The Nearly Girl


a novel by Lisa de Nikolits

Print: 978-1-77133-313-9 – $22.95
ePUB: 978-1-77133-314-6 – $11.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-316-0 – $11.99

312 Pages
September 20, 2016

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Fans of A Prayer for Owen Meany and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest will love this clever, fast-paced and enjoyable thriller. Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Amelia Fisher attempts to carve out a ‘normal life’, showing us how mythic the idea of ‘normal’ really is. With a poetic genius for a father, an obsessed body builder for a mother, and an enchantingly eccentric group seeking the help of an unorthodox therapist, what could possibly go wrong? A chance discovery propels Amelia and fellow therapy attendee, Mike, with whom she is in love, into a life-threatening situation instigated by the crazed doctor’s own dark secret but Amelia’s psychosis saves the day. Told with warmth, humor and populated with vividly original characters, this sprint-paced novel has it all, from restraining orders to sex in office bathrooms, and a nail-biting ending. A novel about an unusual family, expected social norms and the twists and turns of getting it all slightly wrong, the consequences of which prove fatal for some.

“A playful exploration of human oddities, de Nikolits’s latest book asks: What are the consequences when we deviate from the norm? Centred around Amelia, a young woman who nearly gets things right in life—she catches the wrong bus or shows up on the wrong day—The Nearly Girl features a case of misfits who are all engaged in various forms of self-improvement. With her mother trying endlessly to improve her body and her tortured genius poet father always awaiting the voice of brilliance to speak to him, Amelia and her family are anything but ordinary. But perhaps the most compelling characters are found in Amelia’s therapy sessions, where hoarders, recluses and claustrophobes alike come together in an enchantingly eccentric group seeking the help of an unorthodox psychotherapist. Yet, we learn from de Nikolits, sometimes self-acceptance is better than change. The story builds with cinematic suspense and surprises, but one thing is for sure: The only crazy thing in this world is trying to be normal.” — Jill Buchner, Canadian Living Magazine

“In her latest novel, The Nearly Girl, Lisa de Nikolits takes us deep into the complex workings of an extraordinary mind. Amelia Fisher, the protagonist of de Nikolits’s latest offering, reminds readers of the importance of passion and adventure in a world that wishes to keep our wilder urges contained. Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Fisher’s attempts to carve out a ‘normal life’, take her to the fringes of social acceptability–showing us how mythic the idea of ‘normal’ really is. Through a story that surprises, page after page, The Nearly Girl will take readers on an unexpected adventure–where the lines between the rational and irrational are blurred. From hoarding to the fear of public speaking, this psychiatric thriller excavates the phobias, idiosyncrasies and character oddities that make us human at the core.”

—Andrea Thompson, author of Over Our Heads

“Playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote in 1881, “The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.” Lisa De Nikolits updates this cautionary observation in her latest book, as the reckless life choices of a young woman and her schizophrenic, acid-dropping mate are visited upon their daughter. Beautifully told, The Nearly Girl softens its sting with convivial depictions of Toronto bohemians, before revealing the ugly aftermath of people shipwrecked upon the foolish choices of youth. The Nearly Girl is as bleak and beautiful as the Rosedale Ravine after a hail storm.”

—Elaine Ash, editor of Walking the Dunes with Tennessee Williams

“A fast paced and illuminating story where endeavoring to conform to society’s perception of normal, exposes the masks of illusion. Amelia Fisher’s unconventional upbringing with an LSD addicted poet father and an emotionally distance body building mother leads her to attending sessions with a crazy doctor. Whose unorthodox method called D.T.O.T. – ‘Do the Opposite Thing’ has significant repercussions on his patients including Amelia. A chance discovery propels Amelia and fellow attendee, Mike with whom she is in love, are plunged into a life-threatening situation instigated by the doctor’s own dark secret. Hidden twists abound with growing tension culminating in a surprising ending.”

—Mandy Eve Barnett, published author & freelance writer

The Nearly Girl is completely mesmerizing! Lisa de Nikolits’ tale of family dysFUNction is chock full of comedy, drama and page turning suspense. Anyone who has ever felt alienated by the unwritten rules and norms of society will find a kindred spirit in Amelia, the “Nearly Girl” daughter of a female bodybuilder and a tortured poet, who believes that rainy days are just perfect for picnics on the beach and who fears that getting on the right bus will lead her to a dead end. Told with warmth, humor and populated with vividly original characters, The Nearly Girl illustrates the importance of keeping the magic in an increasingly corporate, cookie-cutter world.”

