Wednesday, July 1, 2009

a review of The Girl She Used To Be

The Girl She Used To be by David Cristofano (Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 978-0446582223)

Melody McCartney was just six years old when she and her parents accidentally witnessed a Mafia don murder a man, but that was the end of her life as Melody. In a way it was the end of her life as anyone. In a bit of a mystery as to how they were tracked down, a mystery that we will learn the answer to later in the book, the feds show up at the family's door and convince them to testify against the don in exchange for the protection of the Witness Protection Program. But don't take that idea of protection too seriously, because in the years that follow, her parents are found and killed and Melody has been relocated, each time with a new identity, 8 times. Sometimes, it was because as a child, she couldn't remember that she could never tell anyone the truth of who she was. Sometimes, it was because of a real threat but as the book begins, it is because when 26 year old Melody becomes very bored with her present, very bland life, or very angry at the agency that she feels ruined her life and that of her family, she pretends to have been contacted, and within minutes she is whisked away to her next identity by her protectors.

It is in the midst of another one of these moves that something very different happens. She wakes up in the latest, rather seedy motel used in transit to find the son of the mafia boss that wants to kill her standing there. He is Jonathan Bovaro, handsome, rich and offering her a way out. It seems he has been following her for years. He knows who she really is. She will leave the program and go off with him, under his protection. And so the roller coaster ride of the adventure begins....

It's an interesting premise. What would it be like to have no real identity? Melody haunts a local Hallmark store after work, imagining what it would be like to have some connection to someone.
"It is here I get to witness life, albeit the life of others. I walk through the store and watch people select intimate items for their lovers, their friends, their families, and for the briefest of moments I get to pretend I am there for someone special too."
But there is no one special, there never has been and there never will be for Melody. No family left, able to make no friends, because you can never be fully honest about who you are. You must be ever on guard with everyone that knows you, for their protection and yours. Records that show you went to a college you never stepped a foot on, a resume with a series of jobs you never held, your longest relationship in the world with your agency handler. The idea of being able to start your life over may seem to have a certain appeal to us all at times, but the reality is not so romantic. Mr. Cristofano tries very hard to have Melody paint that picture for us so that her decision to go off with Jonathan seems believable...and he almost succeeds.

But not totally. At times, my disbelief was rearing it's head and that is the weakest part of the book. Not at the forefront, but still there. The strongest part of the book is the character of Melody. She is angry and sarcastic, at times very funny and always very believable. It is her character that makes this well written debut novel of Mr. Cristofano a fun read and makes you buy into what I think is a very successful journey and a satisfying if not storybook ending. There are romantic elements, there are mob elements, there are mystery/thriller elements to this book, and let, at heart, it is really just a pretty fun, fast paced read. As I said, this is Mr. Cristofano first book, but I will be keeping my eye open for his second.

..if you want to check out some more reviews...
Booking Mama
Devourer of Books
Mt Two Blessings
Cindy's Love of Books
Bermudaonion's Weblog

Melody might not have taken a train on her trip...but I did on the Great Alaska/Yukon Adventure and here is a picture of it, the Alaskan Railroad.


  1. I just received a copy of this book via I had put it on my wishlist when I read a review on Shelf Awareness, I believe. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  2. I thought this book was a lot of fun, too! I love all the pictures of your trip that you keep taunting us with.

  3. Donura, I hope you like it. is not taunting, it's

  4. Great review. I want to read this book now... :)

  5. Sounds like a good read to sneak in between "heavier" books.

  6. Yes a fast, fairly short read.


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