I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that there are points as a mystery/thriller reader where I feel like I’ve “seen it all.” I don’t expect to be surprised. I’m happy with a nice turn of a phrase or smart plot twist. But I never expect the rug to be pulled out from under me. That’s for the newer readers.
Well, I was wrong. Thank you, Gillian Flynn. Thank you, Gone Girl.
I’d read a lot of reviews of Gone Girl — all carefully written to not give away the jaw-dropping, game-changer moment that happens about halfway through the book. Everyone loved it. Which made me wary. It also built up expectations. But a few authors I greatly admire had nice things to say, so I picked up a copy on my way home last week.
Well, I can’t stop. I’ve been reading the book for less than two days and I’m well on my way to being done (it’s Wednesday as I write this). It’s the kind of book that makes me think of how I read other books. The sections you skim over. The times you put it down and the length of time it takes you to pick it up again. Basically, how engaged you are with the book you’re reading.
To further the point: I have a long commute. Door-to-door, it takes me a couple hours to get to work on a given day. This means I get a lot of reading/writing/thinking/napping done. If I’m kind of enjoying a book, but mostly just trying to finish it, I’ll usually put it down for part of my trip and do other stuff. That has yet to happen with Gone Girl. In fact, I’ve been worried about missing my train stop a handful of times because I’ve been so caught up in the world Flynn’s created.
Flynn’s book works on a number of levels, and it’s unsettling across the board. She introduces you to Nick and Amy, a young-ish married couple. They’ve just moved to Missouri to help Nick care for his terminally-ill mother. We get alternating perspectives: Nick’s current point of view, as we the readers discover that Amy is missing and Amy’s own diary, which recounts the birth of their relationship, how they fell in love and, eventually, how the problems began. That’s pretty much all I can say without giving elements away.
Because Flynn crafts the alternating chapters so well, they mirror each other and create a wave of momentum as you read. Unlike other books that use the same device, I never found myself annoyed to be in a flashback or with Nick in the present. Quite the opposite. They feed each other, and provide clues as to what might be coming next.
The creepiest part isn’t just the inherent criminal stuff — though, there’s a lot of that, and it feels very current and topical without veering into “this week’s Law & Order” territory. Flynn is basically bringing you into the room to experience the dissolution of a marriage, and you get to see the good times along with the bad. The romantic little jokes built during their first dates, the first signs of trouble, the awkward middle period and When Things Went Too Far. If this wasn’t a thriller, I’d still be hooked.
Go read this book.
What’s next: Not sure! I should figure that out relatively soon, though.