Unraveling Oliver by Liz NugentUnraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unraveling Oliver

byLiz Nugent

Paperback | February 6, 2018

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A chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of human behavior and the nature of evil.

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

Oliver Ryan, a handsome, charismatic, and successful man, is happily married to his wife, Alice, who illustrates the award-winning children’s books he writes and devotedly cares for him in their comfortable suburban home. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers blows to Alice that render her comatose.

As Alice hovers between life and death in her hospital bed, the couple’s circle of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such an astonishing act of savagery. Oliver tells his story, peeling away the layers to reveal a life of shame, envy, breath-taking deception, and masterful manipulation. As details about his past catch up with him, even he is in for a shock.

Unraveling Oliver is a complex, disturbing, and brilliantly written page-turner about how and why a human being transforms into a sociopath.
Title:Unraveling OliverFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.8 inPublished:February 6, 2018Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501191276

ISBN - 13:9781501191275

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Okay I did finish it quickly, but found it anticlimactic.
Date published: 2018-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A riveting page-turner! *4.5 Stars Liz Nugent had my full attention right from the first chilling sentence. Unraveling Oliver is a fast-paced novel that kept me eagerly flipping the pages in order to uncover all that I could about Oliver Ryan. This is one of those compulsive books that grabs a reader and makes it impossible to put down until you’ve devoured every word. The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of different characters who knew Oliver, as well as from Oliver himself. This just made the story that much more appealing and addictive. With each passing chapter, I was pulled deeper into Oliver’s story through the words and memories of his friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. As soon as one chapter would end, I was compelled to read another, and another. I am always drawn to books that deal with human nature and the human psyche. Oliver seemed to have it all. He was an established and successful author who had been married to his wife for over twenty years. To the outside world, Oliver Ryan’s life would appear to be normal, comfortable, and fruitful. What would provoke a seemingly normal man to act out so violently towards his wife? Did he just snap? Was this violent outburst truly out of character for him, or were his true colors finally showing themselves? I had to find out. With glimpses into Oliver’s past, the author allows the reader to witness Oliver in various stages of his life. We get to see him as a child, a young adult, and as a man trying to make his way in the world. Through his memories and those of the other characters, we get a better understanding of Oliver’s life and what made him tick. Liz Nugent did a fabulous job of creating Oliver and writing his story. There were even times when I actually felt sorry for Oliver. These times didn’t last long, and I certainly couldn’t justify his heinous actions, but I wondered if things could have been different for him. Unraveling Oliver is a fascinating, impeccably written story that is the true definition of a page-turner. Liz Nugent is an author who is definitely on my radar. I am looking forward to reading more by her in the near future.
Date published: 2018-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this! I really enjoyed this book! I could not put it down; literally, I read it in one day. It was so well written and kept me needing to know what in the world was going on! Loved the character development and the flow of this twisty novel. Great read!
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just okay Not as suspenseful or twisted as I thought it would be
Date published: 2018-06-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Let down I read the reviews and really thought there was going to be a big dark tail. It started off with a bang, and fizzled out quickly. The book was very monotone and it felt like I kept waiting for the climax. Everything was connected and tied together nicely, but even the end the book seemed to be summarized in one chapter. Was an okay read, would not highly recommend.
Date published: 2018-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dark A great book, dark and suspenseful, I could not put this book down!
Date published: 2018-05-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Don't miss this dark tale! Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and Liz Nugent for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Rating 4.5 stars Wow! I could not put this down!!! It is a short read but so much is jam packed. Don’t worry, it flows beautifully and the mystery unravels (haha) slowly. Very well written with characters that are so delicious that you want to eat them up and go back for seconds! Hmm I might have been reading this under the table while at a family dinner. Sorry folks, but I just had to finish - the suspense was killing me. First, you have to enjoy novels that tell a story by having each chapter set up as a different character’s point of view. I notice in some reviews people have a hard time with that. I personally love it. Liz Nugent does a really good job so you still might want to give this one a try. I will admit to going back and reading some of the pov’s over again because as I started to put a little more of the story together, I wanted to go back and see how it all tied together. Because it isn’t a thousand pages, I could easily do this without losing the momentum of the story in real time. There was one piece of the mystery that was left hanging and I couldn’t find the answer anywhere. Oliver mentions that his pseudonym was an homage and I couldn’t figure out what he meant. Did anyone figure out what he meant? So, what’s it all about. Well Oliver, obviously! It starts out with the main event. Oliver hits his wife - POW - and knocks her out cold. Well, to be fair, he beats the crap out of her and she never regains consciousness. We never hear from Alice and can only glean what she is thinking and feeling from other characters. No one really knows Oliver either. His past is shrouded in mystery and he reveals almost nothing about himself. To be fair, most psychopaths don’t. They love to shape themselves into some fantasy of who they think they should be. Oliver doesn’t let anyone in, even the reader. The most emotion Oliver reveals is right in the beginning when he loses control and beats Alice. He is a dark character and finding out how he ticks, why he did what he did is a fascinating tale.
