With You Always

Rena Olsen. Putnam, $15 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-101-98239-6
Olsen follows her debut, The Girl Before, with a tale of domestic abuse set in rural New York that suffers from a predictable plot, a bland female narrator, and abusive characters who behave in stereotypical ways. Aspiring graphic designer Julia is swept off her feet by rich and charismatic, if cryptic, lawyer Bryce Covington, and drawn into his community at the Church of the Life, led by the reverend and his wife, whom Bryce considers his parents, and eventually into the mystical Gathering, in which chosen members commune with God. But after they marry, Bryce’s controlling jealousy and the church’s attitudes on wifely behavior isolate Julia from work, friends, family, and medical help for the injuries Bryce causes her, while Julia’s secret delving into Bryce’s history reveals his dark and violent past. Tense snippets of story that share bits of Bryce’s childhood or telegraph Julia’s final acts aren’t enough to build complexity, and Olsen’s depiction of Julia’s mental state rarely evokes the depth of conflicted feelings or fear that would make the novel affecting. Agent: Sharon Pelletier, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/04/2018
Release date: 08/07/2018
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-1-101-98240-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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