Friday, November 9, 2012

Contemporary Fiction: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is the latest mystery/thriller from author Gillian Flynn. This is one of those books that showed up on my Pinterest page thanks to, and after reading the premise, I had to know more. Usually mysteries and thrillers are not for me, but something about a missing persons case that points towards the husband who maintains his innocence just intrigues me...I blame the surge in crime shows from recent years.

The Situation: Nick and Amy Dunne are getting ready to celebrate five years of marriage. There have been some serious ups and almost terrifying, but they have made it to five years. And on the morning of the day, things seems to be looking up. They have survived both of them losing their jobs; the move from trendy and cultured Manhattan to Nick's Midwest hometown of Carthage, Missouri;, taking care of Nick's caustic but still kicking father; and the death of Nick's sweet mother, her illness being the reason they moved in the first place. But even through all of that, they are still here and still together. Amy has put together her annual scavenger hunt, leaving clues and treasures hidden around the surrounding Carthage area for Nick to find and that will ultimately lead to his anniversary surprise.

The Problem: After Nick returns home from helping his sister, Margo, with the bar they both own, he realizes immediately that something is very very off. The front door is wide open, and Amy is no where to be found. There are signs of a struggle, and as the police begin to investigate, everything points to Nick. And while he vehemently maintains his innocence, he also can't stop lying. He lies about where he really was for a good chunk that morning; about the disposable cell phone he has in his pocket, in addition to his real one; and about a few things that always make him look bad when the truth is eventually found out. He also can't seem to help but look uninterested, bored almost, with the whole thing. Like he honestly couldn't care less if they find her. And eventually, the town, the media, even Amy's parents, start to believe this is true. And then there is the issue of Amy's diary, which will reveal more than anyone, including the reader, is prepared for.

Genre, Themes, History: This book is a mystery/thriller with way more thriller than mystery, especially since all of the answers are given to the reader before half of the book is over, but everything still isn't quite solved yet. Also, the tricks and twists and turns continue up to the very last page. Many parts of this book made me feel like I was reading a Philip Roth novel. It was partly all of the twists and turns, but also partly the amount of just pure hatred coming out of every other character. Oftentimes it is all just so uncomfortable. Flynn explores the often used plot of the murder/missing person investigation that starts to point towards the husband until he is the only suspect, and soon, he becomes the most hated person in the country. Then Flynn brings up the question of what human beings are willing to do in order to not be the bad guy, or even look like the bad guy, even if they are. How far will people go to feel loved? How far will people go to present themselves a certain way? How far will people go to win? And does it matter if others are destroyed in the process?

My Verdict: If you like thrillers, read this book. If you like characters that self-righteously adopt the victim mentality, read this book. If you like endings that provide little to no hope, read this book. If you like experiencing a slow decline in your faith in humanity, then read this book. Otherwise, don't let yourself be bothered. I was prepared to like this book, but instead ended up giving it one star on Goodreads. The first part is absolutely enthralling. But by the beginning of the second part, the book takes a turn that it never recovers from. In fact, things just continue to get worse. I felt the shift immediately and was consequently disappointed. Remember that feeling I mentioned before of having read a Philip Roth novel? Yeah, that wasn't a good feeling for me (anyone who has read one of his novels and despised it will know what I am talking about). The people in this novel are the kind of people few of us want to hang out with, and the thing is, I don't want to read about them either. And the constant victim mentality that permeates this story gets old incredibly fast...especially when the supposed "victim" has done more harm that anyone.

Favorite Moment: The ending. Not just because it meant the book was over (although that is part of it), but because it seems like things are going to end one way, but all it takes is a few harsh, but honest, words from someone that get into the head of someone else. And those words will continue to haunt that character, possibly forever, leaving them with absolutely no peace, which is something they have spent their whole lives robbing other people of. It is a different kind of justice.

Favorite Character: Nick's mother seems to be a genuinely wonderful woman, she just married the wrong man, but tried to do right by her children. In a way, her death is the loss of the last real voice of any kind of sanity and reason. Without her as an anchor, the whole thing unravels.

Recommended Reading: This will seem incredibly strange, but I will recommend Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. In Gone Girl, the Mississippi River plays a significant role as Carthage is right along the edge of it and it shows up a lot throughout the novel, as does the mention of both Mark Twain and his classic novel. However, I would also like to recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I would never have thought about it had Flynn not put in a mention of this book early on in the novel, but it fits wonderfully. 

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