Date published: 2018-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read! Evenfor the 2nd time Review Great read. This is actually the second time I read it. I had forgotten that I read it before and picked it up thinking it looked like a good read. I started to read it and realized that I had read it before, but I was enjoying it so much that I kept reading it anyway. I had forgot bits and pieces . Second time was just as good as the first if not better.. This is one of the very few books I ever read more than once. Well, written, keeps you interested, easy to follow, keeps you wondering. Just a darn good read for sure.
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Surprising read. Quite the drama with a great climax. The shifting perspectives were helpful.
Date published: 2018-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Suprisingly a good read I was not sure when I pick up this book and read the description, but it was a real page turner. This was the fastest I have ever read a book.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Surprising I did not know what to expect of this story whose climax seems to start the book on the very first page. It was intriguing and different from the standard drama. It dips a little bit into race, love, fear, obsession, lies, and humanity (or the lack of it I guess).
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written exploration of a person's character I enjoyed reading this book and did not want to put it down. It was different from most psychological thrillers because the reader is aware of what happened and must piece together the how/why from the perspective of various people who knew Oliver at different points in his life. Although different from most psychological thrillers that I have read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Date published: 2018-03-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging Read Like a onion you peel back the layers of Oliver in this book. Oliver does not have one redeeming thing about him. I have never read a book where l have disliked a character as much as this one.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging Read I liked the shifting perspectives as the reader learns about Oliver from the people whose lives he has touched. Quick, highly enjoyable read.
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read this book! One of the best books I have read so far this year. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2018-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fantastic! Loved this book from cover to cover. disturbing and dark, it draws you in fast and holds you there until the heart-stopping end.
Date published: 2018-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome So totally amazing book. Well written. Would so recommend.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating story At the beginning of "Unraveling Oliver", Oliver Ryan attacks Alice, his wife of many years. Left comatose, it is uncertain if Alice will recover. Throughout the rest of the book, each chapter, in the voice of friends and acquaintances of Oliver, and Oliver himself, attempts to "unravel" the mystery that is Oliver. The book is well written and the format provides insight into Oliver's psyche and personna. I found "Unraveling Oliver" a great read that was difficult to put down. I look forward to reading other books by Liz Nugent.
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great thriller This is a very clever thriller. The title is perfect for this book! Oliver’s story is unraveled through multiple perspectives. Many different people who have met and interacted with Oliver over his lifetime give accounts of the things that led to his attack on his wife. At first, these events seem unconnected and confusing. However, they are all threaded together by Oliver’s presence. Each person and their story weave together the person who Oliver has become. The mystery slowly grew throughout the story. At the beginning, we have no idea why Oliver suddenly beat his wife. But as we learn more about Oliver, it becomes clear that he is unhinged. The ending connects all of the dots and proves Oliver’s guilt on multiple counts. I often find multiple perspectives confusing. However, this was a great way to tell the story. Each perspective read like a police report, with all of the witnesses giving their accounts. Oliver also gave his point of view, though it didn’t help his case. I loved this book. It’s a great thrilling mystery. I received a copy of this book from the publisher on NetGalley.
Date published: 2018-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sounds Amazing This definitely sounds like something I would enjoy. Can't wait to give it a try
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great readThank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent in exchange for an honest review. The story begins with Oliver Ryan, a best-s Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent in exchange for an honest review. The story begins with Oliver Ryan, a best-selling children's author, violently beating his wife, who is also the illustrator of his books. From that point on, the novel goes back in time. Each chapter is narrated by a different person, each involved in the life of Oliver. Unraveling Oliver peels back the layers of Oliver's life, leading up to the domestic violence, revealing how his life brought him to sink to such a level.. I highly recommend this book, especially if you like reading psychological suspense. There is much to enjoy here. A captivating read.
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not what I expected but good! *I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* This book was a slow start for me, I wasn't immediately captured despite the dramatic opening. But once I got into it and became used to the different voices/perspectives, things sped up and I was able to finish reading more quickly. As others have pointed out, each chapter is another character's perspective on the main character Oliver after the "incident". I love the gentle reveal and meting out of key details here and there (as opposed to some authors who dump a big reveal on you at the end, I hate that!). Naturally, I wasn't a fan of Oliver but I don't think anyone is or should be -- and that's ok, you don't have to like him. It's not *really* about him though, is it? I saw it more about how interconnected people's lives are and how we chose to react to various situations presented to us over time.
Date published: 2018-01-28

