Jon and Chloe are close, the only ones that truly understand each other in the uncertainties of adolescence, but that connection is severed when Jon is kidnapped without a trace. The remaining half of the duo tries to maintain hope through the passing days that turn into months. The future is less bright without the one she had yet to admit her feelings for, but when Jon finally escapes years later, Chloe feels like that missing part of herself has finally returned. The best friends wish they could pick up where they left off, but Jon is afflicted with a mysterious illness, putting those closest to him in danger.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I’d not had the pleasure of reading anything by Kepnes before picking up Providence, however was aware of her highly popular You series, especially after it hit Netflix. Being described by many as a thriller, I guess I expected it to be just that, with all the tell-tale signs of the genre, however the further I read, the more apparent that wasn’t the case. I personally considered it a romance, first and foremost, with mystery and the supernatural sprinkled in; this isn’t to say it appealed to me any less, just that it was different and the outcome was refreshing. The writing was distinctive, the narratives incredibly realistic in the way they were flawed, just as real people. I warmed to the main protagonists and their struggles, wanting the best for them and hoping they’d get their happy ending – this kind of attachment is one of the reasons I read in the first place. I especially need to mention Eggs and his wife, of whom I felt invested in from the onset, their relationship so natural to the point it was painful. I don’t think long-term relationships are often depicted genuinely enough in fiction, they can be terrible just as they can be beautiful.
Lovecraft was of significance, specifically his short work, The Dunwich Horror. I haven’t read it nor was I familiar with it, but I feel I was still able to grasp the relevance and parallels, prior knowledge not necessarily required. The themes of Lovecraft appeal to me a great deal, the legacy that writers today continue to evolve and expand surely something to admire – by all accounts, he was a spectacularly talented yet distasteful person, but he certainly laid the foundations. Similar to the man himself, misery permeated every facet of Providence, be it the pining of a lost love, or the obsessive determination to discover the hidden truth. The supernatural aspects, while present, didn’t detract from the compelling character depth. If anything, I found the mysterious phenomenon that afflicted Jon to be more in the background while the chapters explored varying forms of emotional hardship.
There’s no denying that the pacing was intentionally drawn-out, often with a good amount of teasing where Kepnes dangled a carrot in an attempt to convince that there would finally be meaningful development. I fell for it more than once, yet despite several scenes having that anticlimactic result, I was engaged and eager to reach the end, excited where it would ultimately lead. It demonstrated a talent that kept me completely hooked, but there was one thing that made me feel disappointed when all was said and done, and that was the lack of information surrounding Roger Blair, the substitute teacher. He was critical to the plot, an absent villain that had so little page time, therefore missing the opportunity to answer the big questions of why and how. I just wished for a little more in that regard, but it makes me wonder if there will be a sequel.
In conclusion: Providence was an emotional read that held me by the reins and wouldn’t let go. I went in expecting one thing, but it turned out to be another, surpassing expectations with its deep dive into three unique voices. Full of turmoil and self discovery, it didn’t hold back with the harsh lessons that made me feel a great deal of sympathy for the protagonists. The nod to Lovecraft was just a bonus, but don’t go expecting cosmic entities, this isn’t that type of novel. Now I want to read more Kepnes, and I’ve got an idea of where to turn.
I paint monsters in my mind, but none of them grab onto me the way he does, from the inside out, in perpetuity.
© Red Lace 2020
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