THE GIRL BEFORE by Rena Olsen

THE GIRL BEFORE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What at first feels like a tale of suspense turns into a thoughtful look at victims and perpetrators and the difficulties that arise for someone who is both at once.

When Clara Lawson and a little girl named Daisy are pulled from their hiding place during a home invasion, she’s separated from the girl and her husband, Glen, who yells "Say nothing" to her as he's wrestled away. But what seems like a kidnapping is quickly revealed to be far more complex. "Daisy has only been with us a few months," Clara says on the second page, establishing an air of strangeness. "Daisy isn't her real name. I don't know what her real name is." Olsen writes in chapters alternating between “Now,” with Clara in custody, being pressured for information by agents, and a variable “Then” that gradually reveals a story of human trafficking. Clara was picked up as a young girl and is now something like a headmistress to the family business and its new acquisitions. Clara struggles to reconcile the life she’s come to know with the reality that, despite her good intentions, she has done irreparable harm to uncountable girls, and she’s shaken to learn that her family has never stopped looking for her. Counseling sessions help her pick apart these layers, and her pregnancy gives her a reason to move forward. Flashbacks to Glen’s early courtship are of a typical, even old-fashioned romance. But his defiance of Mama and Papa G., his parents and the cruel owners of the business, is not without consequences; their interference in the couple’s affairs provides some of the more frightening scenes here, and the son quickly grows to fill his father’s monstrous shoes. It 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.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-101-98235-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016




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