A Clean Slate
Grade : A-

Don¹t let the Red Dress Ink label fool you. A Clean Slate isn’t a hip Chick Lit novel filled with sardonic humor and ditzy characters. Instead it’s a fascinating, compelling, thought-provoking book about one woman’s efforts to find five missing months of her life, and what she learns about herself and what she wants in the process.

Kelly McGraw can’t understand why the apartment she lives in is suddenly occupied by another couple, or why her boyfriend Ben is living with another woman. When she runs for help to her best friend Laney, she discovers that she’s somehow lost a chunk of her life. She doesn’t remember losing her job, or being dumped by her boyfriend (both unhappy events occurred on her birthday), and she doesn’t remember selling her old apartment and moving into a new one. The past five months have been utterly wiped out of her memory. Before long Kelly begins to realize this might be a good thing: Apparently she’s been living in a haze of depression, stalking her ex-boyfriend, and seeing a psychiatrist two times a week.

Despite the giant gap in her memory, Kelly isn’t depressed any more, and she begins to turn her life around, getting a makeover, fabulous new clothes, and her dream job as assistant to a crabby British photographer. Although she’s putting her life back together, she’s plagued by recurring headaches and haunted by memories of a strange man’s face. Before long Ben starts talking about getting back together (despite his new girlfriend) and the two start seeing each other again. But is Ben what Kelly really wants out of life?

Kelly is a fascinating character. She’s a decent person who’s found herself in the middle of an impossible situation who uses her “clean slate” as an opportunity to change her life for the better. Yes, amnesia is an overused plot device, but it doesn¹t come across as hackneyed in this novel. Kelly has to cope with the results of actions that she doesn’t even remember – following her ex-boyfriend all over town, taking “surveillance photos” of him, and harassing his new girlfriend. She deals with her problems head-on, supported by Laney, who’s a terrific character as well. Laney stood by Kelly during the months of her depression, and now that Kelly is suddenly back on her feet, Laney feels just a bit unneeded. The relationship between the two young women is moving and sisterly and one of the best things about A Clean Slate.

The only problem I had with this book was the fact that Kelly deals just a little too well with her amnesia. As far as she can remember, she and Ben are all but engaged, yet she accepts without question Laney’s statement that they broke up five months ago. Kelly cries, but only briefly, and then says cheerfully to Laney, “I don¹t want to remember. I feel like my old self, and why would I want to go back to that nastiness you’re telling me about?” Kelly’s determination to move on with her life is not quite believable, given the setup.

But overall, this is a terrific book. The author never lets the central mystery of what happened to Kellys memory drop, and the ending is not at all what I expected – in fact, very little here follows the usual Chick Lit pattern. But the characters are fully developed and realistic, and the basic premise of the story is fascinating. A Clean Slate is different, but in the best possible way.

Reviewed by Marguerite Kraft

Grade: A-

Book Type: Chick Lit

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : November 14, 2003

Publication Date: 2003

Review Tags: amnesia

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