I hadn’t been able to find a good book to review in a while, so I asked a co-worker what she was reading. She told me she was reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. She also said it was unlike anything she’d read lately, and that she couldn’t wait to finish it. That sounded good to me, so I asked her what it was about. She shook her head and told me it was about a missing woman, and that was all she could tell me, because if she said anything more, she’d spoil everything.
So, I read the book.
She was right. It was completely unlike anything I’d read either. And I also can’t tell you about it, because I don’t want to spoil the experience. So here comes a reviewer’s nightmare – reviewing a book without telling you anything about it.
Well, that’s not completely true. The book begins with a missing woman, Amy Elliot Dunne, who has apparently been taken from her home by violence. Her husband, Nick Dunne, is completely unhinged. The police begin an investigation.
There. That’s something, right? You learn about these two characters from Amy’s journal, and Nick’s narrative. You discover they were a golden couple in New York, both writers, both in love, living the quintessential NYC lifestyle. Then they both lost their jobs. Amy’s trust fund money is given away. Nick’s mother is diagnosed with cancer. So they leave NYC and travel down to Nick’s home town, a dying southern city on the banks of the Missouri river. And because they have no other choice, they remain there after his mother’s death.
Nick and his sister buy and manage a local bar. Nick teaches writing at a local college. And what does Amy do? The brilliant, beautiful type-A wife? Well, that’s a good question.
You know that old saying – there are three sides to every story ; his side, her side, and the truth? Well, that is the essence of this book. You read Amy’s journal and think what a terrific woman she is. You hear Nick tell his story and imagine what a nice guy he is. But the truth creeps up through the cracks, especially with Nick, and you start to wonder – could he have really done it?
The first third of this book is a well-written thriller – the police start drawing in clues, Nick’s story starts to fall apart, the public imagination is fired up then inflamed by the story of a beautiful, devoted wife who has vanished. Amy has a special pedigree – her parents wrote a series of well-loved children’s books called Amazing Amy, and she had lived under the shadow of that ‘perfect’ character her whole life.
And then you find out something. And everything changes. And that’s when you have to sit in your chair, turn off the phone, and pray that your child/husband/dog doesn’t need you for the next several hours, because this OH MY GOD moment really takes you in a completely different direction.
Gone Girl is not a light, happy beach read. This is not even a bleak murder-mystery. This book is intense. It’s about the lies we tell to ourselves, tell to others, and, more importantly, the lies we’re willing to believe. It’s about identity, who we think we are, who we want people to think we are, and who we finally, really are when we’re sitting alone in a room in the dark.
You’ve probably read about this book already – there’s a lot of buzz around it. Believe it all. This is a terrific book. The ending will leave you thinking about it for days. Read it with a friend so you’ll have somebody to talk to about this book. Because you’ll want to talk to someone, believe me. Even if it’s just to say “Oh, my God!”