Though only hinted at, it’s clear from the prologue that something terrible has happened to Gemma. It’s 15 years later and despite the past, Gemma appears to be living her best life: owner of her own real estate business, and married with a child. However, that drastically changes after a chance encounter with a new client. The Girl I Used To Be by Mary Torjussen explores the lasting effects of violation, harassment, and victim shaming in a novel that I feel is important to read and discuss with others.
During an overnight trip to a work convention, Gemma runs into one of her clients and uncharacteristically spends the night drinking too much. The next day feeling embarrassed and hung over from the night before, Gemma prefers to put the whole night behind her. However, someone wants her to remember. Someone begins taunting Gemma, harassing her by mail, then online via fake social media accounts, choosing to remain anonymous. But who? And why? There is no clear reason for the blackmail, it’s almost as if someone got bored and singled Gemma out on a dare.
There are some suspenseful moments, but the frightening reality is that what Gemma experiences, can easily happen to anyone of us, anyone can be a victim. And it does happen. We need to support each other, not victim shame.
I think this is an important book to get the conversation started. Through the use of different viewpoints, the author provides a balance of perspectives between the victim and the family of the accused, the suffering on both sides and the shifting of blame. What I learned from The Girl I Used to Be is that denial is a powerful mental state.
The transition from Part 1 to Part 2 was a complete surprise and I stopped reading right before bed and spent the whole next day thinking of how this story was going to end and what were the motives of the characters involved. There was a moment where the story felt forced, like the author went back and added in something that would be critical later on in the story. It didn’t make sense. When a bombshell was dropped, crucial details were missing and the revelation sounded hollow. I hope that plot line was resolved before the official release of the novel.