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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
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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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Meg on 10-27-16


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.

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18 of 19 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Alyssa Gallaga on 08-31-16


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)!

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46 of 51 people found this review helpful

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