In the debut novel, The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano, little Melody McCartney was only six years old when she and her parents witnessed a brutal murder. The family was placed into the federal Witness Protection Program and Melody spent her childhood moving from one city to another, from one name to another. Twenty years later, Melody is alone, using the Program to start over when boredom and ennui strike her. During the process of “starting over”, a man approaches her and calls her by her real name. Melody finds the lure of being with someone who actually knows her, knows her past, her name, the real her, so irresistible, she defies the feds and goes with the man. This man is Jonathan Bovaro, the son of the mafia crime boss who started everything when Melody was six. Who can she trust? The federal government who she knows sees her as a pawn in their effort to bring down the Bovaro crime family? Or Jonathan, the son of the man who destroyed her life?
First, a disclaimer, I don’t usually like Mob books or movies. I know, it’s a wildly popular genre, but I’ve just never been all that interested. That said, I was surprised how much I really liked The Girl She Used to Be. I’ve read many reviews that commented how difficult it was to believe that the author was male, and I’ve thought, “Hm, that’s an odd thing to mention”. But now that I’ve read the book, I understand what they mean. Cristofano’s dialogue and thoughts are spot on, and the voice of Melody is authentic. And the other reviewers are right, when I stopped to think about it, it did seem surprising. Cristofano’s writing is excellent, he manages in a few short lines to describe completely Melody’s first night when starting again, in a new life.
“I drop my head to my pillow and feel a rush of warmth that suggests slumber is a moment away. Even with being in a strange town and a strange bed and my hair now short and stinking of chemicals, I feel safe. Very safe.”
The Girl She Used to Be works on many levels. Superficially, it’s an interesting story, about a young woman finally discovering whom she could be when allowed to choose for herself. But it’s also a story about new beginnings, about each of us. Who hasn’t looked at themselves at least once during their lives and thought, “That’s it, I’m done. I want a do-over.” This book shows that “do-overs” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and by sticking it out and choosing our own paths through life, we finally can get the life we want.
You can read a great interview with the author by clicking here.