Book Review: After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir by Christina McDowell

In the tradition of New York Times bestsellers What Remains by Carole Radziwill and Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey, Christina McDowell’s unflinching memoir is a brutally honest, cautionary tale about one family’s destruction in the wake of the Wall Street implosion.

Christina McDowell was born Christina Prousalis. She had to change her name to be legally extricated from the trail of chaos her father, Tom Prousalis, left in the wake of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment as one of the guilty players sucked into the collateral fallout of Jordan Belfort (the “Wolf of Wall Street”). Christina worshipped her father and the seemingly perfect life they lived…a life she finds out was built on lies. Christina’s family, as is typically the case, had no idea what was going on. Nineteen-year-old Christina drove her father to jail while her mother dissolved in denial.

Since then, Christina’s life has been decimated. As her family floundered in rehab, depression, homelessness, and loss, Christina succumbed to the grip of alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity before finding catharsis in the most unlikely of places. From the bucolic affluence of suburban Washington, DC, to the A-list clubs and seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, this provocative memoir unflinchingly describes the harsh realities of a fall from grace. Full of nineties nostalgia and access to the inner circles of the Washingtonian societal elite, Christina McDowell’s beautiful memoir is a Blue Jasmine story from a daughter’s perspective.

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher/NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


After reading Christina's open letter to the producers of The Wolf of Wall Street, featured in LA Weekly, I was excited to read her book.  I'm not usually one to pick up memoirs, but Christina's story intrigued me and I had to know more about her and her journey.

The first thing I noticed and liked about this book is that Christina is unflinchingly honest.  I admire that.  Christina told the truth when it made her look bad, when it would have been so much easier to skim over things or just omit them.  She never took the easy way out, though.  I could feel her commitment to telling her story, her whole story, and tell it she did. 

I admit that I haven't spent much time thinking about the families of the men of Wall Street who were caught breaking the law.  I certainly never imagined a father who would steal his own daughter's identity to keep living a lie of wealth, even as he waited to go to prison.  The grim reality of the Prousalis family's fall from grace was sobering.  And as I read about Christina being hungry, not having a place to live, and struggling to find work, I just couldn't believe the disparity of her past and current lives.  The story went from present times back to the family's wealthy years.  They lived the high life, and it was definitely easy to feel jealous of their lavish lifestyle.  But the line that I kept hearing in my head was, "we never knew any different."  And that made me feel sorry for Christina.  To have the false security of having grown up in a bubble of wealth---never knowing any other way to live---and that bubble was shattered in an instant.

I love the way Christina ends her book: not with a story of great redemption, but with one of resilience, coping, and growth.  It made me proud of her and happy to feel as though I knew her, through her words.  I really enjoyed After Perfect and would definitely recommend this book.

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