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Clara is home brushing her daughter’s hair when a group of armed men swarms the house, arresting her and her husband Glen, and taking all her daughters away. This disturbing scene is set at the opening of the novel, and the story moves back and forth in time in alternating chapters titled “Then” and “Now” until we piece together the horror that unravels Clara’s life.

The last thing Glen says to her is, “say nothing,” and as always, Clara is obedient to her husband. She learns that he is in jail, but she is in a psychiatric hospital under the watchful eye of a couple of federal agents and a therapist, and they force her into group therapy with other young women. Clara doesn’t understand why she is in this group; she feels her story is nothing like theirs.

But as the mystery of her life unfurls, Clara’s point of view starts to change. This is superb psychological suspense; Clara starts to question everything she thought she knew about her family and her life and slowly starts to emerge from her cocoon-like existence.

The Girl Before is a compelling, albeit difficult read, but is almost impossible to put down, much like Room by Emma Donoghue.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

8/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE GIRL BEFORE by Rena Olsen. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (August 9, 2016).  ISBN 978-1101982358. 320p.


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