I stumbled upon Deoborah Reed’s Olivay thanks to fellow writer and Matera brainstormer, S.G. Redling. A few days ago, she mentioned it in a Facebook post, and it caught my eye. I loved the premise: a woman, widowed one year, brings home a stranger and spends the night with him–the next day bombs explode in Los Angeles, not far from where she lives–and the stranger she brought home may have saved her life…and he may have been involved.
Olivay is a literary thriller that–even with its very tight timeline–slowly unfurls, not rushing to reveal all its secrets. Even with the backdrop of the novel being set against a terrorist attack during the LA Marathon that is exacerbated by the Santa Ana winds and wildfire, Olivay tells more than just the story of a terrorist attack. It is the story of a woman struggling to emerge from her grief. It is the story of two people finding one another. It is the story of discovering that your marriage is not what you thought it was. It is the story of a murder and of reinventing oneself.
What I love about this novel is that both of the characters–Olivay and Henry–are so
marvelously flawed. Both are unreliable yet vulnerable. Sometimes both are so solicitous of one another and yet capable of cruelty. Olivay recounts at one point that both her husband and her mother accused her of being full of meanness. There are times when her behavior towards Henry seems to confirm this and yet, there are other times when she is so tender towards him–even when she begins to feel suspicious of his skittishness.
This is one of those pageturner novels–seriously, I had a hard time setting aside my Kindle because I didn’t want to stop reading. And it’ll have you guessing as you try to figure out Henry’s–and at times, Olivay’s–intentions. The descriptions–of the bombings and its aftermath are so rich and so powerful… Of course it will remind you at times of that surreal, disconnected and yet hypersensitive state many of us were in following the September 11th attacks and the Boston Marathon. Reed’s use of how the media reports misinformation and retractions is especially important to the plot and helps to increase the novel’s frenetic tension.
Olivay is a fantastic, thought-provoking novel to lose yourself in this summer. Make sure you get a friend to read it at the same time–you will want to discuss it as soon as you finish reading it!