—Heather Babcock, author of Of Being Underground and Moving

“Amelia Fisher is a brilliant, beautiful, charming, young woman who should have the future and world brightly gift-wrapped in her slender hands. However, she has to reconnect with her acid-dropping, addle-headed father, Henry, a man she hasn’t seen since childhood. Then there is her cognitive therapy group led by the unconventional Dr. Carroll, a man whose methods are either genius, or deeply damaging. This sprint-paced novel has it all from restraining orders to sex in office bathrooms, and a nail-biting ending! Lisa de Nikolits’ skill is proven in this dynamic rapid page-turner which enchants and delights readers with suspense and unforeseen twists and surprises!”

—Michael Fraser, author of The Serenity of Stone

“In The Nearly Girl, Lisa de Nikolits, author of Between the Cracks She Fell, has created another memorable heroine. Amelia Fisher, who can never quite do what she should, is the nearly girl of the title. The daughter of two incredibly dysfunctional parents, Amelia is required to attend a therapy group to help with her problem. The group’s leader, Dr. Frances Carroll, is the most dysfunctional character of all. His mantra, Do The Opposite Thing, has disastrous results. A very funny book.”

—Lynne Murphy, contributing author to Thirteen O’Clock and The Whole She-Bang

The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits is a clever, fast-paced, and enjoyable read with a cast of quirky characters. They range from Henry the supremely creative poet to his estranged body-building wife and her reliable and loving mother, from the not-quite-right psychiatrist Dr. Carroll, who applies his unorthodox cognitive behaviourial therapy research called DTOT (do the opposite thing) to the lovable misfits who populate his required class. And then there’s Amelia, Henry’s daughter in so many ways, who attributes her inability to conform to the norms of society to her fear of being boringly normal. The novel traces Amelia’s life, from her eccentric childhood love of birthday parties outside in the freezing rain to her current predicament of having to take Dr. Carroll’s advice to retain the funding that finances her thesis on the unconventional Joan of Arc. In the course of escaping Dr. Carroll’s clutches–in more ways than one–Amelia discovers her true self and encourages the reader to do the same.”

—Gina Buonaguro, co-author of The Wolves of St. Peter’s

The Nearly Girl

Lisa de Nikolits is the award-winning author of five novels. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror won a 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal and was long-listed for a ReLit Award. West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal and was a Chatelaine Editor’s Pick. A Glittering Chaos won the 2014 Silver IPPY Silver Medal. The Witchdoctor’s Bones was published in 2014, and Between The Cracks She Fell was an IPPY Bronze Medal winner in 2015. Canadian Living magazine declared Between The Cracks She Fell “a must-read book of 2015.” Lisa is a member of the Mesdames of Mayhem as well as a member of the Crime Writers of Canada, the Sisters in Crime, Toronto Chapter and the International Thriller Writers. She lives and works in Toronto.

I pushed my way into the café, cursing the November rain, cursing my glasses for steaming up, cursing my umbrella for showering my legs with icy droplets and cursing the client who had moved our meeting back by two hours.

“Here, we’re over here,” one of my colleagues called out and she waved. I recognized her more by her voice than her vaselined outline and I stumbled towards their table.

“I hate this month,” I grumbled, trying to balance my umbrella against the wall but it stubbornly fell against me, making sure it transferred all its residual water onto
my kneecaps.

Spencer, my boss, handed me a paper napkin and I dried my glasses. “I got you your usual,” he said, pointing at a teapot.

“That’s black tea,” I said, sniffing the tea. “I drink green tea. And when have you ever seen me eat a chocolate chip cookie? You know gluten makes me ill. How many years have we worked together? You can’t remember green tea and gluten free?”

“You’re so grumpy,” Spencer noted. “I nearly got it right.” He leaned over and took my cookie.

“You just wanted it for yourself,” I accused him and he laughed.

I took his latte and put the tea in front of him. “Here you go, Mr. Nearly,” I said and then I stopped as something occurred to me and I could vaguely hear Spencer objecting to the exchange but I was trying to bring a distant memory to the forefront of my mind.

“Earth to Jen, earth to Jen,” Spencer repeated, and he snapped his fingers in front of my face, a habit he knows I hate.

“I’m trying to remember something,” I said. “The nearly girl, that’s what they called her. The nearly girl. I went to university with her. She had this weird disorder and they made all kind of allowances for her because of it. She was doing her thesis on Joan of Arc, I remember that too. Whoa, I haven’t thought about her in years.”

I took a satisfying slug of Spencer’s latte and sat back. “She would have loved this weather,” I said. “She used to go the beach on days like this. In a t-shirt. She didn’t feel the cold and she never got sick either. I liked her but it was hard to be friends with her because she was so unreliable. Like you’d try to make a plan and then she would get on the wrong bus at the right station, and she’d never show up. Or she’d take the right bus but she’d show up on the wrong day.”

“Was she an anarchist?” Ana, the sales rep on our team asked and I shook my head.

“No, it was a real psychological disorder. She had been diagnosed.