Read from the Book

Unraveling Oliver 1 OLIVER I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn’t even seem to be surprised. I was surprised. I hadn’t planned to do it. Usually when you hear about this kind of thing, it is the 1950s, and the husband comes home drunk to his slovenly wife from the pub and finds that his dinner is cold. On the contrary, it was November 12, 2011, a wintry Saturday evening on a south Dublin avenue, and Alice had prepared a delicious meal: lamb tagine, served on a bed of couscous, with pita bread and a side dish of mint yogurt. Though the lamb was a tad lukewarm by the time she presented it, I really couldn’t fault it. I had washed the meal down with two glasses of Sancerre while Alice prepared the raspberry roulade for serving. I certainly wasn’t drunk. But now, here she lay, the lower half of her body nearly hidden behind the legs of our mahogany dining table, her arms, head, and torso curled inward like a question mark. How had she fallen into that shape? There must have been considerable force behind my closed fist. If the glass had been in my hand, would I have stopped and put it down before I hit her? Or would I have smashed it into her face? Would it have shattered on contact and torn her pale skin? Could I have scarred her for life? It’s very hard to know. The words that come to mind are “circumstances beyond our control.” I emphasize the word “our” because, although I should not have done it, she really should not have provoked me. The phone rang. Maybe I should have ignored it, but it might have been important. “Hello?” “Oliver. It’s Moya. How are things?” These rhetorical questions irritate me. “How are things,” indeed. Sorry, Moya, I’ve just punched Alice in the face, and she’s lying on the floor. And we’ve had a marvelous dinner. Of course, I didn’t say that. I made some ham-fisted attempt at an excuse and bade her farewell. I waited for the reciprocal adieu. There was a moment’s silence and then: “Don’t you want to know how I am? Where I am?” I was short and to the point. “No.” Another silence. And then, whispered, “Oh, right, okay, is Alice there?” Go away, you stupid, irritating woman. I didn’t say that either. I told her that now was not a good time. She tried to inveigle me into a conversation, prattling about her new life in France. Even amid the turmoil, I could tell that she wanted me to be jealous. Bloody Moya. I ended the conversation politely but firmly. I thought that the decent thing for me to do was to leave the house immediately. Not permanently, you understand. I thought there was more chance of Alice getting up off the floor if I wasn’t looming over her. I went to get my coat from its peg in the hall. It was a little difficult to fasten the buttons. My hands suddenly seemed to be too large for my gloves. • • • Two hours later, I was on my third brandy in Nash’s. Nervously I buttoned and unbuttoned my shirt cuffs. It is a habit from childhood, a thing I do when I am distressed. Even John-Joe commented on my rattled demeanor when he served me. Brandy would not have been my normal tipple. But I had had a shock, you see. Now I was drunk. I wanted to phone Alice to see if she was all right, but I had left my cell phone in the house in my hurried exit, and I thought that perhaps borrowing somebody’s phone would make a bigger deal of the situation than it warranted. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was serious. A significant error of judgment had been made. She should not have ended up on the floor. I am aware that I am not the easiest of people. Alice has told me so. I have no friends, for example. I used to, many years ago, but that really didn’t work out. We drifted apart and I let them go—voluntarily, I suppose. Friends are just people who remind you of your failings. I have several acquaintances. I have no family either to speak of. Not in the sense that matters. Over the years, Alice has never pried, has never been too curious. In fact, I would describe her as habitually obedient with just an occasional rebellion. I am not, have never been, violent. I went to the bar and bought a packet of cigarettes. Strong ones. I was worried that my hands were still unsteady. Isn’t brandy supposed to help at a time like this? Or is that an old wives’ tale? Old wives. Outside in