The movie trailers for this 2012 novel look so good that I decided to read the book. I had chosen not to read it when it was all the rage, because it sounded very negative, and because I steer clear of anything that might make adultery look excusable, but Flynn does not wink at adultery— or at anything else, for that matter.
Just in case you are one of the three other people in the world who has not yet read Gone Girl, here is the gist of the book. Nick and Amy are a happy little yuppie couple in Manhattan until they both lose their jobs and move to Nick’s home town in Missouri to care for his dying parents. Amy, whose parents have written a series of books called “Amazing Amy” based on her life, is not used to being buried in the backwoods, playing the part of a supportive wife. Their relationship begins to change, and both of them become deeply unhappy. The chapters alternate between Nick and Amy’s first-person perspectives, and we first meet Nick when he comes home to find Amy missing. As police, detectives, the media, and attorneys get involved, more and more layers of lies are peeled back, and the reader sees that nothing is as it seemed. Since we only know what the two main characters are telling us, the truth is slippery and changes according to the character’s perspective.
I was fully prepared to hate this book, but I didn’t. It is an absolute page-turner, thoroughly absorbing and challenging. Flynn creates a situation in which we can see some of the most sensational news stories of the day from the eyes of the victims. Seeing our society in this light is not pretty; we all fit in somewhere. The main characters vividly display the assumptions of twenty-first century husbands and wives. It is hard to imagine a relationship as twisted as that of Nick and Amy, but several of Flynn’s observations of wives still made me cringe. (“Oh, I hope I’ve never said anything like that!”) Then there are extended family members, the media, law enforcement, and all of the local people who flock to anything exciting in their dull, little lives. When someone is dead or missing, everyone claims to have known them intimately, to be their best friend in the world. The media people are just looking for a hook, something that will stir up emotions and even violence, whether it is true or not. When new information comes out, they will cheerfully reverse their opinions and act as if they never thought otherwise. Flynn’s observations on human nature were insightful, jarring, and fairly sickening.
I had heard that the movie had a different ending than the book, but now stories are coming out that it does not. I am generally a purist when it comes to movies based on books, but I don’t know how I feel about this ending. You will have to read the book to find out what I mean. Lots of profanity and sexual situations. Here is a novel that will keep you awake turning pages, even though you will despise pretty much everyone in the book.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.