The Girl Before by Rena Olsen (4 out of 5)
The cover creeped me the hell out. The book disturbed me greatly. It must be said that the books that disturb the most are often the ones that stick with you the most. If you are faint of heart, tread carefully before picking this one up. If you want a spooky, harrowing book that will have you perplexed for a good portion of the book, this is a great choice. I seriously had no idea to what extent this one went until I was halfway through. Then I was horrified and then I was uplifted by the ending. Have I mentioned the relevance of the topic in this book? There’s that, also. To what that is..I am not spoiling this book for potential readers by spilling the beans. I will say this was a quick read with a very real female lead that has you yelling at her, and then rooting for her in the second half of the book. A great book club choice as well. Fans of Jodi Picoult will dig the realism of it. So yes, I definitely recommend it.
Clara Lawson is hiding in a cabinet with one of her young daughters when armed men invade her home and take her, her husband Glen, and their kids away. The only thing besides panic that registers in Clara’s mind is Glen screaming at her to say nothing. Locked up against her will, Clara is horrified and confused by the bully tactics of the officers who are keeping her locked up- in a mental health facility, no less. They keep pounding away at her, trying to get her to rat out her husband for whatever crimes they are accusing him of. Her memories begin to assert themselves in with her current reality and Clara begins doubting the life she has known with Glen all these years. The addition of a psychiatrist and a survivors group who helps her realize that her idyllic life was anything but, is where the story turns. Before that, you wonder if Clara will ever accept her true life as the nightmare it was..I know! I spent half the book yelling at her. The fact that the agents continue calling her by a different name is tied into the final story, and once you see what Glen (her husband), Maae, and PA G were up to all these years, well, you’re irate and horrified. Alternately, you’re also glad to see someone wrote a book about a social issue that’s very real. And Reba Olsen has done a great job in the process. The book is out in trade paperback, and brought to us by the fine publishers at Penguin Random House.