Gone Girl was the hot summer read for those who were not reading that other popular “trashy” novel. But Gone Girl cannot be filed in the category of trash. Gillian Flynn’s third novel is an in-depth look into the psychology of a marriage, but it goes so much farther than that. It’s suspenseful, over-the-top, pithy, well-written, and horrifying all at once. Flynn is a former journalist who went on to write for Entertainment Weekly, a smart and sarcastic magazine a cut above the competition, and that style carries on into her novel writing. If you like fast-paced, jaw-dropping novels, don’t let the fact that summer is winding down stop you from picking this one up—it should carry well into the fall and beyond as a source of extreme pleasure.
The book follows Amy and Nick to environs as different as New York City and small-town Missouri, going back and forth in time between the point when they met and the present day, which is around their fifth wedding anniversary. Amy is the unwitting “star” of her parents’ series of children’s books, The Amazing Amy. Amy’s parents have a marriage that is described as being the kind that makes people cringe: so in love that it results in the determent of their child. They seem to be more interested in the Amy they created for the books than the real girl, and that fact plays into all the themes in the novel. Being held up to the standard of a true but fictional character may have scarred Amy for life, and may have made her spoiled and entitled (her parents, too). When they met, Nick was smitten with this girl who has always had to act a part and never could be her true self. But when Nick starts to see the true self, he is both scared and out of love. There is much to this plot that is not to be given away, so it won’t be ruined here, but suffice it to say that there are many plot turns, some of which you just may not see coming—and that just adds to the suspense.
Nick is accused of having had a hand in the disappearance of his wife, and even the reader doesn’t know if he did it, which is frustrating and fun. Whether he has done it or not, the novel gives the reader a peek into the brain of a husband who resents his wife on a daily basis, and it’ll make one wonder if we ever really know anyone or how they feel about us, especially our spouses—a shiver-inducing thought. The shear amount of “acting” this couple does with one another throughout the course of this story is exhausting. The novel gives the reader quite the glimpse into Amy’s brain as well, taking turns switching between her and Nick’s voices. The reader can decide to take sides or stay neutral—it’s complicated. There is not a clear cut good guy or bad guy. The way that the narrative goes back and forth between voices and time frames also gives the reader more opportunity to see how time and perspective can change everything.
In the present, Nick and Amy have moved back to the small Missouri town where Nick grew up (and was a golden boy) and are not exactly living the high life after they both lose good journalist jobs in NYC. The cost of living is cheaper, but Amy especially is not enamored with Missouri after having tasted the fruits of big-city life when one has money (royalties from the children’s books that bear her name do help, but are running dry). Nick’s twin sister lives nearby, and is a much-needed ally for Nick. His mother is dead and his father is a nightmare. Gillian Flynn was raised in Missouri and has lived and worked in NYC, so the references to both seem highly credible.
Flynn employs a detective’s keen eye for detail in setting up the case against Nick (and some things Amy does too, which cannot be given away!) Instinct and personal experience, combined with the fact that she obviously did her homework, makes Flynn’s book shine. It’s not just any thriller. It’s full of psychological insights and it’s the kind of novel that weaves the reader right into the character’s heads (and makes them think about their own relationships) and won’t let the go until the dénouement, which will make some chuckle and others scream. Flynn deserves the outstanding summer she has most likely had, and readers should only expect more good novels from her.