Gaby's Reviews > The Girl She Used to Be

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano
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's review
May 03, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: literary-fiction

The Girl She Used To Be is hard to categorize - it has suspenseful, humorous, romantic and touching moments, but the book doesn't fall under those general categories. It's a book that grabs you from the beginning. Here's how it starts:

"Name me. Gaze into my eyes, study my smile and my dimples and tell me who you see. I look like an Emma. I look like an Amy. I look like a Katherine. I look like a Katheryn. I look like your best friend's sister, your sister's best friend. Introduce me. Yell for me. Let me run away and call me back. Run your fingers through my hair and whisper my name.

Call me whatever you want; it's just a name, after all.

When I was born, my parents assembled a string of vowels and consonants so magical, so rhythmic and haunting, that the human form had yet to be married to such beauty.

When I was six, it was taken away.
And because of my ineptitude and innocent inability to keep a secret, they took it away again when I was eight.
And at nine. At eleven. Twice at thirteen."

When the book begins, Melody Grace McCartney is 26 years old, a veteran of the Federal Witness Protection Program, and teaches math at a public high school. Since she entered Witness Protection so young, its rules have shaped her life. As we read about what Melody does to create a sense of connection and family while staying safe, we sense how isolated she feels. (Spoiler alert!) She buys baby monitors to eavesdrop on the everyday sounds that her neighbors and their families make. There is a scene at a mall's Hallmark store where Melody vicariously shares in an important moments of another person's life. I'm trying not to give this away but the baby monitors and the Hallmark store ritual really got to me. I see a perfectly quiet moment at home as a treat, so Melody's desire for the ambient noise of a real family and the way that she described it really made her character come alive for me.

As the story progresses, Melody interacts with her students, the US Marshall assigned to her case, and Jonathan Bovaro. As I read more about Melody and Jonathan, I became invested in their success.

The Girl She Used To Be is an unusual treat - the characters are unusual and nuanced, the plot is complicated and unpredictable, and the writing is so well done.

ISBN-10: 0446582212 - Paperback
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (March 10, 2010), 272 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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