gone girl

I have been laid up sick at home this week (lame) but it afforded me plenty of hours to devote to reading (ok fine, that’s good). I decided to spend my sick time with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Two words: holy crap!

Nick and Amy Dunne began their marriage as the perfect couple. Both writers in New York City, and Amy with a sizable trust fund from her psychologist-writer parents, thanks to their successful Amazing Amy book series. Life seems great, until the 2008 financial collapse hits. Nick and Amy are laid off from their magazines, and they loan Amy’s parents most of her trust fund back. Now near-broke themselves and hearing of Nick’s mother’s late-stage terminal cancer and his father’s descent into Alzheimer’s, Nick decides the best thing for them is to move to North Carthage, Missouri, his hometown, where he can care for his ailing parents. They rent a “McMansion” on the banks of the Mississippi River, Amy becomes a bored homemaker, and Nick borrows what remains of her trust fund to open a bar with his twin sister, Margo.

Five years in, their marriage has taken a turn for the worse. Not just worse, horribly wrong. They have become enemies, strangers to each other—vindictive, sharp-tongued, hateful—struggling through the unhappy union. The morning of their five-year wedding anniversary arrives, and Amy tries to start over, making a special crepe breakfast for Nick and her traditional treasure hunt of personal memories to lead Nick to his gift. Later he heads to the bar for work, and while there receives a call from a concerned neighbor that the front door to his house is wide open, the indoor-only cat is out, and things don’t seem right. Nick comes home to find the living room in disarray and Amy vanished. Before long, it becomes clear Nick is the primary suspect in the police investigation.

Gone Girl is told from alternating perspectives: Nick’s in the present-tense, after Amy disappears, and through Amy’s diary entries over the previous seven years. A he-said/she-said marriage drama… but then it quickly becomes a deeply disturbing, dark psychological thriller. I could not put this book down—one more chapter, one more chapter… There are more twists and turns than I can even count. What can you believe? Who is lying (who ISN’T lying)? Who is the villain? IS there a villain? There is not much I can write here without giving away spoilers!

Flynn is crafty—she meticulously weaves an utterly believable story with precise detail, and then completely flips it on its head. And then flips it again. Just when you proudly think you have the mystery solved, turn the page and you suddenly find you couldn’t be further from the answer. There are several key characters, but Flynn gives them life and individuality so they are easy to remember and keep track of in your mind. It is hard to feel any empathy towards the characters… they are spoiled, “poor little rich me” kind of people, except once in a while… they creep in and get you feeling for them. And then, BAM! They do something unthinkably repulsive or shameful. No one is very likable. Tight descriptions of people, places, and things help with visualizing the settings. Gone Girl is fast paced, smart, sarcastic, razor sharp, disquieting, thrilling, and will stay in my mind for days—I already can tell. I’m looking forward to reading Flynn’s other two novels in the future!

[Edited to add: Just learned Gillian Flynn is from Kansas City, MO! My city. Love it.]

Read from September 3 to 6, 2012.