The Girl She Used to Be is built on a fascinating concept. Melody Grace McCartney has been in the Witness Protection Program ever since she was six years old, when she and her parents accidentally witnessed a brutal Mafia murder. Since then, she’s been constantly on the move, from one bland American small town to the next, changing identities, never able to put down roots. Because Melody has no past, she is unable to have a future or even much of a present.
By the time the story opens, she’s twenty-six and her parents are dead. Melody has gotten in the habit of using the witness protection program as an escape valve when her life gets boring. As the novel begins, Melody (currently Sandra) once again calls the FBI to let them know that she’s been receiving (imaginary) threats on her life, and immediately she is whisked away yet again to begin another new life.
But this time there’s an unexpected twist, as the Mafia — in the form of a young, good-looking, gangster-with-a-heart-of-gold — steals her right out from under the federal marshals, and Melody is not only on the run again, but falling in love.
This great premise makes for a likable main character and a page-turning plot that made the book hard to put down. There were a few places where I felt the writing itself could be tighter, could show more and tell less, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of a very engaging story. The ending is bittersweet — not as happy as you might hope, nor as bad as it could have been — but, as far as is possible for this kind of book, it’s realistic, and satisfying. I read this book in a day and a half and definitely recommend it.