Amelia Fisher suffers from a rare psychosis. She nearly gets things right but when it comes to accepted behaviours and general societal norms, she fails dismally.
Her genetics are largely to blame and the first half of the book explores her lineage; her father, Henry, is a poetic genius, obsessed with the laws of propositional logic which he attempts to disprove in his acclaimed lyrical rants. He ingests large quantities of LSD in an effort to ‘balance’ his vision of the world and succeeds in having a nervous breakdown and he vanishes for a large part of Amelia’s life. He returns later to play a pivotal role as a mentor and friend in her young adulthood.
Amelia’s mother, Megan, falls hopelessly in love with Henry at a poetry reading but she becomes overwhelmed by bitterness at his inability to sustain any kind of normalized marriage and she turns to body building and tanning salons for solace.
Ethel and Ed, Amelia’s grandparents, are her true nurturers.
In the second part of the book, Amelia is instructed to attend therapy or risk losing her welfare funding; she needs to demonstrate that she is at least trying to improve.
She signs up for twelve weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy headed up by the spectacularly unorthodox and ground-breaking psychiatrist, Dr. Frances Carroll.
Dr. Frances Carroll is small, somewhat ferret-like and fiercely charismatic. He brings his own addition to the traditional therapies of C.B.T.; D.T.O.T.
D.T.O.T. is the acronym for Do The Opposite Thing and it is this to which the determined doctor passionately subscribes; cure yourself of your fears and phobias by employing the opposite action.
Amelia joins a group of anxiety-ridden depressives including Alexei, a blonde giant Russian with anger-management issues; Whitney, a fear-ridden housewife who finds release in sex with strangers; Angelina, who has a morbid fear of doctors and a hidden secret – she’s a hoarder who shares her house with dozens of ever-multiplying rabbits.
Amelia falls in love with earnest and beautiful Mike who aspires to be the next Steve Jobs but he has a paralyzing fear of public speaking.
Five weeks into the sessions, Amelia discovers, by nearly taking the right bus, that Dr. Carroll, in his quest for order, peace and neatness, is keeping his family locked up and drugged; his wife, son and daughter.
Amelia tries to tell Henry but he’s in a funk. Ethel is ill and in hospital and so she tells Mike who believes her but before they can do anything about it, the group spins out of control with Angelina taking her own life because she misinterprets Dr. Carroll’s advice.
Amelia and Mike decide to take matters into their own hands (since all their efforts to communicate go unheard), but they are discovered snooping by Dr. Carroll who succeeds in drugging them.
Their fatal end appears to be unavoidable, however, Amelia is not affected by the drugs in the same way as the others; her metabolism (which also can feel neither heat nor cold), keeps her level-headed and alert despite much of her body is paralyzed.
In a twist of events, just as Dr. Carroll is plotting their demise, Amelia convinces him to do the opposite thing and turn himself into the police — a proud and unapologetic protagonist of the theories which he holds so proud. He thereby sticks to his therapies to the last and ends up in prison, a cult leader of D.T.O.T., with his own reality TV show and the author of many books.
Amelia triumphs and although she and Mike do not end up together, she lives her life to the fullest and does everything she’s wants to — well, nearly.
Early Reader Reviews
A Clever, Fast-paced and Enjoyable Read
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 behavioural 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 Story Builds With Cinematic Suspense and Surprise
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 only nearly gets things right in life—she catches the wrong bus or shows up on the wrong day—The Nearly Girl features a cast 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
This Psychiatric Thriller Takes Readers On An Unexpected Adventure
In her latest novel, the The Nearly Girl, Lisa de Nikolitis 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, Over Our Heads
A Story That Enchants and Delights, With Suspense and Unforeseen Twists and Surprises!
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 Nikolets’ skill is proven in this dynamic rapid page-turner which enchants and delights readers with suspense and unforeseen twists and surprises! – Michael Fraser, The Serenity of Stone
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, Of Being Underground and Moving
A Very Funny Book
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 The Whole-She Bang and Thirteen O'Clock by the Mesdames of Mayhem
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, drug-addled mate are visited upon their daughter. Beautifully told, THE NEARLY GIRL softens its sting with convivial depictions of Toronto bohemians, before revealing the 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, WALKING THE DUNES WITH TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
A Fast-paced and Illuminating Story
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
A Fast-paced and Comical Drama with an Ending Worth Waiting For
Captured from the first page you are taken on a rollercoaster ride of suspense, heartfelt compassion, humor and moments of annoyance for what first appears to be inconsiderate and disrespectful behaviour Amelia’s part. Then you find out she suffers from a genetic imbalance passed down from her father combined with extremist traits of her mom.
