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The Girl He Used to Know

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The Girl He Used to Know

April 2019

In THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW, Tracey Garvis Graves has written a book whose characters and story will stay with you for a long time. Our reviews often inspire my reading, as well as yours, and I raced to read this one after seeing our review of it a couple of weeks ago. Annika and Jonathan are wonderfully written characters, and I found myself completely wrapped up in their story as I read.

They meet at college playing chess back in 1991 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While readers may recognize it now, Annika is somewhere on the autism spectrum, which few were talking about back then. She is very set in her ways. Labels bother her. Tight clothes are an issue. So are loud noises. But when she focuses, she is laser clear, which is what she is when she plays chess. Jonathan finds her to be a worthy opponent and encourages her to attend a chess tournament, which is way outside her comfort zone. He and her roommate Janice are champions of Annika’s loving, quiet nature and gentle ways. Both help her navigate the things in life that many of us just roll with.

When the book opens, Annika runs into Jonathan at a grocery store. It’s 2001. That chapter ends with her noting that she would like to talk to him again and hopes he calls as she wants him to get to know the woman she has become to replace the woman he used to know. Right there, you can see the story set up smartly. And we wonder why Annika and Jonathan’s relationship fell off the rails.

The novel is told in shifting times from both Annika and Jonathan’s points of view, and I found myself saying “one more chapter” more than once. It works so well that I never felt “lost,” as I sometimes do in books like this. Both the story set in the 1991 timeline and the one in 2001 are equally compelling, and I dare you to look away at the ending. What one sees here is that, for all the obstacles that Annika faces in her life, that same focus and energy can have her approaching a challenge with sheer tenacity and a fierceness that many do not have.

THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW is a terrific book for book groups. While a love story, to me it’s more a story of humanity. It will make you think a lot more about those who experience challenges in life --- and perhaps approach them with more compassion

The Girl He Used to Know
by Tracey Garvis Graves

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250200350
  • ISBN-13: 9781250200358