Gone Girl marks my introduction to the books of Gillian Flynn (Sharp Places, Dark Objects), an author I have heard praised far and wide for her exceptional talent in constructing dark and intricate mysteries with twisty characters and plots. By these standards, Gone Girl is no exception – Flynn’s third novel is one of the more disturbing pieces of fiction I’ve read.
The story begins in small-town Missouri on the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. The couple’s years together have not been without trial. Both had been magazine journalists, but lost their jobs in the boom of the internet. Further misfortunes have seen them sell their Brooklyn home to move back to Nick’s hometown of North Carthage, Missouri to help his twin sister, Go (Margo), care for their dying mother. As if this couple needs any more tension, Nick has borrowed the last of Amy’s trust fund to purchase and run a bar with Go. Amy remains at home, still unemployed and often deeply frustrated by the new limitations of her life. Still it looks like their anniversary will be a happy one, with both Nick and Amy poised to try to enjoy their day. Nick steps out to run some errands, and returns to signs of violence, struggle, and a missing wife.
Gone Girl is told in alternating voices – Nick narrates the hell of his life unfolding in the aftermath of Amy’s disappearance, and Amy’s version of events unfolds in past diary entries detailing their promising first meeting, courtship, and the slow demise of their marriage. Flynn’s expertise is in playing with the reader, as well as relaying the pressure cooker environment of a marriage that transforms two relatively good-natured individuals into less than their best selves. Moral perspective and situational morality were at the forefront of my mind as I repeatedly switched sides among Nick and Amy, who after just five years of marriage bring out the absolute worst in each, and ruthlessly justify their own flawed behavior and misdeeds. What he did seems bad, until you find out what it was in response to, and what in turned provoked that response. I couldn’t help but to continually change my mind about how and why I felt the way I did about this book and its characters.
Many elements play a role in Amy’s disappearance and Gone Girl deftly explores the moving components that couples juggle within matrimony – namely, money woes, overbearing in-laws, spousal jealousy, and misunderstandings that erupt into long simmering resentment. Flynn also vividly illustrates the intricacies of crime solving and the roles traditional and new media play in determining guilt and innocence. Nick, by his own admission, reveals himself as an extremely flawed man and a lousy husband, but is he a killer? Several nasty turns and delicious twists lie between the reader and a definitive answer in this disturbingly dark psychological suspense thriller. Recommended.
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