‘On the screen, there was a notification from Facebook Messenger; a message from a woman whose name she’d never expected to see again.
I know what you did.
No preamble, no sign-off, just those five words.’
Layla Flynn lives an ordinary life in the suburbs, two children, a loving husband and satisfying career. Yet, she is uncomfortable in her own skin and often haunted by who she once was and what she did.
When Layla was seventeen, she worked at a cafe in the small town of Glasswater Bay after school, where she had a volatile relationship with her married boss – her first relationship and it didn’t end well. Twenty years later, she receives a message from her former boss’s wife wanting to meet up. She’d long ago stopped wondering whether anyone would find out what she’d done. It was in the past, and Layla didn’t dwell on the past.
Initially she ignores the messages but when they become more frequent and threaten to expose her, Layla starts to panic. She’s never shared the story of her past with her husband Cameron – his father had an affair when he was a child leaving his mother to pick up the pieces. He has never forgiven the woman who took him away.
Moving from present day back to the time of the relationship, Layla relives the events from her youth that have shaped her present as her past starts to infiltrate her life in a way she can no longer ignore. When she receives an invite to her school reunion, she sees there may be a chance to repair broken friendships and face up to what she did. She’s run from her town, her friends and the memory of what she’s done. Now she must face them all.
The Girl She Was is compelling reading. You can’t help but keep turning the pages as Layla reveals the disaster that unfolded as a result of her relationship. As she peels the layers of her past back there are some uncomfortable truths she has to face but there is also redemption and hope.
Many of you would be familiar with Australian author Rebecca Freeborn who most recently wrote Misconceptions – a book she wrote to open up the conversation about pregnancy loss. While The Girl She Was has quite a different storyline, it is equally engaging, exploring important themes around consent and coercion, power differentials, friendship, body image and how adolescent trauma shapes us as adults.
Definitely one to add to put on top of your TBR!