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.
When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity–but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.
Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.
Providence is trying to be too many things at once, so it ever fully expands on any of them, which leaves the reader confused and frustrated.
Providence tells the story of Jon and Chloe and their difficult friendship. The novel opens with a clear depiction of the contrast between Jon and Chloe’s lives. Unfortunately, the beginning is rushed, so the reader only gets a brief glimpse of the brewing romance between the characters. Their feelings for each other are complicated and rooted in middle school drama with popular friends and reputation colouring their friendship, but Kepnes does not spend enough time developing these feelings that are the driving force of the novel and the motivation for the characters.
The love Jon has for Chloe and Chloe has for Jon is one of the main forces driving this novel. Regrettably, there is no chemistry between the characters throughout the entire novel. The feeble amount of time spent developing those budding feelings is a disservice to the story as whole since they’re the backbone of the novel and the characters’ motivations.
Providence is deeply connected to Lovecraft, more specifically The Dunwich Horror. I thoroughly enjoy when novels are connected to classics and is a sort of English lesson within the text. Unfortunately, Providence did not interest me enough to seek out The Dunwich Horror and read it to get a better understand of the story and character motivations.
As with You and Hidden Bodies, Kepnes writing in Providence is flawless. I would describe it as a sort of cleaned up stream of consciousness that’s rooted in the mundane, but is able to toe the line of tedious monologue with interesting introspections. Her writing is the only reason I was able to finish the novel despite the boring story.
Overall, Providence bit off more than it can chew by trying to be a mystery, romance, and science fiction novel all rolled into one, but, unfortunately, never expands adequately on any of them. Had Kepnes solely focused on the mystery and romance, I think the novel would have been more successful.
** I received an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.