Good Girls Gone Bad

Good Girls Gone Bad

by Jillian Medoff

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780066212692
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/28/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.18(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jillian Medoff is the author of the richly praised Hunger Point. A former fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, she lives in Brooklyn where she is hard at work on a new novel.

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Chapter One

We met in Group, the girls and I. There were seven of us when we were with Dr. Hensen, then six when the Dream Weaver disappeared. The Weaver dropped out of sight right after we killed Tobias, so I figured she'd resurface once everything calmed down. But that was weeks ago and she still hasn't shown up.

I feel bad about Tobias, but his death was an accident and group therapy has taught me not to feel guilty about circumstances beyond my control. My feelings about the Weaver's disappearance, however, are much more personal and thus more distressing. When my mother left, I considered every conceivable explanation: kidnapping, drunk driver, a secret affair. But we never got a ransom call or found her body. Nor was there evidence she loved another man. "We had normal married problems," my dad told the sheriff. "But we loved each other." To which the sheriff replied, "Sometimes, Zack, disappearin' ain't got nothing to do with love."

I've harbored fantasies of my mother all my life. She's poolside at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel wearing black wraparound glasses and sipping pi�a coladas with Marcelo, her Pilates instructor. Or she shows up at my door wearing a sheer bathing suit and perky sun visor, having just sailed the world with a Greek fishing magnate. Since she left me nothing else, her legacy was my compulsive need to fantasize, even now, so many years after the fact.

When I'm in line in the deli, for instance, getting my morning coffee, I concoct elaborate scenarios with the handsome doctors, lawyers, and CEOs who cut in front of me. In my mind, I'm big-breasted and red-headed, and have a wicked, sexy smile. When I say, "I believe Iwas ahead of you," the D/L/CEO stutters at the sight of my beauty, asks for my phone number, and then we get married. Sometimes we have four kids, move to New Jersey, then retire in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sometimes one of us tragically dies in a small commuter plane. But both of us understand that I am the love of his life, the woman against whom all others are measured.

In reality, I'm petite, with a boyish figure that would be very striking on someone taller, but because I'm so short I look like an underdeveloped teenager wearing her mother's ill-fitting clothing. Like many actuaries, I favor boxy brown suits and sensible pumps. I also have boxy brown hair and wear oversize glasses with very thick lenses that make my eyes look smaller than they really are. I don't wear contacts because sticking a plastic disk in my eye seems unnecessarily painful. I don't mind the idea of hurting myself. However, I'd rather do it with an impressive flourish that has the potential for media interest rather than hunched over my sink performing a mundane morning ritual.

Boxy brown suits and sensible pumps reflect the conservative nature of actuarial science. It is not, as a rule, a sexy profession. I design complex reserve models for workmen's compensation and other types of employee benefit plans at a Big Five accounting firm. This means I look at a company's claims history and develop financial paradigms that illustrate their future liability (i.e., how much they will pay out to policyholders over time).

When I was growing up in Welter, the pulp had no formal workers' comp plans, or rather, the plans they did have rarely paid out, so I think it's ironic that I'm designing them now. In Group, Dr. Hensen said he didn't think it was ironic at all, which was a signal for me that it was time to change the subject.

I like being an actuary. I work with statistical theory and laws of probability that are rational and judicious. When I apply these laws to a mathematical model, I step out of real time and space and move into a zone devoid of emotional entanglement. When I'm in this zone, I can lose myself completely, but don't indulge in fantasies in which mothers return and strangers propose. Nor do I shed any tears.

I don't know why the Weaver disappeared, but I'm sure it has to do with Tobias--the fact that we killed him, I mean. I also think it has to do with love, because when I met her, that's what she, like all the Group girls, was seeking. But most important, I think she left because of me, since I was the one who led us to Tobias in the first place.

So these are the facts: Tobias seduced me, and I fell in love. Tobias dumped me, and I met the girls. Tobias was killed, and the Dream Weaver went missing. Much of this, of course, is very upsetting, especially since I may have been spared guilt about Tobias's death, but I haven't been spared grief. To this end, I grieve the Weaver's disappearance the way I grieve my long-lost mother. I also grieve for Tobias, and will for the remaining forty eight years of my life, plus or minus five years (rough 95 percent confidence interval with 2.96 standard deviations). This is assuming of course (the force of mortality being what it is) that I don't take matters into my own hands.

The girlsand I call Suzanna the Dream Weaver because when it was her turn to share, she offered long dream sequences with entire casts of characters and fully realized plot points, all of which she seemed to be making up as she went along. I hate it when people recount their dreams in real life, but nothing compared to the agony of listening to the Weaver drone on in Group.

The Weaver has electric red hair that frizzes around her head, severely arched brows that give her a look of perpetual WOW ...

