Of Me by Alison Gaylin is a captivating
story. The bestselling author Jeffery Deaver once said, “A
thriller asks what is going to happen and a mystery asks what
happened.” In this spellbinding story, Gaylin does both
through her character Kelly Lund, portraying her as a teenager
and a woman in her forties. There are multiple themes explored
including the effect of secrets, how money and power corrupt,
as well as how the media frenzy attempts to put a persona
on a celebrity. These are all wonderfully intertwined throughout
this story about the world of Hollywood.
alternates between two murders, with the suspect being the
same person, Kelly Lund. In 1980, as a seventeen year old,
she is found guilty of killing director John McFadden. Released
after twenty-five years, she attempts to maintain a low profile
until five years later when she is again suspected of murdering
her father-in-law, a legendary actor, Sterling Marshall.
are shown the circus surrounding the coverage of a famous
murderer, and are reminded of the O.J. Simpson and Charles
Manson cases. In this story, the media casts Kelly in a role
that becomes reality to the outsiders. As one of the characters
in the book says, "It's not what you've done that matters,
it's what people think you've done." As the plot progresses
readers are able to understand the dark secrets, lies, and
betrayals caused by power and money.
of the press is explored because Gaylin wants readers to understand,
“The press can be as unreliable as anyone else. It is
impossible to get to know someone from an article. A sense
of that person is colored by the writer’s perception
of that person. Facts as they are presented are many times
different than facts as they are. This distortion is definitely
true in high profile trials. We can never truly know our public
figures. Just look at Marcia Clark, the Simpson prosecutor.
She became well known in a murder case where a young actress
was shot by an obsessed fan.
establish the anti-stalking laws. But after the O.J. case
she became known as the lady with funny hair who botched the
case. A lot of the Hollywood aspect is larger than life. BTW:
Clark is now a terrific mystery writer. On the other side
is Amanda Knox. The press created a persona of her because
she didn’t act according to some prescribed script.
That story inspired me. If your exterior isn't viewed as likable,
or if you don't seem as contrite as people think you ought
to be, a narrative builds up around you, and you become a
though all the characters are dysfunctional, Gaylin does a
good job of showing the reasons behind their faults and personalities.
Kelly and her friend Bellamy Marshall become more likeable
as the story progresses. In many ways they both had rough
lives, having faced some very bad knocks. They attempt to
hide their true feelings, and become almost compartmentalized
with their emotions. In understanding these two characters
the fairy tale The Prince and The Pauper comes to
mind. Both Kelly and Bellamy envy what the other supposedly
has. Kelly searches to replace her twin sister Catherine who
died and Bellamy wants her to be the sibling sister she never
had. Each looked upon the other’s life and thought how
that life could be better than their own.
Regarding her character Kelly, Gaylin commented, “Writing
young and middle age Kelly was like writing two different
characters. I try to figure out how every character justifies
their actions. She was affected by her twenty-five years in
prison, and the loss of her twin sister. I think it stunted
her and hardened her. I hope readers will develop some understanding
of her. She as well as the other characters went down the
wrong path. I wanted to write a story about someone very young
and somewhat naïve who was accused of committing a murder.
She was definitely convicted in the court of public opinion
with people misconstruing what she said and how she acted.”
The only character that seems to have some semblance of being
grounded is known as Rocky Three. He becomes Kelly’s
confidant and someone she can believe in, a friend who offers
tenderness, compassion, and truthfulness. The direct opposite
of Rocky is the narcissist John McFadden, a truly evil person
who uses his power to prey on young girls. This is brought
home with the powerful quote, “You ever wish you were
a little kid again…too little to understand how the
world works?” Readers begin to understand that many
children in the Hollywood scene grow up way too fast, and
begin to realize that the world is not always a nice place.
Anyone fascinated with Hollywood and true crimes needs to
read What Remains Of Me. Gaylin uses her journalistic
credentials to have the plot and the characters come alive.
This emotional, dark, and distinctive tale of revenge and
betrayal, presumed guilt and innocence lost, will have the
readers quickly turning the pages.