Hundreds of thousands of people have already read Gillian Flynn’s breakout suspense novel “Gone Girl” (2012), the story of a husband who becomes suspect when his beautiful, brilliant but high-strung wife disappears. Though I normally don’t go for thrillers, I picked it up, being intrigued by the success of a book that shares both wide popular acclaim and glowing critical reviews.
“Gone Girl” is no simple who-done-it: Wife disappears, husband becomes a suspect, clues found, etc. Flynn is intent on teasing and confounding her readers. She has both husband and wife chime in on their relationship — the moods, the pleasures, the deceits, the ebbing bliss — by alternating Nick Dunnes’ narration, beginning on the day of his wife, Amy’s, disappearance, with Amy’s entries from her diary dating from the first day she met and fell for her handsome husband.
The Dunnes had recently moved from Manhattan to the banks of the Mississippi River in North Carthage, Mo., before the fateful day. Things had gone well for the couple up north when they were busy writers — Nick doing magazine articles and Amy creating multiple choice lifestyle quizzes for women’s magazines — but with the advent of the Internet, their print jobs vanished.
Moving to Nick’s more affordable hometown and allowing them to care for his ailing parents made sense to him so he persuaded his wife to relocate. He opened a bar with his twin sister and eased back into his old life. Still fuming from his unexpected job loss, he reasoned, at least “there’s no app for a bourbon buzz on a warm day in a cool, dark bar.”
But Amy, born and bred in New York, never eased out of her culture shock and never fit in with Nick’s family and friends. She was disdainful of the bank-owned McMansion they moved into: “Shall I remove my soul before I come inside?” she asked on moving day.
Flynn’s writing is immensely readable, full of wit and colorful images. Both Amy and Nick confide in us with best-friend-like honesty. But Flynn’s narrators are not to be trusted. She has curve balls coming from all directions. Some are fun. Some are maddening. The seemingly worried Nick who is captured in photos at a police press conference remarks on his “killer smile” and reports to us after an early interrogation, “It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting.” But could he really kill her?
You may not love these two characters, and you may not love the way Flynn ties up their story, but you will find it impossible to leave them before you discover what is up with the girl who is gone.
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