the “beer garden” (a yard with half a roof beside the front door), I lit my first cigarette in years. Barney Dwyer, a neighbor from the Villas, approached from the public bar. Barney spent more time in the beer garden than inside the pub. “Thought you quit?” he said. “I did.” “Jaysus,” he said, a swagger in his voice, sucking on a Rothmans, “they couldn’t break me.” Here we go. Barney prided himself on his forty-a-day habit. When the smoking ban was introduced, most of us did our best to quit. I am proud to say that I was the first to succeed. I became known as the man with a “will of iron.” Barney, on the other hand, made no such attempt. If Barney had never smoked, he would have started the day the ban was introduced. A contrary bugger if ever there was one. Thin head, big ears. “Welcome back,” he said. “I’m not back. I’m just having the one. It’s been a bad day.” “Jaysus, Oliver, it’s never just the one. You’re back on the smokes. Face it.” I threw my almost-smoked cigarette on the ground. Stamped on it. Tossed the packet containing nineteen cigarettes at Barney. “Keep them,” I said. “Go on, kill yourself.” • • • My wife had finally brought out the worst in me. It was most unexpected. I had always been fond of her, in my way. She was a marvelous cook, for example, after all the gourmet cuisine courses I made sure she attended. Also, she could be very athletic in bed, which was nice. It is terribly sad to think of such things now, considering her current state. We met at the launch of a book she had illustrated back in 1982. My agent wanted me to meet her. He had suggested that she could do the illustrations for a children’s book I’d written that he was pushing around to publishers. I resisted the idea of illustrations initially. They would just distract from my text, I thought, but my agent, I admit it, was right. The drawings made my books far more marketable. We were introduced and I like to think there was an immediate . . . something. “Spark” is not the right word, but an acknowledgment of sorts. Some people call that love at first sight. I am not so naïve. Neither of us was in the first flush of youth. Both in our late twenties, I think. But she was lovely in a soft way. I liked her quietness and she made little or no demands on me. She just accepted whatever attention I gave her and then withdrew into the background without complaint when I didn’t require her presence. The wedding happened very quickly. There was nothing to be gained by waiting around. Her frail mother and half-witted brother stood behind us at the altar. No family on my side, of course. We didn’t bother with the palaver of a hotel reception. We had a rowdy meal in a city-center bistro owned by a former college friend, Michael. Barney was there. Back then I quite liked him. He was very emotional at the wedding, more than anybody else. One couldn’t blame him, I suppose. We rented a spacious flat in Merrion Square for a few years. I insisted on a big place because I needed privacy to write. I can only write behind a locked door. Those were good times. We made a bit of money when nobody else did. It made financial sense that we would collaborate on what was becoming quite a successful series. During the day we would retreat to our separate corners to work. Me, producing my books. She, cleverly matching pictures to my words. She was good at it too. Her work flattered mine appropriately. I became quite well-known as a critic and occasional scribe for the weekend newspapers and for an infrequent guest spot on televised talk shows. In those days, everyone was more discreet and low-key about their achievements, their successes. Not like current times—I can’t tell you how often in the last decade I was approached about partaking in a “reality” show. Heaven forbid. Alice avoided all of that, which suited me really. She didn’t like the limelight, and she underestimated her own contribution to the success of my books, insisting that my work was more important, that she was just a doodler. She was timid and didn’t even want it known that we were a husband-and-wife team in case she would be “forced onto television.” Rather sweet, and it meant that for a lot of the time I could continue my life as a seemingly single man. It had its rewards. Truthfully, she couldn’t have been a better