(the other) The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

A little while back I reviewed The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney, a psychological suspense about a death in a mysterious house.  This book, with the same title actually released several months prior to Delaney’s, and if I could only recommend one, it would be this one. 

While this title pops up in the suspense genre, it has no definitive twist or surprise.  The reader has a strong sense of what’s going on.  It’s the protagonist, Clara, who is confused about what is happening.  The story is told in alternating Then and Now chapters, entirely from her perspective.  Clara’s home was raided, her girls taken away and her husband arrested.  She’s under psychiatric surveillance and the police want her help with their investigation.  Was her home as idyllic and she recalls it or was there something more sinister going on?  Who were the “daughters” in her care, being groomed for a better life?

This is a story about human trafficking which some people may find disturbing.  Clara does recall memories of her own abuse, as well as incidents involving others, all described in a simple and straightforward manner.  While many of us are aware of this problem, Olsen’s story gives us a glimpse into the mechanics of how organizations that sell people run their business.  It was eye opening in regards to the time spent training these girls and boys; a brainwashing or reprogramming of the individual.  It shows us how the paths we take can shape our character.  How we can love someone for who they could’ve been, and how normal is simply just what we know rather than what should be.

At 320 pages, it’s a quick read.  I found it hard to put down, desperate to know how many memories it would take for Clara to make the right choice. 

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