Monday, April 30, 2018


Title: The Girl I Used To Be
Author: Mary Torjussen
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 368
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Girl I Used To Be was my second book by Mary Torjussen, the first being Gone Without a Trace.

The Prologue takes us back 15 years ago on August 15 when something unspeakable happened to a young unnamed girl.

15 years later, in the present day, we meet Gemma Brogan, owner of her own real estate agency and happily married to Joe and mother of three-year-old Rory.

She has a problem with alcohol and has financial issues caused by an economic slump and the fact that Joe is a stay-at-home dad.

Away at a conference, Gemma ends up drinking a little too much during dinner with a prospective client, David Sanderson. That night, David kisses her outside the door of her hotel room. She hides this fact from Joe, and wallows in guilt at the memory of the kiss that she never wanted. But her biggest nightmare begins a month later.

It appears that somebody is trying to blackmail her, but there is no demand being made by the blackmailer. First the bill for the dinner at the restaurant comes to her in the mail. This is followed by a photo of David kissing her, a video in which she is drunkenly cribbing about her husband, and then another video in which she is lying stark naked on the hotel bed, followed by the black lace panties she was wearing at the time.

Who is David, and why is he doing this? Will Gemma’s already strained marriage survive this burden? How far will the blackmailer go in his attempt to destroy her.

The story is well written and manages to hold our attention. Gemma is a character who has some strain from her past, but the fact that she has managed to some extent to put that strain behind her and live her life endears her to us.

The story is written in the first person past tense point of view of Gemma in Part 1. In Part 2, the PoVs alternate between Gemma and another character.

I didn’t like Gemma at first. She went on and on about how overworked she was, and how Joe seemed to relax far too much. She is aware that resentment can corrode a marriage, yet she continued to wallow in it.

But then as the book went on, I began to feel sorry for her. I began to understand why she made such dubious choices, and how deeply her past influenced her.

The book started on a good footing, but halfway through, I felt the pace suddenly increase, with nothing to show for it. The part where Gemma moved to her parents’ house with Rory seemed completely unnecessary, as she could just as well have seen the photos of the party sitting in her own home.

Other than Gemma, I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters. Joe seems to be rather selfish. Not only is he not interested in looking for work, he is keen on uprooting the family and moving to Ireland, for his own selfish desires, while the burden of keeping the family finances going falls on Gemma. 

Not surprisingly, Gemma resents the compulsion to sell and start afresh. It puts a strain on the marriage, a strain that is already building up on account of the things that she is hiding from her husband.

Rory seems unreal, talking like a much older child. Despite being only three, he didn’t speak like a child. My own kids used to surprise me at that age too, but this little chap correctly translated a French phrase, meaning, not in front of the child. And he isn’t even growing up in a bilingual household.

We don’t see much of Caitlin, and Gemma’s colleagues, Lucy, Sophie and Brian. As a result, they all came out rather bland. Rachel was the only character who got a bit of a back story which enlivened her.

On the other hand, Alex, a character who is very significant to the story, appears far more real, despite having the least visible presence in the story.

I was slightly confused when the author allowed two women to use the phrase, the girl I used to be, from the title. I also thought the book could have been much shorter.

All in all, I thought this one started well, but fumbled towards the end. I wasn’t too impressed with this one.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).

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