The Girl Before

Praise for The Girl Before

“[A] thoughtful look at victims and perpetrators and the difficulties that arise for someone who is both at once. …. [The Girl Before] moves at the pace of a mystery, but the novel is strongest when it allows Clara to unpack her past and consider who she will be going forward. A moving story of recovery and responsibility.” —Kirkus Reviews

“I couldn’t put it down.  The novel is compelling, perplexing, and ultimately uplifting!  The unusual structure is a perfect match for the magnetic voice of the central character.  I predict this daring debut novel will make Rena Olsen “the girl ahead” among psychological suspense authors.”—Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Upon a Winter’s Night

“A disturbing story, haunting and important.”—Alexandra Burt, author of Remember Mia

“Daring, harrowing, and absolutely riveting.”—Sandra Block, author of Little Black Lies

In this powerful psychological suspense debut, when a woman’s life is shattered, she is faced with a devastating question: What if everything she thought was normal and good and true . . . wasn’t?

Clara Lawson is torn from her life in an instant. Without warning, her home is invaded by armed men, and she finds herself separated from her beloved husband and daughters. The last thing her husband yells to her is to say nothing.

In chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel slowly unpeels the layers of Clara’s fractured life. We see her growing up, raised with her sisters by the stern Mama and Papa G, becoming a poised and educated young woman, falling desperately in love with the forbidden son of her adoptive parents. We see her now, sequestered in an institution, questioned by men and women who call her a different name—Diana—and who accuse her husband of unspeakable crimes. As recollections of her past collide with new revelations, Clara must question everything she thought she knew, to come to terms with the truth of her history and to summon the strength to navigate her future.


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16 Responses to THE GIRL BEFORE

  1. Tana says:

    Oh, wow! Rena! I love your blurb SO MUCH! It gave me chills! So many chills! I really need to go buy a sweater now!
    Congrats, you!!!!!!!
    ❤ Tana

  2. This sounds so good, Rena.

  3. Pingback: Taking Ten with Rena Olsen! | Kendra Young Accidental Writer

  4. Lori Nelson says:

    So exciting!!!!! Can not wait to read it!!!

  5. Meggie says:

    Oh my gosh- I just finished your book and absolutely loved it! It was totally addicting and one of those great books where you’re left thinking about the characters! Wow my friend! I am so impressed! Thank you for sharing it with us and write another one soon please!!!!

  6. Robin Trott says:

    Bought the book Saturday noon, finished it Sunday midnight, really reluctant to put it down. (But had to get some chores done.) Amazing work! Captivating! Unlike anything I have read (and I am an avid reader!) So nice to meet you at the Douglas County Library on Saturday. Can’t wait for the next one.

  7. Anna Ellis says:

    I don’t know how you know what you know, but however you came into that knowledge… I’m sorry. Your novel is so raw and so real. The little boxes that we use to separate everything and make everything “okay” are not obvious and not talked about, but there they are/ The Girl Before exposes those ‘boxes’ and gives readers the opportunity to explore the world of the abused.

  8. Becky Michel says:

    Today was the day I finished your novel. I love the day I finish books:) I really hope you are busy writing your 2nd novel because you have a gift. I have signed up to receive info of that day!! My only question is… Why did you leave out details of how the bust went down? I kinda wanted to know…:/

    • Rena says:

      Thank you for your comment, Becky, I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. I am at this moment working on my next book, and as soon as I have info on it, it will go up on all my social media sites. As for the bust, because the book is told from Clara’s perspective, we only see what she sees and catalogues as important. You may have to use your imagination to decide how it all happened!

  9. Julia says:

    Rena, I would like to know the background of your research, where can I read about it? I enjoyed the book a lot, because it is very psychological which I am interested in. Of course, you hear a lot of unusual for general public stories working as a therapist, but was “The Girl Before” based on one of those??

    • Rena says:

      Hi Julia,
      I did a lot of research for the book. You can start with websites such as,, and THE GIRL BEFORE wasn’t based on any clients I have ever seen or heard about, but I did use my general knowledge of trauma and abuse to inform my characters and their reactions to various events. Thanks for your question and for reading!

  10. Lisa Ruhe says:

    So very interesting. So curious as to how you found the research and knowledge of this hidden world. The books seems so true to today’s problem with trafficking. Found it so interesting yet disturbing. I couldn’t put the book down. I am scared now as I have a young daughter. That this can actually be going in right now.

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