06 October 2013

Spooky Little Girl

Synopsis: 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.

First line: The very moment when the cab pulled up to the curb, Lucy Fisher knew that she was seeing something exceptional.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Villard Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010; 293 pages; bought at a library sale.

My thoughts: I previously had read only one book by Laurie Notaro, WE THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE PRETTIER: TRUE TALES OF THE DORKIEST GIRL ALIVE, a collection of laugh out loud essays that made me put her on my look-for-everything-else-she's-written list. That was in 2008, and while I don't remember much about it now other than the fact that I really liked it, SPOOKY LITTLE GIRL definitely lived up to that memory. It's not really laugh out loud funny, it's more subtle, but certainly amusing and enjoyable, enough that I sat up past my bedtime last night, fighting the usually welcome effects of a sleeping pill, because I kept wanting to read just one more chapter before setting it aside.

Lucy Fisher has just come home from a vacation in Hawaii with two friends, sort of a last hurrah before getting married, to discover everything she owns in the front yard of the house where she lived with Martin, her fiance. Everything except her dog, Tulip, who is inside, but Lucy can't get to her because the locks have been changed. Martin won't answer the door, even though Lucy thinks she sees him through a window, and won't answer his phone. Less than twenty-four hours later and she's been fired from her job for forgetting to make a deposit and failing a drug test, even though she knows she hasn't taken any drugs. With no other choice besides her best friend's couch, she packs what she can in her truck, leaves the rest in her friend's garage, and drives to her sister's house a couple of hours away. Where soon after she is hit by a bus, and wakes up in a dormitory where she's suddenly in a spectral school, learning how to be a ghost.

Before she can move to her final destination, The State (and not that white light that we've all heard so much about), she must complete an assignment on earth. Under the watchful eye of their teacher, Ruby, Lucy and her classmates learn the fine arts of being a spectral, er, being, such as how to draw energy from electrical appliances and manifest into their corporeal forms, how to move a physical object,etc. She also attends her funeral, which is a huge disappointment. Why aren't her friends and coworkers present and mourning her passing?

Finally it's time for her assignment, and she goes to bed that night eager and excited, convinced she'll be doing something to help her sister. The last place she expects to wake up the next morning is on the couch in her old house, where Martin seems to have completely forgotten she existed and has moved on with another woman.

Lucy doesn't know exactly what her assignment is and all Ruby can tell her is it will eventually come to her. Along the way, she learns about herself and matures as a person, so to speak. Oh, and Tulip! The best part about haunting Martin and his new “domestic partner” is being reunited with her dog, who can actually see and hear her.

I don't want to tell you any more of the plot but this is a wonderfully engaging and enjoyable book. In this age of the internet and everybody being so connected, the idea that the characters are so disconnected was a little hard to fathom, but if you just go with it, it's well worth it in the end.

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