Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Review by Lauren
Source: copy from ALA17; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads):
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.
What I found intriguing about this book is that it’s told in various point of views. There is, of course, Oliver’s point of view. He’s very laid back – for lack of a better term – about him beating his wife into a coma. It almost seems as if he expected something like this to happen at some point, based on his upbringing. The one point of view that we don’t get is Alice – which makes sense, as the book takes place after she’s in the hospital. While some of the perspectives talk about past events, they are still looking back after years have passed. It would have been nice to hear from Alice, but at the same time, it’s obvious that what Oliver did was wrong. The bigger question is why. What made him act out in such a violent matter, and the rest of the book is mostly focused on this topic. I did feel bad for young Oliver – he very much got dealt a bad hand in life and lacked a lot of love and guidance. That doesn’t excuse his future behavior, and that doesn’t even start with Alice. He does horrific and awful things before beating his wife.
I feel like Unraveling Oliver is almost a case study of a person. There are people from Alice’s past that speak about her and her life growing up, but it all leads back to Oliver. There are little mysteries throughout – I say little because none of them are the main focus of the novel. I thought they were done well though, and I wasn’t able to completely guess everything. Some of it might be a bit too obvious, but as I never saw this one as a straight up mystery, I think it works out okay.
Holy wow! This one sounds intense, but those are often the best reads. Thanks for sharing your review!
I’ve read a few reviews for this one and it sounds really good.
For What It’s Worth
Wow, this sounds like an intense but interesting read. I like books that go between viewpoints and now I’m curious as to why he did it and what happens after. Adding to my list!
Wow and I am always looking for books to add to my Goodreads. Am definitely adding this one now and thanks for the recommendation here 🙂
Yikes, this sounds super intense and fascinating. I’ve always wondered what happens to people when they “snap”. Great review!
Like everyone said above in the comments–it definitely sounds like a very intense read. I don’t mind intensity (and even some violence) in the books I read… as long as there is substance or intrigue or something else to keep the story moving. I’ll have to look into this one, I like a bit that showcases multiple perspectives.
Definitely sounds intense like others said. I am intrigued though. Great review!
This does sound interesting and like it would give you a lot to think about.
Interesting that this felt like a case study. Also yikes on the topic but it seems like the author didn’t do a bad job maybe of revealing everything and the whys of things that happened.
This sounds like an intense read. Not really for me but it definitely sounds interesting.
Eek! Books like these I can never put down, even though they kind of freak me out!
So excited to see your review of this one because I already have it on hold at my library. Looking forward to it more than ever now!
Well that premise is an attention grabber. Interesting choice about the perspectives being from several and not just Oliver’s and not just the present. I’m curious now…
this one is new to me but why not? It looks interesting
Sometimes a good character exploration captures my attention. Hm… curious too because it has a multi-POV. Brilly review!
I’d not seen this book before! I’m glad you liked it so much – it definitely sounds intriguing. 😀 Wonderful review!
Have a fantastic day. =)
Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!
Yikes this does sound intense and kind of horrific, and I agree- seems like Alice’s perspective might have added something. Still it sounds like you enjoyed it! And I do like like multi- POV stories.
Oh wow! This sounds like one of those books that would horrify me but that I wouldn’t be able to put down until I understood his motivations for doing what he did.
Well, I must say you have me very curious about this one!
Wow! This sounds like an intense read. I had never heard of it before, but I’m definitely intrigued now.
It does sound like an intriguing read with how it’s almost a character study of Oliver. But also a bit sad and intense. The little mysteries added sound like a nice touch!