The Girl Before

Narrated by: Brittany Pressley
Length: 12 hrs and 22 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (6,964 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"[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)

What listeners say about The Girl Before

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Decent

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.

46 people found this helpful

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Exceptional audiobook

If you liked Emma Donoghue's "Room" or Liane Moriarty's "Truly, Madly Guilty", this book takes a look at similar issues but is so, so much deeper. With great sensitivity and compassion, Olsen handles very difficult and dark content without the need for graphic horror. And yet it is a story of redemption and love, amid all the bleakness.
The lead character is totally sympathetic, although her naivety is sometimes a little surprising, but understandable from her restricted up-bringing.
This was a totally gripping story. Excellent use of flashbacks illuminate the present as the story unfolds.
The cream on this cake was the performance, which was truly outstanding, like watching a movie, with carefully nuanced voices for each character, including both genders.

16 people found this helpful

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Darkness before the dawn

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.

64 people found this helpful

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Shocking and poignant, written beautifully.

Where does The Girl Before rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 5. Narrator is fantastic, story is gripping.

What did you like best about this story?

The way the author kept me hooked from start to finish, and masterfully created a suspenseful story with characters that were 3D.

What about Brittany Pressley’s performance did you like?

Her voice is great, her expression beautiful!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me cry so hard I had to take breaks. In a good way.

Any additional comments?

Rena Olsen is one to watch.

8 people found this helpful

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MUST READ

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)!

59 people found this helpful

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Tough Subject matter

Well written and well performed. The style of the author going between past and present was the perfect framework for this story.

7 people found this helpful

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AMAZING

If you could sum up The Girl Before in three words, what would they be?

Beautiful, heart-wrenching, scary!

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

The edge of my seat is an understatement....

Any additional comments?

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.

25 people found this helpful

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Could not stop listening

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.

58 people found this helpful

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Gr8 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!

35 people found this helpful

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Excellent Story

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. The author has a way of drawing you in. I felt for all of the main characters (though different feelings for each), which is important. Great book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Jude Bailey
  • 03-10-20

Wow!

Had me hooked from the beginning. A really good engrossing novel. Deals with a disturbing subject without going into gory details. Had me in tears towards the end. Would recommend highly.