Book Review: Unraveling Oliver

08.22.2017 | Scout Press
Rating: 4/5 stars


Oliver Ryan is a charming, charismatic, and successful children’s book author. He is married to devoted and demure, Alice, who illustrates Oliver’s books. They appear to have not only a picturesque marriage, but also a solid work partnership. Together they live an easy, wealthy life. That is until the night everything changes. Until the night Oliver hits Alice time and time again, leaving her in a coma.

As Alice battles between life and death after the incident, those who knew the couple best find themselves recollecting their interactions with the couple and forming conclusions about what could have driven Oliver to do this. Alternating narratives from the past and into the present, alongside Oliver unveiling his own truths, deliver the reader a story about a life filled with many dark secrets. Just how deep does Oliver’s manipulation run?

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

Liz Nugent opens the pages of UNRAVELING OLIVER with quite possibly the best opening line: “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.” I mean how can you read that and not instantly want to keep reading to find out what the hell is happening? Clearly Oliver, who is narrating the opening chapter, has some issues. What I didn’t realize was just how deep those issues ran until I kept reading.

Each chapter is told from a unique perspective from either Oliver himself or someone who has known him or Alice over the course of their lives. The narrators do not rotate in any set order, but they are laid out in a way that Oliver typically follows after a narrator to essentially tell his side of the story. What the reader quickly learns is that Oliver has a reason for everything he’s done in life. They are often reasons that a normal person would not opt for. They are devious and manipulative, but Oliver sees nothing wrong with them.

You don’t have to love a person. You can love the idea of a person. You can idealize them and turn them into the person you need.

Instead of Oliver feeling like a one dimensional character because of his lack of empathy, this trait actually makes him fascinating to read about. Nugent slowly peels away the layers of Oliver in a way that you feel almost as if he has personally victimized a close friend of yours. You can feel how baffled the narrators of the other chapters are by Oliver’s attack on Alice. You can feel how shocked they are that they missed Oliver’s real self.

UNRAVELING OLIVER is a detailed and captivating character study into one of the most manipulative people I hope to never meet. I’ve seen this book being marketed as a thriller and while the plot can at times be fast paced, I think that description doesn’t do the book justice. This book is more of a slow-burn. A delicate unwrapping of what makes a person tick. The plot is so simple, yet so unbelievably engrossing that you won’t want to stop reading!

This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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