“Best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe share a bond so intense that it borders on the mystical. But before Jon can declare his love for his soul mate, he is kidnapped, his plans for a normal life permanently dashed.
Four years later, Chloe has finally given up hope of ever seeing Jon again. Then, a few months before graduation, Jon reappears. But he is different now: bigger, stronger, and with no memory of the time he was gone. Jon wants to pick up where he and Chloe left off . . . until the horrifying instant he realizes that he possesses strange powers that pose a grave threat to everyone he cares for. Afraid of hurting Chloe, Jon runs away, embarking on a journey for answers.
Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, healthy college students and townies with no connection to one another are suddenly, inexplicably dropping dead. A troubled detective prone to unexplainable hunches, Charles ‘Eggs’ DeBenedictus suspects there’s a serial killer at work. But when he starts asking questions, Eggs is plunged into a whodunit worthy of his most outlandish obsessions.
In this dazzling new novel—and with an intense, mesmerizing voice—Caroline Kepnes makes keen and powerful observations about human connection and how love and identity can dangerously blur together.”
My Thoughts: There is something doubly disappointing about the idea that Ms. Kepnes’ latest novel is so forgettable. Her first two novels were spectacular pieces of twisted fiction. The idea of a character possessing strange powers that threaten others made me hope that Providence would be more of the same. Reader, lightning does not strike a third time in this instance.
There are several areas in which the story falters. The first is in Jon and Chloe’s relationship. The synopsis makes it sounds as if it is part of the magic that later becomes such a large part of Jon’s life. However, a reader never gets that impression from the story itself. They are 13 years old when Jon disappears and still finding themselves and their niche in their small social world. Chloe, in particular, must reconcile her desire to be among the popular students and the person who she calls her best friend. I say calls her best friend because she still allows the popular students to bully and beat Jon; two people with such a strong connection would never allow that to happen to the other without interference. Later, after Jon disappears, what Chloe feels – in my opinion – is nothing but guilt. The guilt manifests itself in never being able to forget Jon. Upon his return, she continues to feel guilty at having moved on in her life while he was…well…not able to do so (without giving away a key plot point). Is there love there? Probably. Is it a mystical bond? I don’t think so, at least not the way Ms. Kepnes makes it appear to be. There are so many other emotions at play in their relationship, not to mention all of the issues that coincide with being a teenager and young adult, that to call it mystical is to ignore the mundane.
Also, H. P. Lovecraft and his novels provide a disconcertingly large part of the focus of the novel. To understand what they bring to the story would require knowing information about him and about his stories. Ms. Kepnes tries to provide the basics for readers, however, it is not enough to bridge the gap of unfamiliarity. I feel that someone who is a Lovecraftian would appreciate Providence much more than I did if only because they will understand some of the connections between Jon and Lovecraft the author is trying to make. So much of the novel either references Lovecraft or specific plot points of his novels that I believe I lost a significant level of detail and insight by not being familiar with either.
To me, Providence is another story about obsession with characters who would greatly benefit from counseling and maybe even medication. However, Ms. Kepnes does everything in her power to pretend it about something else, and that is where the story loses me. Ms. Kepnes does not need magic or superpowers to create compelling characters; that she does with Jon and Chloe is a letdown. It feels a bit like she took the easy path with this novel and with these characters, using Lovecraft and at least one of his novels to develop the plot and relying on magic powers and a mystical connection rather than properly developing the characters. Her previous novels proved that she can write amazing stories. Unfortunately, I found nothing amazing in Providence.