Life or Safety?
The Girl She Used to Be, by David Cristofano
If you only read the first sentence of this review, know this: I could not put this book down. David Cristofano’s first novel introduces us to Melody Grace McCartney, though when you first meet her, she is Sandra Clarke, high school math teacher. And this is just one of the numerous names and life stories she’s had in her 26 years. Witnesses to a mafia killing some twenty years before, the McCartney’s entered the Federal Witness Protection program (a.k.a. WITSEC) and have been changing names and life stories ever since.
Written from the first person perspective of a female character, Cristofano does an exceptional job of revealing Melody’s past and present, all the while leaving the reader anxious to find out what her future will hold, and in such a way that I had to remind myself this female character was, in fact, written by a man. Torn between staying in the protective custody of WITSEC –and therefore having to live a life that will never truly be her own—or taking a chance on trusting a son of the family from whom she spent the last twenty years running—and hoping that she will live long enough to figure out who she really is—Melody is in a constant tug of war.
Through her story, questions of identity, belonging, and what it means to really live are all on the line, and will cause the reader to examine how these themes fit into their own life. A definite must-read—I can hardly wait for whatever Cristofano will write next.
Reviewed by Jennifer Hall, Batesville Public Library
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