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November 2014

There Once Was a Girl From…………………….

“When a guy asks if he can take me out to dinner, I hope maybe he’s someone who can eventually love me exactly the way I am. Maybe he wouldn’t fear my bite, my kookiness, maybe he’d get past my thorny bristles, to see there is sweetness here. He would understand that moving on doesn’t me never talking about it, never crying about it.”

Her name is Ani, pronounced Ah-nee, not Annie like the red-headed orphan, although in a lot of ways she is a lot like that cursed throwaway. Starting from the bottom she has finally reached the epitome of success that a girl from Chester Springs, Philadelphia could only hope to realize without blowing up a state building or blowing a state senator. Being an editor for a popular magazine most certainly has its perks. She enjoys the instant recognition she receives from complete strangers when she tells them she works for The Woman’s Magazine. Having an alluring career at a lustrous magazine grants you an invitation to the cities best parties, meeting the cities most eligible bachelors, and being adorned with designer clothing from head to toe. She is recently engaged to her blue blood fiancé Luke Harrison IV and with a luxurious wedding planned, her life could not be more ideal. In the past few weeks some cracks in the surface of Ani’s meticulously-constructed life are beginning to show. Ani’s becoming bored with the monotony of social gatherings, the cookie-cutter trophy wives, and the narcissistic husbands. She simply wants to eat and have toe-curling, mind-blowing sex; is that too much to ask? Luke is starting to realize that something is rotten in Denmark. Ani must find a way to patch things up before her dream of a perfect life leaves her back where she started, slipping between the cracks.

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TifAni FaNelli grew up in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania to an overbearing Italian woman named Dina and an apathetic father figure or shadowy figure named Bobby. Bob never really wanted a child and tends to go to work even when he is not scheduled, staring aimlessly at the office walls to kill the time before TifAni’s gone or moved out of the house, whichever comes first. With a lack of a paternal influence in her life, Dina has taken it upon herself to have the presence of two parental figures, controlling TifAni’s life and trying her best to live vicariously through it as well. All was going well with TifAni until she made the decision to do what most thirteen-year-old children do and experiment. Unfortunately for her, her experiments didn’t involve Bunsen burners or Petri dishes instead it involved some other type of flame and some psychoactive flora. Rather than going the Hollywood movie route of going to a reform school, Dina took the initiative, coupled with all of the family’s life savings to send her to a prestigious high school to hopefully right a wrong and propel TifAni on the right path to future success. From Mt. St. Theresa’s Academy to The Bradley School was a rude awakening, and one in which that would prove to accelerate a certain flaw that afflicts us all at that age while figuring out a way to reinvent herself. Overtime she goes through the normal progressions of a physically-endowed new girl in a big school: eating lunch with the more academically-inclined, gaining acceptance, learning the in’s, out’s, and politics of the popular crowd, falling out, crawling back, tragedies, and never looking back. It’s all there. She increasingly realizes that her only way out of her disillusionment with high school is to graduate, move to the big city, get a great job, and marry a successful man. But for Ani she must remember that patience is a virtue.

“The table, smudged like the way Arthur’s glasses always were, was empty save for a cup of water (mine) and a recording device occupying the center spot. Detective Dixon pressed a button and said, ‘November fourteenth, 2001.’ ‘It’s actually November fifteenth.’ Detective Vencino tapped the face of his watch. ‘Twelve oh six.’ Detective Dixon corrected himself and added, ‘this is Detective Dixon, Detective Vencino, TifAni FaNelli, and her lawyer, Daniel Rosenberg.’ The discovery of Dan’s full name gave me a lot more confidence in him.”

Don’t call her petite or thin, call her statuesque or elegant. Don’t utter the word husband as it assumes a final decision has been made, the ink has dried, she’s become a bland, neurotic, submissive, conforming, house maker, a 21st century Stepford wife or Natucket wife in Ani’s case. Fiancé is just fine, plenty can still happen. But the big day is looming, caterers are being put through the process, wedding dresses are being critiqued, food is being chewed but not consumed, and the honeymoon spots are being decided upon. Before all that can happen, Ani must answer a call for her to revisit her teenage years and put a final nail on her troubled past before she can carry on with the rest of her life.

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Let me get one thing off my chest. This is not Gone Girl. If Versace, Hermes, Vendi, Brazilian wax treatments, no salad salad’s and laser dermabrasion is to Gone Girl; than Miley Max, George, Bongo, disposable Lady Bic’s, full-fat Chicken Caesar (hold the croutons because croutons equals carb’s), and store brand skin care moisturizers is to Luckiest Girl Alive. This is weird because if you were to compare and contrast the two lead characters one would prefer to live in the other’s closet at one time or another, but I digress. That is not to say I didn’t like Luckiest Girl Alive, in fact I enjoyed it for the most part. However; you cannot have an expectation to be something that you end up failing to live up to. For this reason I hate blurbs or popular suggestions that try to bump sales by comparing one book to another. I think it’s kind of reminiscent of the great indie rock band that sells their soul to the devil and writes pop songs and swims in cash while a few years later they wonder why no one in the business takes them seriously as artists. Instant gratification vs. Delayed achievement, preach patience, patience, patience, but money makes the world go ‘round… Am I right? Failure to live up to expectations, leads to a failure to impress, and an overall negative reflection towards the novel. This to me is not a fair treatment for this novel.

Mrs. Knoll does a great job in harboring a certain feeling and tone from beginning to end, but if you are going to go there I would have liked her to dive right in. Another feature I appreciated in the novel was how our lead character TifAni FaNelli went through a continuous battle of heart vs. mind. From early childhood until her twenties she is bombarded by decisions that could change the course of her future one way or another. This was in the end an enjoyable read.

“The cabdriver who drove me to Dean’s party, unlike the ones who would later whip me up and down the west side highway on mornings I was late for work and nights I stayed past 8:00 so I could expense the ride, was a patient man. He watched in silent amusement as I piled a ten, nine ones, eleven quarters, six dimes, and one nickel into his palm. $22.40, that’s how much it cost to chauffeur me around from school to Dean’s house in Ardmore. That’s how much I paid to lose my dignity.”

 

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