'Luckiest Girl Alive' by Jessica Knoll
A trauma from TifAni FaNelli's past chases a bride-to-be, and the reader, to a gory end.
We didn't know whether we liked this book. Thank goodness for Mary's hospitality and lemon drizzle cake (9 November).
Many of us had approached Jessica Knoll's 'Luckiest Girl Alive' nervously. We knew a violent and disturbing revelation was coming as on the very first page, TifAni FaNelli is examining a knife idly wondering what would happen if she stabbed her fiance. Of course, this is not a typical thought when registering for cutlery before your wedding.
The book's chapters alternate between present-day life in New York for Ani (our unreliable narrator), where she is preparing for her wedding and for an HBO documentary about the unnamed trauma and her memories of her first months at Bradley. One of her early experiences as a naive newcomer to the school is so horrifying that it easily accounts for a lifetime of nervousness, insecurity and sleepless nights. But we know there is more and have to wait for the next hundred or so pages with mounting dread to find out what possibly could surpass that first incident. It was difficult for some of us at this point in the book to keep engaged. Knoll keeps the tension tight and never tries too hard to make Ani sympathetic to readers. At no point does Ani deny manipulating the people around her, but we still begin to feel sorry for someone so thoroughly convinced that manipulation is the only option and that everyone around her has an angle, too. Ani is just as judgemental and materialistic as her older self, but it's hard to hate a girl who's really just hoping to be invited over by friends before a dance to try on different outfits. All of the characters are flawed.
We agreed that there are many issues in this book that were not able to be developed convincingly and in depth. The main theme of Ani's rape, based on Knoll's own experience, was possibly subsumed by all the other issues and sensational incidents in the book.
It was only through a lively and really interesting discussion that we were able to get to the core theme of a young woman trying to break free and become herself.
Although 'The Luckiest Girl Alive' could initially be mistaken for the kind of chick lit where the best outcome for the protagonist is hooking up with the right man during a weekend in the Hamptons, it has more going on under the surface than we first perceived.
At the end, and after much needed refreshment, we agreed that although it was not the type of novel we would have chosen to read, we were now pleased that we had!
Review written & submitted by Sue Dawson - Daytime Book Group Host.
For November, the book choice was 'Behind Closed Doors' by B A Paris. We shall be discussing this novel today.
Here is a synopsis:
Everyone knows a couple like Jack & Grace.
He has looks & wealth, she has charm & elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realise they are never apart. Some might call this true love.
Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone, or can't meet for lunch, without Jack. And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows......
A big thank you, once again, to Jane Lines for offering to host this meeting at her home.