Paloma thought her perfect life would begin once she was adopted and made it to America, but she’s about to find out that no matter how far you run, your past always catches up to you…
Ever since she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, Paloma has had the best of everything—schools, money, and parents so perfect that she fears she’ll never live up to them.
Now at thirty years old and recently cut off from her parents’ funds, she decides to sublet the second bedroom of her overpriced San Francisco apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit, it feels good helping someone find their way in America—that is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her own fragile place in this country.
Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him face down in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment but by the time the police arrive, there’s no body—and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.
Paloma is terrified this is all somehow tangled up in the desperate actions she took to escape Sri Lanka so many years ago. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?
My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa is a wonderfully creepy thriller about a woman trying to make sure that the secrets from her past remain secrets. You can feel the confusion right along with Paloma when Arun disappears, and trying to find out what is going on was a wonderful twisty adventure. I really enjoyed this suspense novel and can’t wait for another book from Amanda Jayatissa. Would you like just a taste? Read on for an excerpt from the book!
MY SWEET GIRL by Amanda Jayatissa
Berkley Hardcover | On Sale September 14, 2021
Ratmalana, Sri Lanka
The shadows from the torch Maya held under her chin made her smile look evil, like the devil mask hung in the assembly hall to ward off the evil eye.
We were all too excited to sleep, so Maya called all the girls to her bunk to tell us ghost stories. I didn’t really want to listen. I’m too old to believe in ghosts. But I didn’t want to be the only one in bed when everyone else was all the way on the other side of the dormitory.
Lihini grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I gave it a squeeze back. She loved ghost stories, which I didn’t really understand. Why would anyone want to be afraid on purpose?
“Relax, Paloma,” she mouthed. I usually got annoyed when people told me to relax. Like saying the words was enough to make me forget what was upsetting me in the first place. As though ghosts and demons would just go away if we simply relaxed. But Lihini was my best friend. I could never get angry with her. I scooted a little closer to her on the floor. There was no such thing as ghosts. It just made me feel safe to be near her.
Maya needed to hurry up. If we got caught out of our beds, we would definitely be scolded. Maybe even punished. They might even cancel the visit tomorrow.
I took a deep breath and shook my head. They would never do that. We hadn’t gotten many visitors to the orphanage in a few months now. Tomorrow was important. Everyone told us so-our headmaster Perera sir, Miss Chandra, even Miss Sarah, our English teacher. We were to be on our best behaviour and make sure we knew exactly what we were supposed to do or say. Miss Chandra supervised the rehearsal today. Everything had to be perfect, and we were so excited that none of us could sleep.
Of course Maya would decide this was the best time to make it all about her. Sometimes I wondered if she even wanted to be adopted. She needed to be more responsible than this. She was twelve now, same as me. It’s not like we were little children anymore.
“She walks slowly. Her feet are bare and dirty and covered in scratches. She wears a long, white dress.” Maya purposely made her voice into a throaty whisper so every one of us leaned forward, barely breathing.
I knew this story. Vana-Mohini, or Mohini, as we call it. We’ve all heard it a million times. We’ve all told it a million times. But I still held tight to Maya’s words.
“There’s blood under her nails, and they are long and sharp, like talons.” She made a sudden clawing motion, and Lihini leaped back, her hands over her mouth.
We all giggled nervously.
“And her long, black hair hangs over her face, like this.” The torch flickered as Maya messed her hair over her face so just her eyes glinted through in the dim yellow light.
“Mohini walks only in the night, revealing herself to people who are all by themselves. Help me. Help me, she begs.” Maya made her voice high and raspy now, like when the chalk slips when you’re writing on a blackboard.
“Some people say Mohini’s eyes are red. Red as blood. And when you look into them, you can see straight into hell. And if you stop to help her, she smiles, and before you know it-”
Maya dropped the torch and lunged forward, wrapping her hands around Lihini’s throat. Lihini couldn’t help it this time. Her small scream rang like an alarm through the dormitory.
I pulled Lihini away from Maya and put my arms around her. If I could have slapped Maya, I definitely would, but there wasn’t time.
“Haiyyo! Quickly, everyone, to bed before we get caught,” I hissed, getting Lihini to her feet and pushing her into her bunk.
Thankfully, the other girls followed.
We all lay very, very still for a few minutes. I could hear nervous panting echoing through the dormitory. Maya really did give everyone a shock. But thankfully none of the matrons came.
What on earth was she thinking? Getting us into trouble the night before Mr. and Mrs. Evans got here. Those were their names. Mr. and Mrs. Evans. Perera sir told us so we could memorise them. Evans-like when Miss Sarah told us about Mary Ann Evans, who went by George Eliot, who wrote The Mill on the Floss. I suppose I could understand why you would want to pretend to be someone else. But I could never, ever understand why someone wouldn’t want to go by the name Evans. It was beautiful.
I whispered it out loud.
Mr. and Mrs. Evans. I hoped they liked us. And me. I really hoped they liked me.