Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.
Let me start by saying that the author clearly has talent. Providence is well-written and the character development is good. My feelings are based solely on my enjoyment, or lack thereof, of the story itself. Actually, it's two stories, loosely connected until they finally merge together in the latter part of the book. The parallel storylines do make sense once it all comes together and both are easy enough to keep up with.
Caroline Kepnes was new to me, so I went into this one without any expectations or comparisons. The book is listed in the mystery/thriller genre and the blurb sounded intriguing, so I dove in. And then I dove back out - several times. Either I completely missed it or it just wasn't there, but I found absolutely nothing in the book that mysterious or thrilling. The only mystery for me was what happened to Jon while he was kidnapped. What did Roger Blair do to him? No spoiler here, we're told who the kidnapper is from the time it happens. We also know that whatever he did to Jon caused some major changes. Changes that have dire consequences. But, we're never given the details. So, I suppose that aspect is more an unanswered question than a mystery.
All of that, while relevant to my feelings about the book, still isn't what clinched it for me. As I said, I didn't find anything that would make me think this story is a thriller. What I did find is one of the most depressing stories that I've read in some time. We have Jon, who is forced into a lonely existence because of the effects he has on those around him. Effects which cause no small amount of guilt. Then we have Chloe, who can't let go of her feelings for Jon and attempts to move on with a manipulative jerk. And let's not forget Eggs and Lo. We only get Lo's story through Eggs, and while that info leads me to believe she's a bit of an optimist, his view on everything is anything but. I won't go into details, but my opinion of him was clouded almost from the time he comes into the story. Not by his gut instinct that the deaths of so many people must be connected, but by his personal life and how he deals with it. What it boils down to is from the time Jon is kidnapped to the last page, I just felt bogged down and sad. Sad for these characters and their circumstances.
It should be mentioned that there is a good deal of reference to Lovecraft and his work throughout the story, especially one book in particular. Quite possibly, if I were more familiar with Lovecraft's work, I may have had different feelings, but I'm not and I didn't.