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Likely Stories: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

On occasion, I like to dip into some unusual novels referred to as “Chick Lit.”  This popular genre seems to be everywhere I see readers.  Tracey Garvis Graves has written eight novels.  The Girl He Used to Know is her ninth.  Aside from an occasional romp in the bedroom of a pair of students, I found the story amusing with a truly gripping twist.

The story revolves around Annika, a shy young girl entering college along with Jonathan.  The story moves back and forth from 1991 to 2001.  The couple were friends in college, and they broke up when Jonathan left for a job in New York.  Annika went to a job in Chicago.  The story begins with Annika in 2001.  Graves opens the novel, “I ran into him at Dominick’s of all places.  I’m poking around in the freezer case, searching for the strawberries I put in my morning smoothie, when a man’s voice somewhere off to my right says, ‘Annika?’  He sounds unsure. // From the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of his face.  It’s been ten years since we’ve seen each other and though I often struggle to recognize people out of context, there’s no need for me to question whether or not it’s him.  I know it’s him.  My body vibrates like the low rumble of a faraway train and I’m grateful for the freezer’s cold air as my core temperature shoots up.  I want to bolt, to forget about the strawberries and find the nearest exit” (1).

Jonathan enters the picture.  Tracey writes, “My phone rings and the caller ID flashes an unknown number as I walk down the street on my way to meet [a friend] for an after-work drink.  When I hear the chime indicating that whoever called has left a voice mail, I figure I might as well find out what it is so I can put out the fire now and enjoy my beer in peace. //

Anika’s voice stops me in my tracks.  The odds that she would actually call were only marginally better than my ex-wife and I seeing eye-to-eye on anything now, so they weren’t that great.  […] [I held] a finger against the opposite ear so I can hear her better and start the message over from the beginning. // ‘Hi.  I was wondering if you might want to meet for breakfast on Saturday or Sunday morning at Bridgeport Coffee.  Whatever time is convenient for you.  Okay, bye.’  I can hear the tremble in her voice” (17).  Jonathan muses, “She lives in a bubble where nothing takes her out of her comfort zone, and everything is within her reach. // I should have realized it immediately: Annika is doing fine.  There’s no one here to save” (27). 

Tracey Garvis Graves’, The Girl He Used to Know, is a pleasant story for a cool afternoon.  But things will heat up!   5 hearts!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.