Author: Caroline Kepnes
Performed by MacLeod Andrews, Emily Rankin, Paul Michael
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio UK in November 2018
Category: Suspense, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, AudioBook, Review
Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.
Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.
Providence explores the compulsive relationship between Jon and Chloe, who enjoy a special friendship growing up together in a small New Hampshire town.
Chloe has other friends but Jon is ostracised and bullied by his peers, mainly a boy named Carrig. When Jon disappears on his way to school one morning, Chloe’s grief is overwhelming and, even as she tries to carry on normally, Jon is always in her thoughts. His parents accept his death after a while and the investigation loses momentum as the months and years pass.
Four years later Jon reappears, having escaped from the basement where he was being held but with no memory of what happened to him. The only clue is a letter left by his abductor and a copy of The Dunwich Horror by HP Lovecraft. Jon doesn’t even recognise himself—he’s transformed into a tall, muscular man who, according to the letter, now has a special power. His feelings for Chloe are still as strong and initially his mindset is as it was when he was taken, although given his drastically altered life he has to mature quickly.
The words blur before my eyes. We did good work down here. No we didn’t. There is no we, you sicko. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t remember anything. How long have I been down here? I didn’t like Mr Blair then and I don’t like him know. My head aches and my hands quiver, trying to build a bridge between the then and now of it.
Jon discovers his powers are harmful when emotions are involved, so much so he can’t risk being near Chloe or anyone he cares about, driving him into almost total solitude while he tries to make sense of his life.
The story is told from the first person perspectives of Jon, Chloe and Detective Charles DeBenedictus, aka Eggs, who is investigating a spate of unexplained deaths in Providence, Rhode Island and spans a good number of years. Characters are developed accordingly and extremely well, giving an in depth insight into each one with introspection and realistic dialogue. The works of HP Lovecraft are a significant theme throughout, which was mostly lost on me having no knowledge of the author’s books, but what is much more apparent to me is the theme of obsession. Jon and Chloe are obsessed with each other, Eggs obsessed with his compulsion to find Jon, risking his health and marriage in the process, Carrig obsessed with Chloe and Blair obsessed with HP Lovecraft. All that mixed together creates a volatile mix of complex relationships, survival under extreme odds and self-destructive behaviour.
It’s a bizarre concept yet the story is put together in such a way I was rooting for Jon even though there doesn’t seem to be a viable solution for him, and in a slightly lesser way, Eggs too. His story helped to add to the characters and was perceptive in its own right.
Retrospectively, I’m glad I listened. I’m not sure reading it would have had as much impact. The narrators are all excellent and brought the characters to life, like them or not.
About the Author
Caroline Kepnes is the author of YOU, HIDDEN BODIES and PROVIDENCE. The hit Netflix series You is an adaptation of her debut novel. The upcoming second is based on her sequel HIDDEN BODIES.
Caroline was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. When she was in high school, Sassy Magazine gave her short story an Honorable Mention in their Fabulous Fiction Contest. They also gave her a Smith Corona typewriter.
After graduating from Brown University, Caroline continued writing short stories (on her computer, sorry typewriter) while embarking on a career in pop culture journalism first at Tiger Beat, then at Entertainment Weekly. She also worked as a TV writer on 7th Heaven and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
Caroline now lives in a quaint neighborhood in Los Angeles. She goes home to Cape Cod every chance she gets.