Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Genre: Psychological Thriller
“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”
So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.
Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.
In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.
In terms of opening lines, Unraveling Oliver has one of the best I’ve ever read. “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” Its chilling and really sets the tone for the book, it sure grabbed my attention and held onto it. This is definitely a one sitting type of read, not only because it’s under 300 pages, but because it’s compelling and even if it had been much longer I still think I would’ve been just as hooked.
What makes this such a standout, for me at least, is the narrative style combined with excellent characterization. This is told from multiple perspectives and each chapter switches POV. While Oliver himself does narrate, the rest of the cast really made this a memorable read for me. They’re a mix of friends, family and acquaintances of Oliver’s, people whose lives has intersected with his in some way. Nugent switches narratives seamlessly which can be very difficult to pull off as it can sometimes feel a little jarring and abrupt. Each character has a very distinct voice and the entire thing reads like they’re giving an interview giving the whole book an intimate feel.
I don’t want to discuss any plot points because I feel it’s best to go into this as blindly as possible, but I will say that it’s heavily character driven with a focus on human psyche and behavior, but not in a clinical manner. It’s more of a nature versus nurture type of thing, a deep character study of one complex man that’s very well written and super smart.
Overall rating: 5/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.