three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-The GriftDebra Ginsberg is best known for her three memoirs: Waiting, Raising Blaze, and About My Sisters. Her previous novel is Blind Submission ( 3 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2007).

The Story: Marina Marks started working as a psychic, forced into the "grift" (a swindle) by her junkie mother, as a child. Although a psychic told her mother that Marina had "the gift," Marina believes it is her well-developed powers of observation that have allowed her to make a good living telling people about themselves and their futures. Then, after a move from Florida to San Diego, some unusual things happen: Marina falls in love for the first time, she finds herself in physical danger, and she begins to have clairvoyant visions of a murder.
Shaye Areheart. 352 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0307382729

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Ms. Ginsberg shows a remarkable capacity to inhabit the minds and motives of others, her mental camera panning impressively to take in not only a lead character or two but extras as well . … The Grift is a gift with no strings attached, no dark outcome to dread, a satisfying voyeuristic vision of a mysterious stranger’s supernaturally charged fortunes." Liesl Schillinger

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s a challenge to write convincingly about a psychic. Ginsberg succeeds in making Marina and even her needy clients seem human. … An interesting read from the psychic side of the crystal ball, with sleazy characters and some good twists." Christine Jacques

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] compelling second novel. … The Grift isn’t so much a mystery as a story about a woman forced to take a hard look at herself and find the courage to change." Diane White

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The kinder, gentler Marina in the second half of the book skirts just a little too close to a classic romance novel heroine. The Grift redeems itself … by hinting at a larger question. How do we really feel about the truth?" Kay Severinsen

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"Ginsberg smoothly sketches captivatingly flawed characters, but the whodunit tends to take a backseat to who’s-dating-who." Paul Katz

Critical Summary

Ginsberg’s novel mixes crime, romance, and the amusing question: What happens when a con-artist psychic actually develops psychic powers? The sympathetic treatment of a psychic, who may actually have "the gift" whether or not she believes in it or wants it, proved to be a tricky issue for reviewers, despite good reviews across the board. And any reviewer who found a grifter distasteful was won over by Ginsberg’s ability to make Marina a fully developed, convincing character capable of change and growth. A few critics cited Marina’s vision—and the personality change she undergoes—as a little clichéd, but readers willing to approach the novel with an open mind will recognize that Marina is as much a victim of The Grift as any of her clients.