Good Girls Gone Bad. Copyright � by Jillian Medoff. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

First Chapter

Good Girls Gone Bad

Chapter One

We met in Group, the girls and I. There were seven of us when we were with Dr. Hensen, then six when the Dream Weaver disappeared. The Weaver dropped out of sight right after we killed Tobias, so I figured she'd resurface once everything calmed down. But that was weeks ago and she still hasn't shown up.

I feel bad about Tobias, but his death was an accident and group therapy has taught me not to feel guilty about circumstances beyond my control. My feelings about the Weaver's disappearance, however, are much more personal and thus more distressing. When my mother left, I considered every conceivable explanation: kidnapping, drunk driver, a secret affair. But we never got a ransom call or found her body. Nor was there evidence she loved another man. "We had normal married problems," my dad told the sheriff. "But we loved each other." To which the sheriff replied, "Sometimes, Zack, disappearin' ain't got nothing to do with love."

I've harbored fantasies of my mother all my life. She's poolside at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel wearing black wraparound glasses and sipping piña coladas with Marcelo, her Pilates instructor. Or she shows up at my door wearing a sheer bathing suit and perky sun visor, having just sailed the world with a Greek fishing magnate. Since she left me nothing else, her legacy was my compulsive need to fantasize, even now, so many years after the fact.

When I'm in line in the deli, for instance, getting my morning coffee, I concoct elaborate scenarios with the handsome doctors, lawyers, and CEOs who cut in front of me. In my mind, I'm big-breasted and red-headed, and have a wicked, sexy smile. When I say, "I believe I was ahead of you," the D/L/CEO stutters at the sight of my beauty, asks for my phone number, and then we get married. Sometimes we have four kids, move to New Jersey, then retire in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sometimes one of us tragically dies in a small commuter plane. But both of us understand that I am the love of his life, the woman against whom all others are measured.

In reality, I'm petite, with a boyish figure that would be very striking on someone taller, but because I'm so short I look like an underdeveloped teenager wearing her mother's ill-fitting clothing. Like many actuaries, I favor boxy brown suits and sensible pumps. I also have boxy brown hair and wear oversize glasses with very thick lenses that make my eyes look smaller than they really are. I don't wear contacts because sticking a plastic disk in my eye seems unnecessarily painful. I don't mind the idea of hurting myself. However, I'd rather do it with an impressive flourish that has the potential for media interest rather than hunched over my sink performing a mundane morning ritual.

Boxy brown suits and sensible pumps reflect the conservative nature of actuarial science. It is not, as a rule, a sexy profession. I design complex reserve models for workmen's compensation and other types of employee benefit plans at a Big Five accounting firm. This means I look at a company's claims history and develop financial paradigms that illustrate their future liability (i.e., how much they will pay out to policyholders over time).

When I was growing up in Welter, the pulp had no formal workers' comp plans, or rather, the plans they did have rarely paid out, so I think it's ironic that I'm designing them now. In Group, Dr. Hensen said he didn't think it was ironic at all, which was a signal for me that it was time to change the subject.

I like being an actuary. I work with statistical theory and laws of probability that are rational and judicious. When I apply these laws to a mathematical model, I step out of real time and space and move into a zone devoid of emotional entanglement. When I'm in this zone, I can lose myself completely, but don't indulge in fantasies in which mothers return and strangers propose. Nor do I shed any tears.

I don't know why the Weaver disappeared, but I'm sure it has to do with Tobias--the fact that we killed him, I mean. I also think it has to do with love, because when I met her, that's what she, like all the Group girls, was seeking. But most important, I think she left because of me, since I was the one who led us to Tobias in the first place.

So these are the facts: Tobias seduced me, and I fell in love. Tobias dumped me, and I met the girls. Tobias was killed, and the Dream Weaver went missing. Much of this, of course, is very upsetting, especially since I may have been spared guilt about Tobias's death, but I haven't been spared grief. To this end, I grieve the Weaver's disappearance the way I grieve my long-lost mother. I also grieve for Tobias, and will for the remaining forty eight years of my life, plus or minus five years (rough 95 percent confidence interval with 2.96 standard deviations). This is assuming of course (the force of mortality being what it is) that I don't take matters into my own hands.

 

The girlsand I call Suzanna the Dream Weaver because when it was her turn to share, she offered long dream sequences with entire casts of characters and fully realized plot points, all of which she seemed to be making up as she went along. I hate it when people recount their dreams in real life, but nothing compared to the agony of listening to the Weaver drone on in Group.

The Weaver has electric red hair that frizzes around her head, severely arched brows that give her a look of perpetual WOW ...

Good Girls Gone Bad . Copyright &#copy; by Jillian Medoff. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Reading Group Guide

Introduction

"A fact every actuary learns: Regardless of how many 'What, if" scenarios you design or assumptions you make, reality is always an ambush."

