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.
©2016 Rena Olsen (P)2016 Penguin Audio
"[A] thoughtful look at victims and perpetrators and the difficulties that arise for someone who is both at once.... [The Girl Before] moves at the pace of a mystery, but the novel is strongest when it allows Clara to unpack her past and consider who she will be going forward. A moving story of recovery and responsibility." (Kirkus Reviews)
"I couldn't put it down. The novel is compelling, perplexing, and ultimately uplifting! The unusual structure is a perfect match for the magnetic voice of the central character. I predict this daring debut will make Rena Olsen 'the girl ahead' among psychological suspense authors." (Karen Harper, New York Times best-selling author of Upon a Winter's Night)
"A disturbing story, haunting and important." (Alexandra Burt, author of Remember Mia)
I am not one to write full reviews, but after listening to The Girl Before I knew I had no other choice. This book is amazing. Rena Olsen's writing allowed the book to run smoothly. I did not read the full synopsis prior to selecting the book and I'm glad I didn't. I was completely shocked and was able to take in the book for what it is. Amazing! This is Rena Olsen's debut novel and I am counting down the days for her next one!
This book contains sensitive material that is very emotional and will leave an impact on you. Thanks to Brittany Pressley's voice this book was perfect. I cannot wait to listen/ read it again (I purchased the hard copy as well)!
This is a great story, well written and the pacing is spot on. The subject matter is difficult, but it's handled thoughtfully and with compassionate understanding.
However, I wish some of the character development would have been more thorough. Many of the characters were presented in a one- dimensional way that just doesn't appeal to me. Additionally, there are some pretty giant plot holes that the reader has to overlook along the way. It's definitely entertaining and kept my attention throughout, but it certainly doesn't fall into the "awesome" category for me.
The narration is pretty well done, but she's right in the verge of some whiny overacting.
I don't think it was a waste of time but overall, I was disappointed. The ending was definitely better than the first 3 quarters. I have no clue what all of the reviews talking about crazy twists or how the story was an "edge of your seat" book where talking about. It felt predictable, yet sad because of how real life versions happen all over the world. I wouldn't put this in my top 5 recommendations but probably not a waste of time.
The narrator had too much of a baby-sounding voice. I think she did, however, do a great job about slightly changing her tone between "then" and "now." Otherwise, her voice was too child-like for my taste.
Beautiful, heart-wrenching, scary!
The edge of my seat is an understatement....
If this book doesn't suck you in from the get-go, I don't know what will! There are moments that you want to scream at the characters, and moments that make you want to cheer. Scary and sad. I loved the main character. She had a huge heart, and a great capacity to love....even in a life where problems were dealt with using abuse, threats and intimidation. GREAT story!!! Not my favorite narrator though. I'm kind of glad I didn't see who the narrator was before buying the book, otherwise I wouldn't have bought it. She talks in a nasally voice, and pronounces words in a way that makes me cringe. I must say, though, she could really put emotion into the characters' voices, and performed well.
It's been awhile since I gave 5 stars. This story held my attention from start to finish. I highly recommend.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
This title is listed as a psychological mystery/thriller, but I didn’t find it mysterious or thrilling in the usual sense. This is definitely a complex psychological study of the devastating damage of abuse and exploitation. Right up front, I would warn readers who may be susceptible to triggering of trauma to probably pass this one by. The subject matter is dark and horrifying, and frankly something that I would normally avoid myself. I did not realize before selecting this book what I was in for.
That said, author Olsen, a psychologist and therapist, has successfully walked a thin tightrope to present a riveting story of ugly truths, being very clear about just what is going on while avoiding graphic voyeurism that would have cheapened the experiences of those in peril. The story unfolds exclusively through the current events happening to Clara, who has been abruptly separated from her husband by law enforcement agents (chapters labeled “Now”), and through her memories of past events at many different points in her life (chapters labeled “Then”). This back-and-forth formula is pretty trendy these days, but in this case I found it very effective, as the reader can tell immediately just what is going on that caused her husband’s arrest while she remains in the dark. The process of stripping away Clara’s psychic walls is told with both power and compassion. My heart broke over and over as door after door of awareness opens and I prayed for her to finally understand her true situation while dreading the inevitable emotional breakdown that would come with that dawning.
The narration by Brittany Pressly was perfect. Yes, it is highly emotional, but the emotions matched the narrative. I felt the full range from joy to fear, confusion, despair, panic and rage. It made the listening experience more intense – sometimes uncomfortably so - but this is a subject that should take all of us out of our comfort zone. I see pictures of missing children with a very different eye now.
A weird listening experience. There is nothing that much surprising in what happens (plot) but the story is riveting because of how it's told (very good writing). I found myself hoping for extra red lights on my way to work. If you are looking for surprising plot twists, this isn't it. If you're looking for a story that grabs you (even as you are saying to yourself "yes, yes, this story has already been told"), this one is a definite recommend.
Books are a big part of my life. Happiness is a beautiful evening on the houseboat with a good book :)
Loved the story & style. A human trafficking story told mostly by one victims perspective. The chapters are "then" and "now" and it's only slightly confusing because the "then" moves backwards while "now" moves forward. Once you get used to it, it all makes sense. The narration was excellent. I hope this new author is writing more books!
This is one of those books that grabs you from the start and you don't want to stop reading until it is finished. This glimpse into the world of human trafficking is told from the inside and is shocking and emotional. This is one of the best books I have listened to on Audible and I highly recommend it!
As the reader, you know exactly what's going on by chapter 2. The entire book is a slow-motion train wreck as the protagonist grinds through the worst conceivable hybrid of codependence and Stockholm Syndrome.
the blatant sexism was too ubiquitous to be ironic. there were no real twist and the sad story unfolded in an anti-climactic formula not worthy of a daytime drama story arc.
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