6 reviews for The Nearly Girl

  1. inannaadmin

    Established Fiction
    The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits
    reviewed by David Staines
    Univeristy of Toronto Quarterly Volume 87 Issue 3, Summer 2018

    Finally, attention should be paid to Toronto’s Inanna Publications in the realm of the novel. Although their books are not yet major works, Inanna’s commitment to quality reveals fiction that is highly individual and worth reading. In The Nearly Girl, for example, Lisa de Nikolits offers a fast-paced account of a young woman, the nearly girl of the title, whose parents are dysfunctional. From the opening sentence, ‘‘Megan met Henry at a poetry reading one early October evening,’’ the story follows their love and their conception of Amelia, who, as she grows up, cannot conform to the norms of society. The novel offers convivial depictions of the bohemians of Toronto.

  2. inannaadmin

    Esprit de Corps – The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits
    reviewed by Dorothy F. Lane
    Canadian Literature – 234 Eclectic Mix

    The theories of esprit de corps and zeitgeist emerge in Lisa de Nikolits’ The Nearly Girl, although the emphases and approaches to identity and connection are distinct in each novel…

    …Neither book is as compelling or successful as de Nikolits’ satirical, yet tender, examination of personalities, families, and group dynamics.

  3. inannaadmin

    The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits
    reviewed by Fran Lewis
    Just reviews/MJ magazine – January 10, 2017

    Sometimes having a normal life comes with a high price. What is normal to someone might not be the same to you as Amelia Fisher takes us back in time to understand how her parents met and why you might wonder how if she did turned out normal. Her father, Henry is a poetic genius who fell in love at first sight with her mother Megan. At first they might seem suited for each other but things change, romances fizzle out and priorities swing in a different direction. While Megan her mother insists that Henry is her perfect match discounting the times he disappears, does not show up or appears to have some type of mental disconnections, Megan her mother after giving birth to her, decided to become a bodybuilder leaving her child with her parents. Needing a mental professional to help guide this group what they get is someone unorthodox who might make it worse. Going to these meetings Amelia is being taught how to cope with life situations but instead is she is propelled into many life-threatening situations instigated by a therapist that is so outlandish, so not by the book and might cause some of the attendees to do bodily harm to themselves or others. Mike, one of the attendees is her rock and who she falls for and many who have secrets that when uncovered will either make them fall further into mental depression or finally realize that the help they are getting is detrimental to their therapy. Meeting her parents and her grandfather we learn that Henry has a strong connection to him and is able to work, cope and deal with even Amelia as long as he is around. But, life is not perfect and when he dies Henry falls deeper and deeper within himself even though his fame soars and his work becomes more well- renowned. The author brings to light the many difficulties some face when fame comes too fast, when rash decisions are made and when two people who thought they were destined to be together might find out that they are not. Twists, surprises and some consequences can prove deadly as Amelia tells her story.

    When her mother tries to reason with Megan and hope that she might find her way back to Amelia, father and daughter bond, Ethel and her daughter Megan, two mothers come from two different worlds. Added in there is one character who attends therapy they commits suicide, a hoarder who commits suicide by fire or arson burning her stash or her entire apartment of stuff, and the sex in the bathroom between two attendees sends readers on a roller coaster ride wondering what will happen each time these people meet for therapy.

    Everyone is different and we often find ourselves not fitting into the norm that others have created for us or for themselves. Author Lisa de Nikolitis brings to light a novel that deals with the definition of what is normal and how does one work with a therapist that is destructive yet claiming he knows best. Each one of us has our own egos; eccentricities and each one of us are different with different breaking points. As we get to know Megan better we are frustrated at her selfishness, self-absorbed behavior and her desire to be noticed, accepted and be thought of as beautiful and perfect.

    Henry is an award-winning poet that Megan falls for as I said at a poetry reading. Not using any kind of judgment, not really thinking about the future or down the road she becomes obsessed with this famous yet insecure man. Forgetting her birth control pills is what sets this novel on a downward spiral for Megan and having Amelia created resentment as everyone loves her and thinks she is amazing. Making it worse she emulates her father and has many of his positive traits. Added in Henry needs medication because he hears voices, writes his poems and although ho one really comprehends his words they applaud and cheer. He is never cold, nor is Amelia, leaves at unusual times and disappears even for years. A genius or something else you the reader decide?

    Amelia is a strong character that manages to battle through it all despite her parents and her life. Normal is boring, therapy might bring to light that she is normal after you meet the rest of the group. Her mother disowns her, his own parents who think him odd disown her father and they are socially correct and perfect. Hurt, fear, sadness, losing control of oneself and not really understanding who each of these characters are as individuals are what drives this plot to an unusual conclusion. Will Amelia wind up with Mike? Will she realize that her path needs to be her own? What happens when she realizes that she takes the same route everyday and decides to take a different bus but might get lost?

