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All his victims, Enitan says, described themselves as divorced or widowed. Ideally, the prospective victim makes the first move. Grooming the victim begins in the second stage. After learning everything he can about his target, he would launch a campaign of love notes and gifts. It feels like the universe is manifesting my perfect partner right before my very eyes. Prayers answered and yes it does seem like we have known each other a long time.

Amy wrote that seven days after receiving the first message from Dwayne. They were on the phone for hours every day at this point. His was the first voice she heard in the morning, and the last before bed. Typically, Amy would talk and text with him until about 11 a. Around 8 p. In their emails, they filled pages with minutiae about their lives — her upcoming holiday trip to Sarasota, Florida, with a girlfriend; his visit to a textile museum in Kuala Lumpur.

Mixed amid this were Dwayne's increasingly ardent declarations of affection:. Last night, in my dreams, I saw you on the pier. The wind was blowing through your hair, and your eyes held the fading sunlight. Florid passages like that did not spring from Dwayne's imagination.

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He cribbed them from the Internet. Still, on Amy those words cast a powerful spell. That's how she thinks of it now — it was like a switch flicked in her head. She'd been in love before. But this was different, a kind of manic euphoria. Are you real? Will you appear someday. Or are you just a beautiful, exotic dream … if you are … I don't want to wake up! At the core of every romance scam is the relationship itself, a fiction so improbable that most of us initially marvel in disbelief: How do you fall in love — really fall in love — with someone you never meet?

Until the term "catfishing" crept into the vernacular, love affairs with digital impostors were little-known phenomena. The term comes from the documentary film Catfish , about a man with a girlfriend who, we learn, does not exist; it later inspired an MTV series. Pretending to be someone else online is a social media parlor game among some young people. But Amy had never seen the show or heard the term; she had no idea the practice was so common. Computer-mediated relationships, she says, can be "hyperpersonal — more strong and intimate than physical relationships.

Research has shown that certain personality types are particularly vulnerable to romance scams. Unsurprisingly, age is a factor: Not only are older victims more likely to lose larger sums of money, there's evidence that our ability to detect deception declines with age. But when she surveyed scam victims in the U. These people tended to describe themselves as romantics and risk takers, believers in fate and destiny.

Many, like Amy, were survivors of abusive relationships. Women were actually slightly less likely to be scammed than men — but were far more likely to report and talk about it. The other term that Amy would later learn is "love bombing. In both situations, the victim's defenses are broken down by exhaustion, social isolation and an overwhelming amount of attention.

Amy would later describe the feeling as akin to being brainwashed. This is the painstaking grooming process that Enitan calls "taking the brain. When she came home from her trip to Florida over the holidays, Amy found a bouquet of flowers waiting for her, and a note:.

Not long after this, slightly less than a month since his first contact, Dwayne brought up his money troubles. But some components he purchased from Hong Kong were stuck in customs. He didn't need money, he assured her — he had a hefty trust fund in the U. But he couldn't use his funds to cover the customs fees. And he couldn't come back to Virginia until he finished the job.

After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir

He was stuck. So, if there was any way Amy could help him out, he'd pay her back when he returned to the States. When Amy asked for proof of his identity, Dwayne sent copies of his passport and financial documents. All were fake. Finally, Dwayne set a day for his flight home and emailed his itinerary.


He'd be there January Amy even bought tickets for their first real date — a Latin dance concert in a nearby city that night. And she told her brothers and her friends that they would finally get to meet this mystery boyfriend. But first, another problem came up: He had to pay his workers. She had the money. And Dwayne knew it. Not exactly how much, perhaps. But he knew she owned her home and two other properties. He knew that her mother and husband had recently died. And he knew she was in love. January 25 came and went. A new problem delayed him; Amy took one of her friends to the concert.

Dwayne apologized profusely and sent her more flowers, again with the promise to pay her back. Soon, he needed more money. This part of the con follows a familiar pattern. The scammer promises a payoff — a face-to-face meeting — that forever recedes as crises and logistical barriers intervene. As February wore on, Amy was still telling friends that Dwayne was coming in a matter of days or weeks.

