The Girl Before by Rena Olsen
How is it possible to read a novel like this and not be overwhelmed with emotion, grief and rage? In fact, to be honest, if I had known the subject of the book before I began reading, I’d have probably never picked it up. The subject is disguised, almost as a safety-net, to let you off the hook if it gets to be too much. Because, you know at the very beginning something extremely wrong has occurred.
“I am brushing Daisy’s hair at the kitchen table when the front door crashes open. The sound of gunfire and men shouting and children screaming comes in a tidal wave through the open door. Dropping the brush, I grab Daisy’s hand and pull her into the nearest closet, fumbling for the lever that will open the false back. We huddle in the small space together, and Daisy trembles in my arms.”
What a way to grab your attention, huh? And it never lets up from page one. Unimaginable things have happened to Clara Lawson, she just hasn’t realized it yet. Neither will you unless you take the astonishing journey that’s laid out, not in chapters, but in “Then” and “Now” scenes. I would love to find out if Olsen wrote them separately or together simply because it all seems too real.
Clara learns early on that she has been rescued from a horrific lifestyle. But she can’t believe it cause it’s all she’s ever known. Yes, I’m talking about human sex-trafficking. Please, please don’t allow the subject matter to turn you away from reading this novel. It’s so well done, the characters are richly developed and once again, I have to mention Olsen’s brilliant prose where she gently guides you through the story and not once does she falter. There’s not one wasted word as there shouldn’t be when the subject matter contains such rough issues like Stockholm syndrome, child-abduction, abuse and murder.
I think every parent should read this book, every woman too, there is just so much to learn from it. The healing process of Clara is amazing and her coming to terms with the role that she played even though she was the victim will take your breath away. I had many tear stains on my shirt after this one. Some of it is too much to deal with, trust me. This book will haunt you. It should win many awards. Read it and see if you agree.
5 Stars *****