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My Sweet Girl


My Sweet Girl

Amanda Jayatissa’s first novel opens with one of the best written and darkly humorous passages I have ever read: “There’s a special place in hell for incompetent customer service agents, and it’s right between monsters who stick their bare feet up on airplane seats and mansplainers.”

The book’s narrator, Paloma Evans, sounds like any witty, sarcastic millennial you might find complaining on the nearest blog site. But you would be selling her short. Paloma is an extraordinarily complex and mysterious figure with secrets galore, which makes it difficult to ever truly know her or get close to her.

MY SWEET GIRL is yet another in an impressive line of terrific debuts that I have read over the past few years. This is a Hitchcockian thriller of the highest order with secrets, revelations and twists around every corner right through to the very end.

"This is a Hitchcockian thriller of the highest order with secrets, revelations and twists around every corner right through to the very end."

Paloma comes home to her apartment to find her roommate, Arun, sitting at the kitchen table with his head in a sticky pool of blood. Arun had been threatening to blackmail Paloma, and now she is in a panic trying to figure out how to make this situation go away. At this point she sees a figure that she has not encountered since childhood, a ghostly specter known in Sri Lanka as Mohini, and she blacks out. When she wakes up, Arun’s body is gone and the area spotless as if she had dreamt the whole thing.

Arun, an undocumented immigrant, works at a nearby Indian restaurant. Paloma calls both his cell and the eatery yet is unable to reach him. The next call is to the police, who stop by the apartment but struggle to take her seriously since there is no evidence that Arun has ever lived there. His room has been completely emptied and stripped.

The book continues to jump back in time to when Paloma is an orphan in Sri Lanka. The Evans, a wealthy American couple, show great interest in adopting her and taking her back to the States. What seals the deal is when Mrs. Evans sees Paloma reading her all-time favorite novel, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and they come up with a nickname for the young lady that will stick: “sweet girl.”

As most orphans often get jealous of others who are adopted first, one of Paloma’s classmates claims that the book belongs to her and that Paloma is actually reading ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. When a copy of that very novel turns up in the present day inside Paloma’s mailbox, she realizes that the past has finally caught up to her in a bad way.

A whopper of a plot twist dropped into the final third of the book will make you doubt Paloma and her sanity. But like a car wreck on the side of the road, you just cannot look away. MY SWEET GIRL is a tremendous read, and I hope this is just the start of a long and prolific writing career for the talented Amanda Jayatissa.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 24, 2021

My Sweet Girl
by Amanda Jayatissa