But she never mentioned the money she was lending him. It's not that she was intentionally misleading anyone. Petition online dating sites to help stop scammers. She'd get it back as soon as he came, of course. When doubt started to creep into her mind, she would look at his pictures or read his messages. Still, almost in spite of herself, she wondered. Little things seemed odd. Sometimes, out of the blue, he'd fire off a series of rapid-fire instant messages—"oh baby i love you" and so forth.

It felt almost like she was talking to someone else. Another time, she asked what he had for dinner and was surprised to hear his answer—stir-fried chicken. To her relief, she got a photo moments later. There he was, sitting on a bench in the sun on the other side of the world. Psychologists call this "confirmation bias" — if you love someone, you look for reasons they are telling the truth, not reasons they are lying. We tend to find what we are looking for. And Amy was looking, desperately, for reasons to trust Dwayne, because the money was really adding up.

Besides, he'd be there on February She planned to make dinner for him that first night. She bought all his favorite foods — fresh salmon, sourdough bread, a nice Merlot. The trip would take more than a day: He had to fly to Beijing, then Chicago, and finally connect to Virginia. He'd call her as soon as he got to Chicago. His last message was a brief text that he said he sent from the airport in Kuala Lumpur. Then, when the day finally came, Amy's phone remained silent, despite her efforts to get in touch.

Something must have gone wrong. Why hadn't he called or texted her back? He always called. She tried to tamp down the pinpricks of panic. When she collapsed into bed that night, she thought about how this had been the first day in almost three months that they hadn't spoken. Dwayne finally contacted Amy three days later. He sent a single text. Something about being held up by immigration at the airport in Kuala Lumpur and needing money to bribe the officials. This was the third time that Dwayne had failed to show, the third last-minute catastrophe.

Still, she wired him the money. Amy's sister-in-law was the first to figure it out. Phil show, in which the TV therapist confronted two women who claimed to be engaged to men they'd met online. Amy watched in growing horror. This was the same Beijing-bound route Dwayne had planned to be on earlier.

As the story of the vanished airliner filled the airwaves, Amy couldn't help but worry that Dwayne had been aboard — maybe he'd managed to take a later flight? Finally, he called her. But the call went to her home landline, not the mobile phone she'd been using.

After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir by Christina McDowell

They spoke for only a few moments before it broke up. She was relieved but also disturbed — and curious. Something was different. A question that Yagoda never really explores is why, now in particular, there seems to be so much blurring between reality and fiction.

Reality itself is a term that is rapidly being devalued. This craving on the part of audiences for real-life displays of increasingly extreme emotion over, say, the carefully rehearsed emotions that are provided to us when we go to the theatre or to the movies surely stems from the rise, in the seventies, of talk shows whose hosts put ordinary people and their problems in the spotlight: first, Phil Donahue and, later, Sally Jessy Raphael and Montel Williams. These TV shows helped create and promulgate the wider culture of self-discussion and self-exposure without which the recent flurry of memoir-writing and reading would be unthinkable.

More important for the history of the memoir, they created a context for the huge popularity of Oprah Winfrey, who has used her show as a platform for people to tell—or, in the case of authors, to sell—their remarkable life stories; and who has, not coincidentally, fallen prey to more than one fraud.

More significant, the premium placed by these shows on the spontaneous expression of genuine and extreme emotions has justified setups that are all too obviously unreal—in a word, fictional. This awkward blurring of the real and the artificial both parallels and feeds off another dramatic confusion: that between private and public life. The Internet bears crucial witness to a factor that Yagoda discusses in the context of the explosion of memoirs in the seventeenth century when changes in printing technology and paper production made publication possible on a greater scale than before : the way that advances in media and means of distribution can affect the evolution of the personal narrative.

The greatest outpouring of personal narratives in the history of the planet has occurred on the Internet; as soon as there was a cheap and convenient means to do so, people enthusiastically paid to disseminate their autobiographies, commentaries, opinions, and reviews, happily assuming the roles of both author and publisher. In the street or in the blogosphere, there are no editors, no proofreaders, and no fact-checkers—the people at whom we can at least point an accusing finger when the old-fashioned kind of memoir betrays us.

