Review: The Girl She Used To Be

After 20 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) and eight aliases, Melody Grace McCartney hardly knows who she is. On the run since she and her parents stumbled on a gruesome murder by mobster Tony Bovaro when she was six years old, Grace saw WITSEC’s promised protection fail her mother and father when they were killed 12 years later. Now she feigns personal danger to be relocated just because she’s bored and wants a change. But before her new case officer can move her from suburban Maryland to rural Wisconsin, Tony’s son, Jonathan, tracks her down to present an alternative: protection from his family and a life of more safety and freedom than she has ever known. While federal officials pressure her to stay in WITSEC and show her Jonathan’s violent side, her attraction to him grows, and she must decide a course for the rest of her life.–From Goodreads

If you were to ask me, “Would you like to read a book about the mafia and the Witness Protection Program?” I would probably say, “No.” A great big NO. I honestly have no idea how David Cristofano’s The Girl She Used to Be ended up on my wish list. I probably stuck it there during a binge Amazon browsing spree. I’m so glad I did. This is the kind of book you will read and then want to start pushing on everyone you know. It made me want to drop everything and go be its door-to-door salesperson. The truth is, if something is well-written, it doesn’t matter much what it’s about, I will read it. I read the first paragraph of this novel and thought, “Wow!” Then I read another page and thought, “Holy crap!” Eloquent, I know. Amazing writing renders me somewhat speechless.

Melody McCartney (or whatever else you want to call her) will pull you into her world so fast it will make you dizzy. Before you can recover from the vertigo, she will charm you into sticking by her side right up until the end of a story that you don’t want to ever end. I sped through this book, fueled by the same sort of adrenaline and nervous energy I have when watching an episode of 24. I’d like to read this book over and over again. There’s mystery, there’s murder, there’s the mob…and then there’s some romance and a few nice Italian dinners to preserve the levity.

The Girl She Used To Be explores issues of identity, probing into the lives of a woman who has had one alias after another pushed on her since the age of six and a man who has been forced into a life of organized crime by his large, powerful Italian family. Neither knows who they are, because neither has ever had much of a choice about who they wanted to become. In order to discover their identities, they must strip away one lie after another. Will it be the truth that finally sets them free? You’ll have to read to find out, and I hope you will.

Excerpt from The Girl She Used To Be

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 Kathryn. 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.

Not to worry: the Federal Government was quick to replace the old with the new, to clean up the mess and move us along to the next bland, underpopulated town, to another dot on the map that serves as nothing more than a break from the interstate, a pit stop on the way to some greater place; you know them, but forget them. There has to be a Middletown in almost every state, and I’ve already lived in or near three of them.

But as temporary as it was, each instance was home, the place where Mom and Dad would be waiting at the end of the day, where the bills got paid, the lawn got mowed, and the mail was delivered. And it had to be. This was the consistent, perverted promise of the Federal Witness Protection Program.

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4 Responses to "Review: The Girl She Used To Be"

  • This is indeed a hypnotizing book! It is hard to imagine a life of constant running from the age of six for twenty years. Our young lady on the run is Melody who for the first twenty years is constantly on the run. Some of the dangers she creates out of boredom; but the Federal Protection Agency program cannot be fun.
    At age 26 Melody is captured and then falls in love with the son of the Mafioso who killed her parents. Woven into this tale is the smell of some awesome Italian food, the hardness of the Mafia, the fragility of the two people trying to escape their past. This book is a straight through read! One cannot just put it down and forget it.

    1 John Lustig said this (June 8, 2010 at 2:35 PM)


  • So glad you liked it! I think Lisa is reading it now and enjoying it so far, too.

    2 Melanie said this (June 8, 2010 at 2:42 PM)


  • Thanks for the recommendation, this book was so good! I completely agree about never thinking that I would be into a book about the Mafia and protection services. But it is hard to turn down quality writing. I truly enjoyed the book and had a hard time putting it down. Now I am sad that it is over.

    3 Lisa said this (June 18, 2010 at 4:01 PM)


  • I just have to comment and say that I totally agreed that this was an amazing book!

    4 Sarah said this (January 2, 2011 at 11:06 PM)


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