4 reasons Providence is a perfectly strange novel


Providence may not be the best book out there period, but it does absolutely nail being strange and not-strange at the very same time.

It’s tough to call Caroline Kepnes’ new novel, Providence, sent my way by LENNY Books, anything but strange. I think, judging by the Stephen King blurb for one of her previous works that features on the inside flap of this novel, that this may actually be the point.

But the story of Jon Bronson, Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus, and Chloe Sayers is still a good book and a fascinating read for someone who’s trying to move out of their comfort zone but still wants a familiar world. The action is all set in New England; Kepnes is from there, and it shows in her work. The inside flap calls it “part love story, part detective story, and part supernatural thriller,” and the best way I can describe it is that it’s a bit like Dexter meets, well, H.P Lovecraft.

So, how is this book so “perfectly strange”? Let us count the ways.


Yours truly has already mentioned H.P. Lovecraft, but one of his works, The Dunwich Horror, plays a pretty significant part in the plot as well. Kepnes doesn’t just keep it to one angle, though; we view the book from a few different angles.

Invoking the name of the creator of Cthulhu practically requires you to go full-out and embrace the weird, and a reader will get the most enjoyment out of this by embracing it, too. Actual Lovecraft fans might pick this book up solely for the references (and the importance of Providence’s NecronomiCon).

Jon’s powers

Jon is capable of controlling what he does to some extent, but it doesn’t turn him into the costumed heroes he grows up loving like Spider-Man. Instead, they drive him even further into isolation; Kepnes makes sure to show that Jon is not the most popular kid in school, although that first page of the whole novel, which starts with “I brung Pedro home…” definitely makes it hard to exactly place how old Jon is — it’s resolved later, but suffice it to say yours truly spent the first portion of the novel particularly confused about it.

It’s weird because it is so mundane. This is not an origin story, much as we would like it to be.


This is all to say nothing of Eggs, who is apparently part of a long family tradition of being called that, who spends most of the novel being affected by simple chance. His parts of the story are perhaps the most average or everyday of them all, and yet there’s still that odd quality about them because they are so normal, even when things take turns for the worse for him.

It makes for a nice contrast, and the book would have been worse without the inclusion thereof.


And what of Chloe? She’s perhaps the least special on her own, but oh, she is very human. The book jumps forward in time quite a bit, but Kepnes does a fair job of keeping continuity, and it’s with Chloe that it shows the most. But Chloe, oddly enough, isn’t victimized as the only friend of a tragically lost boy; Jon’s initial disappearance begins her interest in art, and not everyone out there is on board with it.

Mark Twain is often credited with saying that “Truth is stranger than fiction,” and yet, somehow, Kepnes has managed to capture some of that strangeness in fiction, even if she had to include a little Lovecraft to do it. This book is definitely not for everyone — very few books are, but this one more than most. It starts slowly, although it becomes quite a bit more readable as you go deeper.

Next: More than Words has plenty of melodrama

And yet, because of that little dash of oddity, it’s a pleasant read, at least for this reviewer.