And yet sometimes memoir may be the only way to cover a subject effectively. The book was meant be a more or less straightforward examination of the way in which the books, movies, and art that gay people were producing, and the way they partied, shopped, travelled, and dined, reflected gay identity. The gist is that a seemingly inborn desire on the part of Homo sapiens for coherent narratives, for meaning, often warps the way we remember things. The psychologist F. Bartlett, whom Yagoda quotes without discussing his work, once conducted an experiment in which people were told fables into which illogical or non-sequitur elements had been introduced; when asked to repeat the tales, they omitted or smoothed over the anomalous bits.

More recently, graduate students who were asked to recall what their anxiety level had been before an important examination consistently exaggerated that anxiety. As I interviewed survivors from the same small town where my great-uncle had not survived, I asked not only about my relatives and what might have happened to them but about the tiniest details of life before, during, and after the war: what they ate for breakfast, who their middle-school teachers were, how and where they spent their school holidays.

I was sitting next to my brother Matt, a photographer, who was shooting portraits of the survivors we were interviewing, and about halfway through the flight some kids toward the back of the plane—a high-school choir, I think it was—began singing a seventies pop song in unison. Matt turned to me with an amused expression. I looked at him in astonishment.

Now it was his turn to be astonished. Matt was talking about a shared history from —a comparatively recent past. I thought about this, and burst out laughing. Then I went home and wrote the book. Forty years later, the only way he could ease his guilt was to write about it: This burden, then, has lain unalleviated on my conscience until this very day; and I can safely say that the desire to be in some measure relieved of it has greatly contributed to the decision I have taken to write my confessions.

Or someone was sobbing uncontrollably while strings of snot slimed down their chest. There were too many of these disgusting descriptions too often which did not add to the story. I also was disgusted by the author's actions, she lied, cheated, stole, slept with multiple boyfriends and seemed to lack any kind of integrity or self-respect or shame. Her sex scenes were ugly to me: " Chad jackhammering his entire body against my lungs The author wrote passionately about all this unpleasantness and seemed to relish negativity and evil.

The last two chapters seemed written by an entirely different person. She met a woman named Amalia who took her to speak to prisoners. Then the author wrote a "goodby" letter to her dad and revisited her childhood home. We are supposed to believe that these incidents corrected her and she is now suddenly normal.

The last chapters were unemotional, logical and lacked the passion expressed for all the former sordid ugliness and negativity. The last two chapters showed the author as a normal person with character and integrity. She wants us to believe that she, as the irresponsible person for most of her life in most of the book, finally suddenly quit misbehaving and started taking responsibility and is now a writer.

I think she may have greatly embellished the ugliness she wrote about since the person in all of the book except the last two chapters was so deeply flawed with such severe ingrained personality disorders that she could not possibly have just became suddenly sane. I did not believe this story "memoir"? This is a disgusting, unhappy and sad book. View 2 comments. Apr 22, Erin rated it really liked it Shelves: biography-memoir , nonfiction , arc-review.

ARC for review. First off let me say that there may be readers who dislike this book from the "Yeah, cry me a river about your privileged childhood when there are orphans eating garbage in Calcutta" and while I can totally understand that reaction, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated this memoir of Christina McDowell, nee Prousalis, the daughter of a man convicted of and imprisoned for insider trading in that it allows us to see the collateral damage these sorts of actions leave behind.

Christi ARC for review. Christina and sisters Mara and Chloe grew up incredibly privileged in the wealthy suburbs of Washington, D. Her father Tom was an attorney specializing in IPOs and he made millions Christina and one sister were in college Christina hoped to be an actress which leads to some interesting name dropping and a long-time friendship with actress Emma nee Emily Stone , while Chloe was still at home, and we see the entire take down, from investigation, to arrest, to trial. Then the family loses everything and Prousalis's parents only compound the problems by taking out debts in HER name.

