The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves

chess

TORRENT Jose Mongrell (1870 1937) Musketeers Playing Chess.

Annika Rose is a girl with the face of Caroline Bissett Kennedy and a brain that can devour the best chess players. She is, however, unusual. She doesn’t have the instinctive social skills that she sees others around her exercising. She’s just not sure what to say, how to dress, how to interact. So she does what she’s comfortable with: takes care of wounded animals and loses herself in books.

At the instigation of her understanding college roommate, Janice, Annika goes to a meeting of the chess club and there meets Jonathan Hoffman, who becomes her friend, then lover, and finally, the man whose heart she breaks.

When The Girl He Used to Know opens, Annika and Jonathan are bumping into one another for the first time in ten years in the frozen foods section of a grocery store.

[T]hough I often struggle to recognize people out of context, there’s no need for me to question whether or not it’s him. I know it’s him. My body vibrates like the low rumble of a faraway train and I’m grateful for the freezer’s cold air as my core temperature shoots up. I want to bolt, to forget about the strawberries and find the nearest exit. But Tina’s words echo in my head, and I repeat them like a mantra: Don’t run, take responsibility, be yourself.

If the set-up sounds familiar, it’s because it’s inspired by Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old dfLang Syne according to Ms. Graves. (Here’s the song: https://youtu.be/kmZ2VHSkVYY ) I’m a big fan of that song, so the book and it’s premise of a “second-chance love story” appealed to me. I picked up the paperback during a Target run without knowing anything more about it, though it’s been well-reviewed.

The Girl He Used to Know time-travels between Annika and Jonathan’s undergrad years at the University of Illinois and their second chance time when Jonathan has returned to Chicago from his job on Wall Street. Annika too has her dream job, working as a librarian at the Harold Washington Library. Though initially reluctant to have his heart mangled a second time, Jonathan finds he still cares a great deal about Annika. Annika has worked hard to understand both herself and the reactions other people have toward her, and she wants to please Jonathan with these changes.

hwlc-about

Harold Washington Library, Chicago

“All I wanted was to show you that I’ve changed. That I’m not the same person I was in college.” She sounds defeated.

“Well, guess what? You haven’t changed all that much. You’re still the same girl I fell in love with at twenty-two. And here’s a newsflash: I like that girl and always have, and I never once said I wanted her to change.”

. . . “I try so hard to fit in. I spend hours studying appropriate behaviors.” She makes little air quotes around the last two words. “I will never get it right! Do you know what that’s like? It’s the most frustrating thing in the world.”

Falling in love, second chance love, challenging love. The Girl He Used to Know guides the reader on these challenging journeys. The last fifty pages of the novel take a turn I completely did not anticipate, though there were hints. During these pages, Annika must undertake a journey to prove to herself how she’s changed and to prove to Jonathan that she is willing to fight for their love.

It’s a great choice for a Valentine read.

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MENU

Stuffed Shells, Cheesecake and Italian Cherry Soda – Annika’s favorite dinner at Trattoria #10 — a real place at 10 N. Dearborn in Chicago. http://www.trattoriaten.com/about

Pizza & Beer, being parts of this novel occur in college, the beer and pizza are unavoidable. Jonathan takes Annika on a picnic with sandwiches and chips and lemonade. There’s a Christmas dinner with baked chicken and Annika’s brother enjoys eating Christmas cookies with a beer.

Stuffed Shells. This is one of my favorite dishes from my mother (Irish-American with not an Italian gene in sight, but it’s very good!)

Boil 4-6 quarts of water. When boiling add a teaspoon of salt and then one box of pasta shells. Boil in water for 9-10 minutes.

Drain 1/13 cups ricotta cheese in a strainer for a few minutes. After it’s drained, add it to a bowl with 1 eg, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup cooked fresh spinach (squeezed dry and chopped), 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When shells are al dente, strain and rinse with cold water.

Prepare a baking pan or two by putting tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan to cover.

Then take a spoon and stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture, please in a baking pan (stuffed side up), until pan is full. Cover in tomato sauce — we do this in drizzle pattern,  not a drowning. Sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, until bubbly. YUM.

PLAYLIST.

