My review of Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent will follow the publisher’s blurb :
A chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of human behavior and the nature of evil.
“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”
Oliver Ryan, a handsome, charismatic, and successful man, is happily married to his wife, Alice, who illustrates the award-winning children’s books he writes and devotedly cares for him in their comfortable suburban home. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers blows to Alice that render her comatose.
As Alice hovers between life and death in her hospital bed, the couple’s circle of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such an astonishing act of savagery. Oliver tells his story, peeling away the layers to reveal a life of shame, envy, breath-taking deception, and masterful manipulation. As details about his past catch up with him, even he is in for a shock.
Unraveling Oliver is a complex, disturbing, and brilliantly written page-turner about how and why a human being transforms into a sociopath.
Reading Unraveling Oliver reminded me of watching a true crime episode on television where they interview a variety of people in order for you to get a sense of who the offender was. It’s not a “who done it” but a “WHY-Done-It”.
Oliver is one of those outstanding characters that I absolutely love to hate. His childhood was heartbreaking to read – such a devastatingly cruel and lonely existence. While reading the things he went through, I felt so sorry for him. However, knowing exactly what Oliver did, right from the beginning of the novel; let’s just say those feelings didn’t sit well with me. Yet, in a broader sense, it gave me a better understanding of why he turned out the way he did.
As each person is contributing various elements and building blocks to the overall story, they are also helping the reader unravel not only Oliver but the secrets within the pages. Is a cleverly constructed suspense. Each conversation brought me a little bit closer to connecting all the dots. Liz Nugent could have easily chosen a linear format to tell this story, but using a variety of viewpoints gave it a cinematic feel. It’s definitely not your typical suspense novel.
I liked sifting through all the information that was given by the various witnesses, at times I’d even question if they were at all reliable. Some people were more interesting than others, some were definitely more flamboyant – and that is where Liz Nugent really hit this out of the park.
In the end though, it is a devastatingly tragic tale where one man’s decision has repercussions that will affect many people for generations to come. It’s a deep examination of how deeply flawed and damaged Oliver has become and he is someone I won’t soon forget.
Book clubs will definitely enjoy discussing this novel and if you like psychology and diving into the mind set of a character then I have no doubt you’ll love Unraveling Oliver.
Published by Simon & Schuster Canada
Available for purchase February 6th 2018
An advanced e-galley was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts and review.