Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Crown, 2012
432 pages

Sometimes I pick up a book, read a chapter or two, and think: "Hmm. Maybe this isn't for me." This is what happened the first time I tried to read Gone Girl back in June, just after it was published and not long after Amazon named it one of their books of the month. I really couldn't get into it, and thought it might be one of two books this year that I was very disappointed with (the other I haven't revealed yet, and I'm not sure I will without giving it another try, also).

Fast forward to October. I was chatting with my work colleague K about books. She'd just recently finished Gone Girl and said it was awesome -- she was blown away -- and she reads a lot of fiction, so I knew I must have missed something the first time around. I gave it another try, and this time, it grabbed me and refused to let me go until the very last page.

Gone Girl centers around married couple Amy and Nick. Amy is missing, having disappeared on their fifth anniversary. Using an alternating chapters technique where one chapter is narrated by Nick and the next by Amy, we quickly learn this is a couple with some serious problems. This technique is like peeling back the layers of an onion, and little by little, we learn what's really going on. Turns out that Nick, a regular-guy native of a dying Mississippi River town in Missouri, has little in common with Amy, who grew up privileged in New York. 

Gone Girl is brilliant on many different levels. Sure, there's the mystery that needs to be solved. Where is Amy and what happened? But there's a lot of stuff going on underneath the surface, and lots of interesting secondary characters. Amy's parents, for example. They're both psychologists, and made a fortune years ago by writing a series of children's books based on their daughter. Nick's sister Go (short for Margo) is one tough chica. There's a sleazy lawyer character that's a bit over the top, and reference to a media character who sounds very much like . . . well, you'll know when you read it if you live in the USA.

[Aside and probably not relevant, but I'm gonna write it anyway: I was particularly impressed with the author's selection of a setting for Gone Girl. Her descriptions of a "lost" section of America were depressingly accurate. At least once a month, I drive through an area of my home state that was once a thriving manufacturing area; now the factories are closed and the towns have dried up. It tears me up inside when I pass by the boarded-up, fenced-in, weeded-over buildings and I think about the people who used to work there and wonder where they are. I'm glad someone had the guts to write about this often-overlooked reality of contemporary American life.]

I don't want to say more because there are so many twists and turns that I want you to experience for yourself. I'll just say that like my friend K, I think this is one of the best books I've read this year. Get it now! Then buckle your seat belts, and prepare to be taken on a ride. 'Cause that's what's gonna happen once you get past those first few chapters.