    Without Ed, Megan’s father, Henry was lost. Dr. Carroll is completely out of his mind and Amelia was trying to find her own way. When Mike joins the family with Amelia will Megan accept him and what are his impressions of her family? Her father killed by a drunk driver. Her mother in a state of shock and Megan thinking parents don’t die they come home. Henry frightened as to who would care for him dependent on Ed to forge ahead. His own resort was to escape once more as Amelia deals with Dr. Carroll, her relationship with her mother who is now smoking again, found herself someone else that she finds interesting and has become so immersed in physical fitness to the exclusion of anything else. The ending is quite compelling and the story goes on as someone finally realizes that Amelia is THEIR NEARLY GIRL AND LOVED BUT BY WHOM?

    The story will evoke many emotions of sadness, anger, frustration, tears and joy with a touch of sarcasm, humor and a hint of the unknown as the unexpected often happens just when you think you have figured it out. Where they all wind up and their fate: Read the epilogue to find out. Interesting characters and a plot that is uniquely crafted and will keep you wondering what will the ending bring.

  4. inannaadmin

    The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits
    guest reviewed by Sheryl Gordon
    The Miramichi Reader – December 2, 2016

    The Nearly Girl is a quirky exploration into people’s peculiarities and is absolutely riveting to read.

    Amelia, the novel’s young protagonist, signs up for group therapy to assuage her teenage angst; she feels like an outcast and just yearns to be normal. Like most young adults, Amelia thinks she has been marred by her parent’s foibles. Her father, Henry, is an acclaimed, outré poet with preternaturally dark tendencies and her mother, Megan, is an aloof, withdrawn woman who shirks all parental responsibilities—finding solace in suntan booths and the gym instead.

    In the group, Amelia meets a motley crew of characters with a panoply of idiosyncrasies: an obsessive hoarder, someone with anger management issues, a business entrepreneur who can’t speak in public, etc. To overcome their issues, Dr Frances Carroll, the group’s unorthodox psychotherapist, urges them to D.T.O.T (Do The Opposite Thing). Like the chorus of a song, D.T.O.T becomes the group’s mantra—their incantation. Rather than helping them, however, D.T.O.T turns out to have very deleterious, even deathly effects. The novel culminates when Dr Carroll’s true colours start splattering off the pages like a Jackson Pollock painting: Chaos! Bedlam! Insanity! The climax of the book, these thrilleresque scenes are wildly entertaining and incredibly intoxicating. Discovering why Dr. Carroll has become so unhinged is also adrenaline, swift page-pumping stuff.

    To survive Dr Carroll’s twisted plot and persona, Amelia—ironically—will have to harness and embrace her unique traits. To successfully pull it off, she’ll also need the love and support of her zany family and friends.

    While therapy is typically designed to help people sort out their feelings, The Nearly Girl questions—might even mock—said practice. Ultimately, The Nearly Girl finds strength in her own perceived weaknesses. Everyone should nearly be as lucky.

    This has been a guest review by Sheryl Gordon, curator of the book A Rewording Life. To learn more about Sheryl and her popular book, please visit: http://www.arewordinglife.com
    The Miramichi Reader interview with Sheryl: http://miramichireader.ca/2015/12/sheryl-gordon-interview/

  5. inannaadmin

    The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits
    reviewed by Maria Siassina
    This Magazine – November 3, 2016

    De Nikolits’ novel reads like a movie. It’s fast-paced and filled with colourful, loud characters, but Amelia is certainly the stand-out. Her fascination with the unusually beautiful fuels her need to prove that she, like her father, required an unorthodox way of living to truly be happy.

    The Nearly Girl is brimming with bright story lines and vivid themes. The story becomes a commentary on life through the artist’s mind and the impermanence of happiness.

  6. inannaadmin

    The Nearly Girl by Lisa de Nikolits
    reviewed by Anna Killen
    Beach Metro – September 26, 2016

    “It’s fair to say your reviewer was in a romantic mood while reading The Nearly Girl – on a flight back from to Toronto after a weekend wedding in Vancouver, full of salty Pacific Ocean air, nostalgia, and maybe a glass of white wine. But that doesn’t change the fact that the novel’s author, Lisa de Nikolits, knows how to capture that spark we call “love at first sight”. And not just love at first sight between lovers – although there are several tingly moments of that sort of connection – but the lesser examined spark that is instant comfort between family members and friends.

    Not that love, or love at first sight, even, is the central theme of this novel, which is most of all an exploration of several peculiar and compelling characters and the increasingly frantic – and funny – situations they find themselves in.

    These characters – a barefoot beatnik poet dad, a bodybuilding mom, a terrifying Trump-esque therapist, and a quirky, unconventional heroine, among many – twist and turn their way through therapy and life, taking the reader on a welcome journey into madness and self-reflection.

    Fast-paced and difficult to pin down, genre-wise, De Nikolits’s sixth book is as charming and eclectic as her cast of characters, and would make for a fun fall read. “

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