When her father is released the lies continue, but Christina, her sisters and her mother are all used to having men in their lives to care for everything - and in some degrees that continues. Essentially although all these women are technically "adults" none are able to cope without the dual cushions of a man and money to care for them and we watch all of them fall apart in various ways over the years. Want to read a modern-day, true-life Dominick Dunne story gone bad? This is the book for you. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

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View 1 comment. Dec 07, Lucinda rated it it was ok. I thought this young woman was overly dramatic and a slow learner. So she grew up in a privileged family and nobody ever taught her how to manage finances, how long does it take to learn? She sold it good move and proceeded to blow every cent on non-essentials! Nothing put aside for rent, no dental check-ups, no repaying her friends generosities - just blew through it. This was after she had been on her own and barely scraping I thought this young woman was overly dramatic and a slow learner.

This was after she had been on her own and barely scraping by. What did she not understand? She had no money for food, but always had a cell phone, and at one point flew back to DC for a friend's party. Sorry for your loss, Christina, but you needed to buck up a lot quicker! Couldn't muster up much sympathy. I did feel her mother could have been more supportive. She did not grow up with the privileges that Christina enjoyed for 18 years.

She should have had enough common sense to help her girls through the transition. She did not. Dec 02, Judith rated it did not like it. Such an interesting premise: the author is the daughter of a man who was like "The Wolf of Wall Street" and she tells her side of the story here.

It's a fascinating look at what it's like to be raised in extravagant luxury till the day it ends in fraud charges, loss, disgrace, and jail. I really enjoyed this true story but eventually had to give up on the book because the writing was too irritating. Sentences like this: "Far from the life my parents had built, and it created a ripple of resentme Such an interesting premise: the author is the daughter of a man who was like "The Wolf of Wall Street" and she tells her side of the story here. Sentences like this: "Far from the life my parents had built, and it created a ripple of resentment and divide between families, keeping my mother and brother apart until grief brought them back together again.

Then there would be a dramatic break-up with a boyfriend, only to have him reappear in a later scene with no explanation whatsoever. In fact, I had trouble following why certain characters continued to be in this woman's life long after they had burned all their bridges. McDowell's memoir impacted me. Prison aside, I feel as though I've read about my own life in a sense, Greek heritage included.

Above all, I could feel her pain as she lingered Waiting for someone to save her. While many readers sneer at Christina's way of not coping, what I hope people realize is that one of the luxuries of those who grow up without vast amounts of wealth is that they generally have a realistic view of the world. For the Christinas, however, it's often missing. If or when it all falls down, the void is overwhelming, not because you don't have a new BMW, but because you've never had to deal with challenges in the way the majority of society does.

I don't write this as someone who had their family lose their money, but rather, an experience where I was forced to make 'adult' decisions, but felt like I spent the majority of my time trying to find someone who was a real adult. Age is a number—when no one teaches you the lessons that are a part of growing up, is it surprising when privileged adult children don't know how to cope?

Dig deeper. In the end, we aren't offered the secret to life or happiness or a saccharine speech about how Ms. McDowell saw the light and we can too. I would hope that 'After Perfect' isn't looked upon with a twisted pleasure of watching a former rich kid's fall from grace, but rather proof that no matter how perfect life may seem, you never know what lurks behind closed doors.

One must commend Christina for working on rebuilding her life, whether they disagree with the amount of time it took, etc I certainly root for her. An excellent memoir, one of the best I've read in View all 3 comments. Dec 01, Megan Nigh rated it it was ok. I have really strong feelings about this memoir. On the one hand, I saw the author felt victimized by her parents. But on the other hand, she was an adult when all this happened. She was in college. Granted, she grew up sheltered and spoiled, but come on! You can't go back to some fancy-pants private college? Take some courses at community college.

Work a job, maybe even two.