Due to unexpected humour throughout this book you become attached to this woman, her struggles and even begin to see her amazingness. After years of accepting her fate as her cross to bear she begins to enjoy the freedom from life’s responsibilities it gives her…until she can do so no longer…with the threat of financial assistance being cut off. Necessity pushes her to try to take charge of her life and illness with a unique new therapy called D.T.O.T. (Do The Opposite Thing). Pretty easy to predict the outcome, right? Not at all!
The fast-paced comical drama & antics of dysfunction within family and “family of choice” (friends/co-counselling buddies) leads into an unexpected turn of events when she and her current boyfriend stumble upon her trusted doctor’s secretive and very dark home life. This puts them both in grave danger and the rest you have to “read to believe”. An ending worth waiting for.
– Carolyn Shannon, Women of Worth (Online) Magazine.com
Presenting the book at the Ontario Librarians Superconference in Toronto, January 28th. The book was very well received!
Reading from The Nearly Girl at the Albert Park Library, with the Mesdames of Mayhem, August 17th 2016
Centre pic: Larry Kosowan
Fantastic East Coast Tour for The Nearly Girl! 29th Sept - 8th October. I made new friends, sold books and had a blast!
Word On The Street, 25th September 2016 - such a great event!
I will be reading at the Mount Pleasant Library on 18th October 2016 with the Mesdames of Mayhem.
Tuesday, 15th November 2016 - reading at the Annette Street Library
NOT WHAT THEY SEEM -- the stories, intrigue and other possibilities that underlie lives, cottages, history, and burlesque! Featuring Lisa de Nikolits, John Oughton, Heather Babcock, Terri Favro and Rosemary McCracken.
Where: 145 Annette Street, Toronto, ON M6P 1P3
When: 6.30 - 8.30
Where: 599 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON, M4S 2M5
When: 6.30 - 8.30
Reading at The Urban Folk Art Salon, 24th November 2016
Mount Pleasant Library presents, Urban Folk Art Salon. With host Gannon Hamilton; featuring poets, singers and songwriters.
Where: 599 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON, M4S 2M5
When: 6.00 - 8.00
"I melted into this tender telling - how I love the five root characters and their essentially very gentle relationships yet truths are squarely dealt with and seemingly unlikely characters reach out with touching trust, displaying startlingly delicate and unexpected depths of understanding of each other and truly soulful acceptance the solidarity and structure of this evolving family structure is so beautifully told, their very evident vulnerability which never becomes naivety, the generous innate instincts to soothe and smooth along with entirely realistic and earthy responses to inevitable uncertainties and upheavals and the facing of rueful facts squarely.
This intense tale is threaded through with integrity and illuminated with wry humour and marvellous responses. I revelled in the consistency and loving spirits of Ed and Ethel and their flexibility born of love and embracement of their Megan and this love which flowed outward and extended to Henry and Amelia.
I enjoyed the sense of authenticity, this examining of wistful and brutal facets of human ties. I loved the interlacing of needy and nurturing elements, the quirky being readily embraced and cherished, along with pukka down-to-earth reactions and responses all interwoven gloriously and seamlessly, the expressions of yearning and frustration of trust at times turned to disgust. Throughout this story i really cared about this clan, enthralled by the many layers and levels of their very evident ties and bonds and the coming to terms of given situations, the tackling of the fragile and the tough edges of self and others.
Amelia, dearly loved and immensely loveable, reared with robust but varied roots and shoots thus sparking the development of this passionate compassionate deeply instinctual and enquiring being, teetering at times but ultimately and stoically steering her foibles into fabulous individuality, her daring and endearing tenacity and frankness. Amelia's nearly-ness draws her into a somewhat raucous therapy group and subsequently lured into a racy darkly tinged adventure. A wonderful, marvellous read."
“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. “ – Anna Killen, Beach Metro
A wonderful review of The Nearly Girl in the Beach Metro!