partner. Alice’s mother died suddenly in 1986, at the end of our fourth year of marriage. Thanks be to God. I can’t stand old people. Can’t stand it even more now that I am getting to be one. I used to make excuses to avoid visiting her and her doily-draped furniture. Used to pretend to be too busy to eat with them when she came to visit us. It was never pleasant to witness her struggling with her dentures, the half-wit dribbling by her side. Her death was a mixed blessing. We got the house. But we also got Alice’s imbecilic brother. The house is quite a pile on Pembroke Avenue. The brother goes by the name of Eugene. Alice begged me to let her keep him. Until now, that was the biggest upset in our marriage. Bad enough to have a child, but this was a twenty-seven-year-old, two-hundred-pound dolt we were talking about. Eventually I had him accommodated in a home for the “mentally handicapped,” or “special needs,” or whatever they are calling them this year, at considerable personal expense. When we got engaged, I made it very clear that children were not on the agenda. Well, I said I didn’t want children, and she agreed. I should have got that in writing. She must have been extraordinarily besotted with me to sacrifice something so fundamental to her in order to marry me. Maybe she thought I would change my mind, because it seems that lots of men do. Or maybe she knew that if I didn’t marry her, I’d marry the next quiet one that came along. Of course, five years into our marriage, Alice began to whine and grew more shrill with each passing month. I reminded her of our agreement. She claimed that at the time, that was what she had wanted too, but now she desperately wanted a child. I am nothing if not a man of my word. I couldn’t depend on her to protect herself, so I took control. I made a ritual of bedtime cocoa with a little crushed pill as an added extra. Alice thought that was so romantic. I haven’t exactly been a saint within our marriage. Women, by and large, are attracted to me, and I do not like to disappoint them. Women you would never expect. Even Moya, for God’s sake. I eventually resent the ones who try to cling. In later years, I had begun to satisfy myself with some tarts that operated near the canal. I never objected to them, even before I became a client. They were objects of curiosity. They were cheaper and more desperate, mostly addicts with raddled bodies and ropey veins but perfectly adequate for my needs. I would order them into a shower before any congress was allowed and I always provided a new toothbrush. Some of them took it for a gift. Pathetic. They are usually too emaciated to be good-looking. One would think that they might make an effort to make themselves attractive. Alas, they were only selling their various orifices; the packaging was immaterial. But still, they held a fascination for me. After all, my mother was one, or so my father said. • • • Returning to the house on the night Alice pushed me too far, I fumbled with the key in the door. I stepped into the dining room. She wasn’t on the floor, thank God. She was sitting in the kitchen, nursing a mug of tea. Her hand rubbed at her face. She looked at me without affection. I noticed that her jaw was quite red on the right-hand side. No bruise. Yet. I looked at her. Smiled. The wooden box in which I had locked away my darkest secrets lay open on the table in the hall, its lid agape, lock smashed, contents violated. “Liar!” she said, her voice breaking. It was clear that she intended to ruin me. The second time I hit Alice, I just couldn’t stop. I am very sorry about that indeed. I have been in control of my life since I was eighteen years old, and to lose control is a failing. Needless to say, I am not allowed to visit her in the hospital. It is silly really. It is February 2012, so it’s been three months now. In her condition, she wouldn’t know if I was there or not. It turns out that I am a violent man after all. It comes as a shock to me. I have been psychologically assessed. I decided to tell them almost everything. Apparently, I have been harboring bitterness, resentment, and frustration since my childhood. Now, there’s a surprise. What will the neighbors think? What will anybody think? I really couldn’t care less.

Editorial Reviews

"Top-notch 'grip lit."