Review: The Grift by Debra Ginsberg

Marina Marks is a fake psychic. She developed a keen ability to read people as a method of self-preservation – it helped her survive her drug-addicted mother and the string of shady boyfriends that hung around them. Her mother stuck a deck of tarot cards in Marina’s hand and she became a revenue stream, one more way to scrape the money together for another buy. And it protected Marina:

“Her razor-sharp powers of observation and her natural talent with her mother’s worn-out set of tarot cards saved Marina from molestation on more than one occasion, because while these men were too morally impaired to see the wrong in having sex with a girl her age, they were too scared to attempt the same thing with a freaky little witch. At least, most of them felt that way.”

Marina has turned her self-preservation into a lucrative career: she provides “intuitive counseling” to rich people who need to fill up their empty lives. She has her own guiding principles – she never gets emotionally involved with her clients, she doesn’t mind taking their money but she never drains them completely – but she breaks those rules twice and she pays dearly for it. In Florida, desperate to get away, she makes a mistake with a client. Although she tries to make good, it’s already too late. But when she opens her heart to a man she meets through her work, strange things begin to happen.

One of the things I found most interesting in the book is the way we get to see the damage Marina does, without meaning to. She gives her clients what they want – she reads their body language, absorbs their subtle clues and uses her understanding of human nature (including its darker aspects) to discern their situation and point them in the direction they want to go. The problem is that she gives them sonething to cling to, tells them that the universe has endorsed their idea. So when she tells a young man that this time he has found true love, he clings to it desperately. He clings to it no matter how hard the object of his affection pushes him away, to the point of destroying himself. She gives him an excuse to follow a terribly self-destructive path.

Marina meets an unusual man and unusual things begin to happen: she finds that she’s no longer faking it. She sees things. She knows things. And she doesn’t know how to deal with it. This is unlike anything in her experience.

“That Marina was now having visions that could be considered psychic and that those visions were not only unregulated and indecipherable but ruining her business as a psychic created a kind of cognitive dissonance within Marina that was impossible to reconcile.”

But she needs to come to grips with it quickly, because suddenly there is a lot at stake.

The Grift was an engaging read – it moved quickly and drew you into Marina’s story. She is thinks of herself as damaged, but she is really a survivor. She overcame a terrible childhood and made a life for herself. When her grift becomes her gift, you really hope that she can pull herself together.

My copy of The Grift was an Advanced Reader Copy; get your copy from

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