In Dahlia’s Wake

(Doubleday, 2005)

A moving portrait of ordinary people in heartbreaking circumstances, In Dahlia’s Wake explores the ache of loss and the desperate desire to find a remedy. Naomi leaves her teaching job to volunteer at the hospital where Dahlia died and finds herself drawn to Michael McBride, the doctor who delivered the devastating news. Rick, haunted by guilt about the accident and tormented by Naomi’s emotional and physical withdrawal, falls into an affair with his office manager, the divorced mother of a young son. The distance between Rick and Naomi widens until another twist of fate and some wise words from Naomi’s mother—struggling with repeated bouts of memory loss—awakens them to the value of their own lives and to the true meaning of family.


“A movingly measured and resonant new novel [that] deals with the wrenching aftermath of loss experienced by a Brooklyn brownstone couple, Naomi and Rick—whose young daughter dies in a freak accident , leaving them shattered and numb until, by turns of tried-and-true fidelity and reckless faithlessness, they slowly and painfully awaken to a deeper understanding of marriage, family and self.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine

“McDonough skillfully devotes each chapter to the perspective of a different character, thus clarifying each individual’s motivations so that no one is demonized for his or her actions.”

“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.”

“In their grief over their daughter’s death, Rick and Naomi Wechsler become estranged and isolated. In an effort to feel alive again, Rick, a podiatrist, begins an affair with his secretary and, in his guilt, tells Naomi. Naomi takes comfort in her turn with Michael McBride, the pediatrician who informed her of her daughter’s death. When Michael’s daughter sees them together on the street, her distress leads her to behavior that endangers her life and wrecks Michael’s marriage. [In] McDonough’s latest…the characters’ feelings are explored sensitively, and the viewpoint of Naomi’s mother, who is slowly succumbing to dementia, is well wrought. Oprah Club readers will enjoy the human tragedies and triumphs in this book, which is reminiscent of the novels of Elizabeth Berg and Anita Shreve.”
—Library Journal

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