Janey Fabre is an actuary, a profession in which she's required to study mortality tables. She's also harboring a number of secrets -- about herself, her long-lost mother, and the way she stalks her ex-boyfriend Tobias through the streets of New York City.

Determined to get over Tobias and move on with her life, Janey joins group therapy. Once there, though, she's convinced the other women she meets are truly unbalanced. Suzanna prefers the company of her lap dog to human beings. Laura is a nymphomaniac. Bethany, a forty-year-old divorcee, still lives with her mother. Valentine, a painfully shy beauty, eats compulsively; Ivy, a sweet-talking southern belle, binges on Botox; and Natasha wears a facemask to protect herself from unseen pathogens. Of course, what the girls don't realize about quiet Janey is that she's haunted by her mother's disappearance and keeps in her purse a detailed list of suicide options.

Eventually, the girls learn to confide in each other and once empowered, dedicate themselves to collectively solving one another's problems. Like Janey, each woman is fearful of emotional intimacy. Their individual neuroses enable them to cope with this fear, and the result is as comedic as it is tragic. What begins as harmless mischief escalates into a vengeful prank that climaxes with a cracked skull on a boardroom table and surprising, deeply painful revelations, especially for Janey. How the girls gain control over themselves -- and each other -- is the driving force of this unabashedlyfunny and profoundly intelligent dark comedy. A stunning tale of revenge and redemption, Good Girls Gone Bad is a poignant, bittersweet mediation on family -- the families in our past, as well as the ones we create as adults.

Discussion Questions

  1. Despite its comic overtones, Good Girls Gone Bad is a sincere portrait of a woman struggling to choose life over death. How is humor used throughout the book to underscore serious issues? Does Janey's ironic tone enhance or hinder the book's emotional depth?

  2. Describe Janey Fabre. Is she as invisible to the world as she believes? How does her image of herself differ from other people's perception? Do most people see themselves as others do?

  3. Janey is an unreliable narrator. How does her unwillingness -- or inability -- to tell the truth bear on her relationships with women and men? With her family? On the story itself? Should the girls have confronted her or were they right to let her get caught in her own lies? Could their betrayal be considered a good thing in light of how the story ends?

  4. What role does actuarial science play in Good Girls Gone Bad? How is the metaphor of actuarial probability used?

  5. Suicide and suicide ideation is explored at length in this novel. How does Janey's relationship with her mother bear on Janey's suicidal impulses? Janey's relationship with her father? Do you think self-destructive behavior is learned within a family?

  6. American culture is obsessed with youth and beauty. What does Good Girls Gone Bad seem to be saying about women aging? Does it create a realistic portrait of how women over forty feel about themselves? Do you believe society is as harsh as the girls believe?

  7. Why do the women in the book call themselves "girls?"

  8. Good Girls Gone Bad has been described as a black comedy. What are the elements of a black comedy?

  9. Look at the book's epigrams. To whom does the Elizabeth Bishop quote refer: "When you write my epitaph, you must say I was the loneliest woman who ever lived?" Janey? Janey's mother? The girls?

  10. What do you think about how the men in the novel are portrayed? Tobias? Janey's dates? Her father? Does the book depict relationships between men and women realistically? If not, is this done on purpose?

About the author

Jillian Medoff is the author of the critically acclaimed Hunger Point, which was adapted into a Lifetime Original Movie. She attended Barnard College and the Graduate Writing Program at New York University, where she studied with Robert Coover, Mona Simpson, Alice Walker, and Jonathan Dee.

A former fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she lives in New York City where she is working on her third novel. Good Girls Gone Bad has been optioned for a feature film by a group of independent producers.

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Good Girls Gone Bad 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
plenilune on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It was at parts fun and dark and something of a guilty pleasure to read, but at other parts it was silly and somewhat cruel. I may have enjoyed it more had I not read a few reviews that had me all worked up to get my hands on a copy. Nothing special, but an okay enough way to pass a stormy day when the power's gone out or there's just nothing on.
rampaginglibrarian on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is a great, easy read. Pretty much dark, quirky chick lit. Janey obessing over her ex-boyfriend, plotting suicide hooks up with a therapy group and they all end kind of feeding each others neuroses--it's great fun!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had very high expectations for her second novel after I read Hunger Point. Although she is an excellent writer, the story played out like some cheap, depressed version of a Lifetime Original Movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It is a fun and adventurous tale of women coming to terms with aging and men. I recognized all my friends, as well as myself, and you will too. A great laugh outloud read...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jillian has done it again. With her second book, Ms. Medoff has shown us shew is clearly the queen of bringing out the best and worst of her characterters. Her insights provide illumination on one of the most misunderstood (for guys) and secretive of ssubjects- The working of a woman.