Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: Providence - Caroline Kepnes


by Caroline Kepnes
Published: June 19, 2018
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he's suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and "fit in" with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity--but he's soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters' lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.
4 Stars

There is no other way for me to describe this book other than heavy. At times it seems there is no real purpose to this book, there's no glowing happily ever after promised, but as you get into the minds of Jon, Chloe, and Eggs we begin to understand how obsession can take over your life. The teacher was obsessed with a book and a crazy idea, Jon is obsessed with finding a way to be with Chloe and around others, Chloe is obsessed with Jon and popularity, Eggs is obsessed with finding the answer. Each is in a terrible position where their life is out of control and though each could sit back and accept it, they don't.

Providence certainly wasn't the easiest book I've ever read, in fact it took me four days to get through it, but that's mainly due to the weight. The emotions in this book are heavy, it's very sad and disheartening how each character is so affected by a single event. Jon's world is not easy, there's no possible pathforward to make it easier either, but he pushes on and I loved that about him. I ached for him, for his life stunted in his youth, but he took what happened to him and I do feel like he lived in a smart way. His effort to save others, to protect them at all costs, and to still be a productive, functioning member of society is something I applaud. Chloe was impossible to connect to, a flighty woman who really only is herself when she is painting. I liked her and I hated her all at once. Eggs, on the other hand, is this sort of character you are so fascinated by, but you are also terrified of him. Readers grow to care for Jon, we want him safe, he doesn't mean for things to happen, so Eggs' efforts to find him, to take him down, are hard to accept. That said, his desperate obsession with Jon is so interesting, especially with his own personal experiences with life being so out of control, with illness taking over. For me, the heart of this story is in the characters, in the way they obsess and grow and come full circle.

Caroline Kepnes uses a sort of odd humor at certain times and the favorited pop culture references she is known for are weaved into the story. I know of H.P. Lovecraft, but I can't say I ever have or ever would read his work, so I felt a bit disconnected from the Lovecraft obsession. Kepnes gives a very solid effort to include details from Lovecraft's books, but when weird fiction just isn't your thing it sometimes just didn't click. I did love that it was a thing though, that there are these people who follow his work, who live by it in an odd sort of way, that Jon could see others who knew the stories even if they didn't know just how much of those stories are a part of him.

I didn't quite know what I was getting into when I started Providence, but I'm glad I read it. It's different, a very fascinating story that, though unreal at times, is easily applied to real life. I'm not usually a science fiction fan and lucky for me I can say this doesn't have as much in it as you might think. It's there, it moves the story along, but it isn't what the book is about. I definitely suggest Providence to thriller fans and I think fans of Caroline Kepnes' previous novels should open their minds up for something a bit different. It's not Hidden Bodies or You., but it is Providence and it is very good.

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