Thursday, May 24, 2012
"Spooky Little Girl" by Laurie Notaro
Coming home from a Hawaiian vacation with her best girlfriends, Lucy Fisher is stunned to find everything she owns tossed out on her front lawn, the locks changed, and her fiance's phone disconnected - plus she's just lost her job. With her world spinning wildly out of her control, Lucy decides to make a new start and moves upstate to live with her sister and nephew.
But then things take an even more dramatic turn: A fatal encounter with public transportation lands Lucy not in the hereafter but in the nearly hereafter. She's back in school, learning the parameters of spooking and how to become a successful spirit in order to complete a ghostly assignment. If Lucy succeeds, she's guaranteed a spot in the next level of the afterlife - but until then, she's stuck as a ghost in the last place she would ever want to be.
Trying to avoid being trapped on earth for all eternity, Lucy crosses the line between life and death and back again when she returns home. Navigating the perilous channels of the paranormal, she's determined to find out why her life crumbled and why, despite her ghastly death, no one seems to have noticed she's gone. But urgency on the spectral plane - in the departed person of her feisty grandmother, who is risking both their eternal lives - requires attention, and Lucy realizes that you get only one chance to be spectacular in death.
I've read a lot of Notaro's essay collections, and I always love them. I've also read her previous novel, which was pretty darn good, albeit obviously autobiographical to an extent. I had no qualms picking up this second novel, but I was a bit surprised.
Lucy is an obvious Notaro-type character. Everything is all about her: her job, her friends, her fiance. She's one of those people that's always talking about themselves and not often listening to what's going on with someone else. But she does have a good heart, which is what gets her into all this trouble to start with. While in Hawaii on her girls' vacation, Lucy insists on hanging out with one of her friends when said friend meets a guy in the bar. Unfortunately, said friend "forgets" something and leaves the hotel room briefly. Lucy has to run into the bathroom to become violently ill, and thus, her fate is sealed.
It was a bit heartbreaking watch this girl's life implode, especially as she had no idea why. And let's face it, whenever anything bad happens to us, isn't that our first question? Why, oh why, is this happening to ME? Once Lucy has shuffled off this mortal coil, she starts her investigation into where things went so incredibly wrong.
I was impressed with this second novel. Yes, it's still light and fun, but there's some definite insight here, too. I love Notaro's take on mediums, and whatever you do, do not let them drag you "into the light" (that was really neat, her vision of what happens if you follow the psychic's commands). I thought Lucy's friends were fairly well-developed, and I like seeing the transition of my opinion of Martin, her maybe-ex-fiance. The only thing that I wish I'd gotten a better feel for was Lucy's relationship with her sister. We see sis briefly when Lucy goes to live with her and the nephew (she's got nowhere else to go), and again near the end of the book. Being a sister myself, I wish Notaro hadn't killed Lucy quite so quickly, as I would have liked to read more about these two women (especially since the little interaction we do get reminded me a lot of me and my baby sister).
Overall, a big thumbs up. Cute, fun, quick read with something a little bit deeper hidden inside it.