Today I’m hosting Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond from Algonquin Books. What a ride! What a read!
June 15, 2021
Blurb: By the age of nine, I will have lived in more than a dozen countries, on five continents, under six assumed identities. I’ll know how a document is forged, how to withstand an interrogation, and most important, how to disappear . . .
Wild, heart-wrenching, and unexpectedly funny, Nowhere Girl is an inspiring coming-of-age memoir about running for freedom against the odds.
To the young Cheryl Diamond, life felt like one big adventure, whether she was hurtling down the Himalayas in a rickety car or mingling with underworld fixers. Her family appeared to be an unbreakable gang of five. One day they were in Australia, the next South Africa, the pattern repeating as they crossed continents, changed identities, and erased their pasts. What Diamond didn’t yet know was that she was born into a family of outlaws fleeing from the highest international law enforcement agencies, a family with secrets that would eventually catch up to all of them.
By the time she was in her teens, Diamond had lived dozens of lives and lies, but as she grew, love and trust turned to fear and violence, and her family—the only people she had in the world—began to unravel. She started to realize that her life itself might be a big con, and the people she loved, the most dangerous of all. With no way out and her identity burned so often that she had no proof she even existed, all that was left was a girl from nowhere.
Surviving would require her to escape, and to do so Diamond would have to unlearn all the rules she grew up with. Like The Glass Castle meets Catch Me If You Can, Nowhere Girl is an impossible-to-believe true story of self-discovery and triumph.
It cannot be a coincidence that non-fictional Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond begins with a seemingly happy family in a car that is careening downhill (mountain) after the brakes fail. Obviously the family survives, but this initial car ride literally filled with highs and lows, emotions running the gamut, is a small taste of the entirety of the book. And like any good gawker of destruction, how could I not read on?
Cheryl’s life began under the Sanskrit name of Harbhajan (Bhajan), a name that encapsulated all of the hopes her parents had for her and a name that she aspires to live up to. Her bigger-than-life father treats her very differently from how he treats her sister, Chiara, and brother, Frank. She thrives under his care, if, even as a child, she observes that maybe her hero possesses clay feet. Under that care, she is molded into believing that she can do anything, be anything, and for a very long while that seems to be true.
I was mesmerized by the adventures of this family, the living off the grid and living in the moment. At the beginning there feels like there is great joy and spirituality in this life and the family seems to be a unit, with the exception of Chiara who, even early on, seems on the psychotic side.
And then things begin to go awry (a mild description). The reader sees that the loyalty inspired by Bhajan’s father only goes so far and that when it begins to unravel little is left.
The broken-brake ride from the opening of the memoir continues metaphorically throughout with the end results often not as sunny as those at the beginning.
Diamond’s writing is on point. So much so that the reader is lulled into this story and then shaken. She is a gifted storyteller and that’s particularly important when the story is true. Her eye for detail places the reader in the moment, creating the time and place and emotional impact.
An excellent read.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 butterflies