The Girl Before began with a raid on a home where Clara lived with her husband Glen and the many unwanted girls they took in and cared for. As the story unfolded, it became clear that Clara’s life was not as idyllic as she believes it was. This was a novel that examined deep psychological scars inflicted upon a child, who turned from a victim into a perpetrator.
There were no chapters here, just alternating passages between “Then” and “Now”. In “Now”, Clara was questioned by law enforcement about what happened at her home and it was clear that she was part of something deeply disturbing. The reader understood that Clara was as a Patty Hearst type victim because she was so brainwashed, but to Clara she was being detained against her will and didn’t want to be rescued. It was very sad to see how resistant Clara was to being helped, due to the fact that she didn’t see what was wrong with her complicate behavior or the way she had been treated for the past several years.
In “Then”, Clara’s journey from abductee to house leader was documented. The author elevated Clara to a role of authority among the taken girls due to her intellect, but ironically Clara was not intelligent enough to see through the lies heaped upon by her husband or his family. She didn’t concern herself with the obvious abuse happening to the young women living on the expansive and secluded property owned by her husband’s family. Clara also didn’t question why so many young girls came to their property or why older men purchased the girls and took them away.
The writing was simple and it helped make Clara seem pure and somewhat stunted from both her lack of proper education and the physical beatings she endured. Clara was an extremely complex character given her history, which made her a fascinating person to carry this novel. As she slowly began to absorb the lessons from therapy about healthy behavior and relationships, Clara realized how dysfunctional her life was and began a path to recovery.
My sister gave me this book for my birthday and I just tore right through it! It was so entertaining and well put together. Even though it dealt with serious topics, I found that they were presented in a way that was not too disturbing. This was a great read that I highly recommend.