|Print // Kindle // David Cristofano|
No loose ends. It's the Bovaro family motto. As part of the Bovaro clan, one of the most powerful and respected families in organized crime, Jonathan knows what he must do: take out Melody Grace McCartney, the woman whose testimony can lock up his father and disgrace his entire family. The only problem: he can't bring himself to do it.
Had Jonathan kept his silence, Melody and her parents would never have been identified and lured into the Witness Protection Program, able to run but never to hide. So he keeps her safe the only way he knows how-by vowing to clean up his own mess while acting as her shield.
But as he watches her take on another new identity in yet another new town, becoming a beautiful but broken woman, Jonathan can't get her out of his mind . . . or his heart. From the streets of Little Italy to a refuge that promises a fresh start, Jonathan will be forced to choose between the life he's always known, the destiny his family has carved out for him, and a future unlike anything he's ever imagined.
In The Girl She Used to Be (my review), we read about Melody's flight to some form of safety through her eyes. She made a somewhat unreliable narrator at times, as prone as she was to being oblivious to some realities of her situation, but her story drew me in and intrigued me.
Now in this, the sequel/companion to that novel, we see things from Jonathan Bovaro's viewpoint. We see their first meeting (long before Melody thinks it was), as he struggles to find a place within his family and without his family, and tries to find a way to bury those emotions which only dragged him down. Melody raised Jonathan to an unreasonable level of idolizing, spurred on partly by her lack of acknowledgement in his role in uprooting her life. Jonathan has no such illusions about himself and is at pains to point this out.
The novel is split into four sections, before THE GIRL, during THE GIRL, after THE GIRL and then 3 years later. This is a stronger book then THE GIRL, and is more focused despite it being a longer novel. Cristofano paints us a picture of a guy who wants to hate what his family does, what he does, but can't. He knows what they do is wrong, but its his family, its how he was raised and all that he's known. He wants to hate the violent person he is, but he also doesn't believe he can ever be more then that and to a certain extent takes pride in it.
Honestly his and Melody's relationship is not by any means healthy. Separate the two of them are pretty screwed up, together they're even more screwed up, but they kind of work. Melody at one point says that he's the only one she doesn't have to pretend with. He knows everything about her and that means everything to her. Jonathan doesn't understand how he deserves her, how she can know everything about him and not run away screaming.
As much as this book is based around the one absolute truth (Jonathan loves Melody), this is really about Jonathan's struggle to reconcile who he is, who he wants to be and who he thinks he should be. Some of the hardest parts to read were when he'd discuss his family. Coming from a fairly close Italian-American family (on my dad's side) myself, it can be hard to lose that sense of community so I can only imagine what its like for him since he betrayed his family.
This also helped to flesh him out from the idolized version Melody spoke about in THE GIRL. Not that Melody ignored the reality of who he was exactly, but she placed him in a position where as a reader it was hard to judge him fairly. Jonathan is brutally honest about what he does and the fact he thinks Melody was fooling herself. I really liked Jonathan in THE GIRL and this did nothing to dissuade me of that.
In the end this is a stronger book, but needs THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE for the reader to get a real feel for what's going on. Its important to see both sides of the equation, so the ending has a full effect.