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.
The unfathomable motive behind a seemingly unprovoked attack by children's book author Oliver Ryan on his wife, Alice, drives Irish author Nugent's outstanding first novel. To most people, the handsome, charismatic Oliver and the plain, shy Alice appeared to have had a decent marriage for more than 20 years. The relationship was enhanced by Alice being the illustrator for Oliver's world-renowned kids novels. Despite Oliver's frequent affairs, he was discreet and the couple enjoyed a comfortable life in Dublin. The narrative alternates between those who knew Oliver and Alice at different times. Family members, friends, and acquaintances seek some clue to what caused Oliver's brutality as Alice languishes in a coma. Even Oliver seems amazed at his actions because he was "fond of her, in my way," and appreciative that Alice made no demands on him. The tension subtly rises as Oliver's past unravels, revealing a loveless childhood rooted in religious hypocrisy. Nugent presents a fresh look at a man hiding his violent personality in this intense character study, which won the Irish Book Award's Crime Novel of the Year.