Once I got sucked into Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I was a goner myself, as in absent, checked out, MIA, not-in-attendance, out-of-commission, and lost until the final, surprising, fabulous pages.
Flynn’s third novel is as smart a murder mystery as they come. The novel offers layers deeper and denser than a good chocolate torte with some nails thrown in. It’s hard to say much about the book without giving away the unique twists and turns, but I’ll give it my best shot.
On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife, Amy, disappears while Nick is out on a mysterious jaunt. When Nick returns home, he finds furniture overturned, the front door open, and an iron left on. He calls the police, but lacks the franticness one might expect of a devoted spouse, even while talking to the police. Readers quickly learn that Nick is as unreliable a narrator as they come. He fibs to police, withholds details from his twin sister and in-laws, and cagily refuses to share pertinent information even with his sympathetic readers. We like Nick, but we’re baffled by Nick. We get where he’s coming from and why he might be motivated to kill his wife, but we’re not quite sure he did it. And if not him, then who? After he dreams of a bloody Amy on the kitchen floor, readers will want Nick to fess up, but Nick does not oblige.
Next we’re introduced to Amy via a diary that covers that last five years of her life. The diary explains how Amy grew up as a gilded childhood celebrity due to her parents’ book series called Amazing Amy. She’s had stalkers all her life as a result, but she’s also accumulated a hefty trust fund thanks to her parents’ work. The diary opens when Amy meets Nick in New York City. She has a degree in psychology and is employed to write women’s magazine quizzes for a living. She sounds nauseatingly sweet and comes off as an OMG! I’m in LOVE! twenty-something girl. Through the diary we learn how the couple met and fell in love.
When Amy’s parents fall on hard times after the wedding and ask for her inheritance back and then both Nick and Amy lose their New York jobs, Nick forces her to move back to his childhood home on the Mississippi River to care for his Alzheimer’s father and cancer-stricken mother. Their marriage, understandably, begins to fall apart even while saintly Amy gives Nick the last of her inheritance to open up a bar with his twin sister.
As the chapters alternate between Nick’s present and Amy’s encroaching version of their past, Nick begins to look increasingly guilty. He grins for the local media at inappropriate times, won’t answer his mysterious second phone, continues to lie to police, and doesn’t seem particularly interested in finding his wife or the fact that traces of her blood have been found on the kitchen floor. He is, however, interested in secretly uncovering the clues to the whereabouts of his big anniversary present that his wife has hidden in an annual treasure hunt tradition that he abhors. The media, smelling disingenuity, descend on his small Missouri hometown, and everything unravels from there.
It sounds like your everyday murder mystery plot, right? Wrong. And that’s where my big mouth must slam shut. The plot veers into such unexpected and surprising territory midway through the book that the novel is impossible to put down. Nothing is as it seems, and Flynn doles out the pertinent details in perfect doses. Nick and Amy are wonderfully complex and well-developed characters. We love them, even as they leave a bad taste in our mouths.
If you’re searching for a great vacation read, Gone Girl is the perfect summer novel for a beach or an airplane ride. Flynn expertly mines the harrowing state of marriage to show how easily and deceitfully love can sometimes lead to murder.
Bookmama is a writer, parent, and avid reader. She likes to think she has good taste in books, but she doesn’t always agree with the literary crowd. Her eleven-year-old son is even harder to please, and together they hope to provide occasional reviews of great books for both adults and kids.