A slight premise belies an engaging story about a young woman transforming herself into the kind of person she’s always wanted to be.
Frank, a two-timing bastard, accidentally drove off a cliff, leaving Cassie a young widow but hardly grieving. And though she doesn’t miss her husband, Cassie’s stuck in the doldrums, confessing her troubles to her one true love, a parrot named Sam. Living with her hippie, Bigfoot-hunting mother in Topanga Canyon (a gateway between Los Angeles and hundreds of acres of wild land), the only thing that brings her joy is the time she spends in the woods. But Cassie’s no Thoreau; she needs a job and finds one at the local university as an assistant in the psychology department. The only problem is she lied on the application, saying she has a BA from the University of Michigan, when in fact her dyslexia is so severe, she barely finished high school. But the simple lie has given her more than an interesting job—it’s given her a new identity to live up to. She’s reading books recommended to her and going to gallery openings and the symphony—and she soon decides she likes this new Cassie. Though she has some help along the way, Cassie gets to play Pygmalion to herself. Of course there are a couple of men (one bad, one good, it’s hard to tell which is which) and aspirations for something better (Cassie decides to go to college), but what sets this book apart from others about women finding love and fulfillment is Cassie’s heartfelt struggle to overcome years of feeling like the dumbest person in the room. She thinks she might be falling for her boss, a dashing professor, until she is revealed to be a fraud.
Lightly touching on both intellectual and class snobbery, the authors (Literacy and Longing in L.A., 2006) have crafted a thoughtful version of the girl-done-good tale.