similar finally-coming-of-age tales.
A well-written, engaging, sometimes-frustrating tale of reaching adulthood a little late.
Following the awarding of the 2014 Medallion award for her debut novel, After The Sucker Punch, popular indie site, indieBRAG.com, awards Lorraine Devon Wilke's second novel, Hysterical Love, with a coveted 2015 Medallion honor.