DRIFTING, FALLING—DIARY OF A CALL GIRL SUICIDE by A.J. Ullman

DRIFTING, FALLING—DIARY OF A CALL GIRL SUICIDE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this novel, the diary of a troubled young girl reveals her life as a prostitute while her therapist lusts after her and tries to learn her secrets.

Ripley Luna dates her college professor, endures nightmares about murdering puppies, and secretly works as a high-class call girl. “A competent courtesan has the ability to converse on a myriad of subjects,” Ripley writes in her diary as she flits from references to the Marquis de Sade to The X-Files, Greek mythology, and her favorite subject, astronauts. While she begins filling pages with her true thoughts, she lies to her new therapist, Dr. Dan Truscott. “Lying is what I do, more so than even laying, lol,” she writes. As Ripley’s journal moves from encounters with her sweetest johns to the ordeals of her childhood, Dan’s obsession with his young patient grows, leading him to follow her after sessions and even to hire a private investigator. He claims to want to protect her, fearing for her safety, but deep down he knows it has more to do with his own disintegrating marriage. Ripley’s own romantic relationship begins to come apart as she and Dan move forward with her psychotherapy. Desperate to understand her, he pushes her more and more toward revisiting the mysterious traumas of her past that have scarred her for life and given her an inclination for suicide. Ullman (Hit or Miss, 2013, etc.) strives for the irreverent, acerbic observations found in Sylvia Plath’s works or Susanna Kaysen’s Girl Interrupted, but Ripley’s first-person narration unfortunately falls short. A glut of lols and unwieldy pop-culture references doesn’t make Ripley feel young or sharp, but instead turns an already unreliable narrator into an unbelievable and uneven character. It’s actually in the cat-and-mouse dialogues with Dan—narrated in the third person—that Ripley really comes to life, and Ullman also seems more comfortable building Dan’s budding obsession. These elements could have been explored more to make the book’s later and more haunting aspects feel less forced.

A tragic and darkly fascinating call girl story that loses some of its edge by trying too hard to get into its main character’s head.

Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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