26 September 2023

The Girl She Was

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Rebecca Freeborn, Pantera Press, $29.99.

It was only five words, but just enough to cause anxiety. Sometimes, past deeds have a habit of catching up with you. Such was the case with Layla.

It was a cryptic note: “I know what you did”. It was a short message from a woman whose name she’d never expected to see again. Just those specific words, no preamble, no sign-off, but she knew the name of the author.

An all-too-familiar unease glimmered deep inside Layla. It had been two decades since she’d left Glasswater Bay. After school she’d worked in a café in the small town and at 17 she’d entered into a volatile relationship with her married boss. That’s when everything changed. The text was from her former boss’s wife. Layla had stopped wondering long ago about whether anyone would find out what she’d done.

Now, 20 years on she’s living a life far removed from the girl she was, with a husband and two children. That is, until she received the text message. Her past has caught up with her.

The Girl She Was is persuasive reading. By compulsion, you keep turning the pages as Layla discloses the adversity that outspread as a result of her relationship. As she scrapes back the veneer from her past, out come some awkward truths she has to face, but there is also salvation and expectation.

It’s a slow reveal. The book switches between the ‘then’ and ‘now’ timelines. Present day happenings and events, divulging the reasons leading up to Layla’s departure two decades ago.

It’s easy to empathise with Layla and feel engaged with her story.

Can you tell us who it was who sent the Facebook Messenger text to Layla? If your answer is correct, then you could win one copy of The Girl She Was. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 15 June 2020. The winner’s name will be published in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 16 June 2020.

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