I get why she was reluctant to sue her father for stealing her identity, but come on! In a way, her ignorance reminded me I have really strong feelings about this memoir. In a way, her ignorance reminded me a lot of the "Bling Ring" girls. I also am confused why she blasted "The Wolf of Wall Street". The movie isn't exactly a love ballad to greed and excess and fraud. Not sure many people would see that movie and want that life. I feel like her blasting that movie was a way for her to be relevant. And this book left me with the same feeling. She name drops constantly--wonder how Emma Stone feels about her many mentions in this book?

The writing isn't fantastic--it seemed like alliteration was the only stylistic device she knew how to use. Between that and the cliches Maybe I'm being too harsh. Girl lived a tough life and it seemed like at the end she was aware that she made her own decisions post-arrest of her father that made her life much more difficult. But at the same time, its hard to feel much sympathy for her. No, she isn't her dad, and yes, she is a product of her upbringing. But her constant name-dropping and going on about her D. Aug 20, Veronica rated it really liked it.

I received this book in my Book Of The Month shipment and wasn't expecting a lot honestly. I didn't really read anything more then the blub online. However, this book really surprised me. The author, Christina McDowell, writes such a intriguing memoir of her life after her dad got thrown in prison for being an associate of Jordan Belfort and bankrupting his family leaving this family in complete monetary and physical ruin.

This effected Christina more then all the other family members it seems, I received this book in my Book Of The Month shipment and wasn't expecting a lot honestly. This effected Christina more then all the other family members it seems, she basically had to raise herself all over again when both parents abandon her to fend for herself. I loved the writing and pure raw honest she had thru out. I can't wait till she writes fiction at some point. Good memoir read! Aug 16, Michelle rated it really liked it Shelves: memoir , I read this in one sitting.

Captivating memoir written by the daughter of a guy jailed for fraud, among other things. Billed as the "other side of the Wolf of Wall Street" story, there's not a lot about the Wolf himself, other than the idea that the threat of his testimony was going to be very bad for the author's father. In any case, a very well-written account of her family's struggle after all was taken away, materialistically speaking, not to mention emotionally and even their "g 4.

In any case, a very well-written account of her family's struggle after all was taken away, materialistically speaking, not to mention emotionally and even their "good names" or not completely horrible ones. A sad reflection on a girl's love of her father and the way he manipulates that just as he manipulated various stocks. A few familiar names and places in here including a former boss and my alma matter and all in this is about much more than "I had planes and jets and then I didn't.

Oct 19, Naomi Kelsey rated it did not like it. A slushy, poorly written and unrealized memoir by a writer who needs more time in training. I was interested in this book and for about the first chapters engaged in it, especially hoping that it would get better as it went along. The story centers around the author's father's trial and conviction for fraud, and the fallout.

It's written in an episodic, almost journal-like stream of consciousness, which itself is not very well done. Cliches, clunky writing, "poor me" syndrome, humble-braggin A slushy, poorly written and unrealized memoir by a writer who needs more time in training. Cliches, clunky writing, "poor me" syndrome, humble-bragging, hard-to- follow leaps in time and a very unclear sense of development all hamper the writing.

The thing about memoirs that take place over long periods of time in this case, from up until now, I assume, since i didn't finish it is that oftentimes individual memories are not enough to carry a book. Historical context, interviews with others in the situation, background research, character sketchesall that's missing from this book.

We never find out the details of the father's case. We never get any context around why it happened exactly or the outcome. Other than the most bare bones outline. We don't have any background on the major players--the judge, the DA, the defendant, the people bringing the lawsuit, etc. Anne Rule is a non-fiction author known for her true crime books. Her style is breezy and dishy, and honestly the details of the cases she writes about are often not enough to fill an entire book. So she researches the background of the major players, creating a portrait of each person involved in the crime in depth; and by the time the events are set in motion, the reader cares about the players and is invested.

This author brushed shoulders with quite a few boldfaced names and doesn't take any advantage of that fact, just dropping the names and moving on. There is quite a bit of historical context that could have been mined for background--nope. I was very let down by this book. I think many readers will be taken in by the "fragile little girl abandoned who finds herself" trope and like it, and that's okay. But for my money, this author should have hired a ghostwriter. Aug 25, Karen rated it it was amazing Shelves: memoir-and-biography.