We have to admit that there’s a new and very specialized genre afoot. The spectacular success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has inspired publishers to tag anything that features a strong female protagonist in a crime fiction setting as “the next,” with the hope that sales will follow, no matter how much you have to squint to suss the semblance. But don’t hold comparisons against Luckiest Girl Alive. Read the first page. Ani Fanelli has a voice all her own.
She’s not a character who is easy to like, unless you like difficult-to-like, and I in fact do like difficult-to-like. In the opening sections of the book Ani seems to live up to the title. She has a great job, a great fiancé and is well set. She may come from the burbs, but she’s left them in the dust. I’ll leave the “Or’s” to the readers.
Making your way through the layers of revelation in The Luckiest Girl Alive is an onion-peeling experience, stinging tears included. Ani’s best friend Nell is the leavening flavor, but not by much. These are smart, ambitious young women in New York, where survival of the fittest is an understatement. Darwin might re-write his famous theory after witnessing nature New-York-society style. Red in tooth and claw is just the beginning. And it’s certainly a delight to explore the food chain with Ani, a self-doubting, self-absorbed, top-predator-in-training.
Jessica Knoll’s skill in prose, plotting, revelation and character revelation as plot ensure that Luckiest Girl Alive is engaging even when the main character is pondering plunging a knife in her fiancé’s back. Ani might seem to be all furious surface, but we’re privy both to what she is saying and what she is thinking. Only occasionally are they the same. Knoll captures a raw power that becomes disconcerting when you least expect it.
As we see Ani plunge forward into a vicious present, we also see her precarious past. It’s a high-wire act with a fatal fall awaiting any misstep. You might not be Luckiest Girl Alive, and you might not want to meet the Luckiest Girl Alive. But the book’s memorable, the sort of memorable that leaves scars.
By the time I spoke with the author, she’d written a revelatory essay on Lenny. [The mere title of the link divulges plot points. You might want to read the essay and/or listen to this interview after reading the book.] Both the novel and the essay are raw and intense, connecting the author directly to some of the most powerfully-portrayed events in the book. We discussed those events both in the long and short interviews.
Or listen here.
Or listen here.