Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

Title: The Girl Before
Author: Rena Olsen
Published: August 2016, G.P Putnam's Sons
Format: Paperback, 314 pages
Source: Personal copy

In this powerful psychological suspense debut, when a woman’s life is shattered, she is faced with a devastating question: What if everything she thought was normal and good and true . . . wasn’t?

Clara Lawson is torn from her life in an instant. Without warning, her home is invaded by armed men, and she finds herself separated from her beloved husband and daughters. The last thing her husband yells to her is to say nothing.

In chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel slowly unpeels the layers of Clara’s fractured life. We see her growing up, raised with her sisters by the stern Mama and Papa G, becoming a poised and educated young woman, falling desperately in love with the forbidden son of her adoptive parents. We see her now, sequestered in an institution, questioned by men and women who call her a different name—Diana—and who accuse her husband of unspeakable crimes. As recollections of her past collide with new revelations, Clara must question everything she thought she knew, to come to terms with the truth of her history and to summon the strength to navigate her future.

My thoughts: OMG...this book!!! As soon as I heard about this book,  I knew it was a book I wanted to read and guess what - I absolutely loved it!  But, I know there have been mixed reviews about this book - that's due to the heavy subject matter - this is a dark, twisted book. It's complex, layered and disturbing, but it's also a really good book if you can get past that.

I loved the way this story was told, but at the same time found it to be frustrating. The way the chapters alternated back and forth between the past and the present, slowly start to put together a complete picture of what really happened to Clara. But,the past is not told chronologically and that at times is frustrating as you never know where you are going to end up going back you never quite get all the answers - you still need to fill a bit. Clever, very clever!

It would be so easy to dislike Clara, and there are so many times when I wanted to, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't. Why? It's so hard to put into words without giving any spoilers...but just know that this is a character that is complex. My opinion of her kept changing, just as Clara's confusion kept growing.  

This book is so cleverly crafted - it is just brilliant and as it all came together at the end - WOW...just amazing. Even though this book touched on some dark topics, the way it was told, the characters, the voice - all together to tell a thrilling psychological tale and I cannot wait to see what Rena Olsen brings us next! She is definitely an author to keep an eye on!!!


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