I thought I’d put together a playlist of second chance at love songs. There’s some golden oldies here!

Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg

Working My Way Back to You Girl, The Spinners

If You Leave Me Now, Chicago

Against All Odds, Phil Collins

Reunited, Peaches & Herb

I want You Back, Jackson 5

Baby Come Back, Player

Back in My Arms Again, The Supremes

MOVIE CAST

Annika       Margot Robbie/Cara Delavigne

Jonathan    Liam Hemsworth

ATR COVER*** My novel, After the Race, is now available! Alexandra was raised to be the next Jackie Kennedy. Just as her mother intended, Alexandra’s summer internship on Capitol Hill results in the perfect fiancé, a future job, and D.C. political savvy. But when Alex returns to college for her final year and falls in love with a handsome, blue-jeaned bike champion, she must choose between the two men and the lives they represent, and decide whether she can defy her mother’s designs to fulfill her own dreams. Ultimately, Alexandra must find within herself the power to confront the one unplanned event that could derail everything.

Order from rabbithousepress.com, amazon.com, or buy at Joseph-Beth booksellers or your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, ask them to order!

 

Happy reading!!

 

 

 

Breaking from the Post

There’s a snow storm raging in Roanoke, VA.  It is as warm in Bloomington, IN as it is in Hilton Head; only it’s not pouring rain in Bloomington.  Despite the April calendar date, March lilies are in bloom and tulips have yet to appear.  In Daytona Beach, it’s cloudy and rainy and undoubtedly hoards of high school seniors are drowning their tanless sorrows in beer bongs.

But in Central Kentucky, a spring tradition will begin tomorrow that cannot be stopped by wind, rain, sleet or hail.  Keeneland, the most beautiful and historic thoroughbred race course in the nation, opens tomorrow.  Weather prognosticators (aka The Wise Men from the East) are predicting a beautiful spring day.  But even if there is snow, Keeneland will open.  The sleek long muscles of the thoroughbreds will twitch at the trumpeter’s call to the post.  The high-brows will swagger into the club house in Spring’s newest fashions.  The fraternity and sorority kids will stumble into the gates of the grandstand alongside the working men and women, the everyday sportsman, the bookies and the occasional owner or trainer not willing to put on a tie for the day.  The green-coated Keeneland employees will polish their smiles.  The tote board will light and the bell will sound.  The horses will break from the post, thundering past the screaming crowd, betting tickets clutched tightly in their fists for luck.  And down the stretch they will come.

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And officially, weather or no, in Central Kentucky, Spring will have arrived.

There are some wonderful books about thoroughbreds and racing.  My two favorites are Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand and Wild Ride, by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach.  People are familiar with Seabiscuit because of the movie.  Wild Ride is about the legendary Calumet farm, and the gorgeous, glorious and tragic story of Alydar, the horse who finished second to Affirmed in all three of the Triple Crown races, but outshone him by the million in the breeding shed.

A song list for Keeneland’s opening day:

Fugue for TInhorns (I Got the Horse Right Here), from Guys and Dolls

Run for the Roses, Dan Fogelberg

Up on Cripple Creek, The Band

Bottle of Smoke, The Pogues

Beer for My Horses, Tobey Keith & Willie Nelson

If I Had a Horse, Lyle Lovett

And a couple for sentimental reasons that are sort of about horses and sort of about love.  But maybe that’s all the same thing anyway.

Wild Horses, The Rolling Stones

A Horse in the Country, The Cowboy Junkies

The perfect menu for Keeneland opening day:

Steamed asparagus, country ham on beaten biscuits, corn pudding and strawberries.

Serve with your choice of champagne or bourbon and branch water.

Here’s the Shakertown Corn Pudding Recipe:

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups frozen corn

1 3/4 cup milk

Blend butter, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl.

Add eggs and beat with rotary mixer on low.  Add corn, chopping it a little to release the milky juice.

Pour into a flat, 10 x 6″ casserole and bake at 325 for 45 minutes, stirring once, halfway through the baking.

When done, the pudding will be golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle will come out cleanly.

(Another menu with recipes for Mint Juleps and Derby Pie: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/the-first-saturday-in-may/)

Happy Reading! (Or Racing)