In 2012 I read 52 books. Here it the first in a series of how ever many reviews I get around to writing!
Girl Gone: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
How much damage can you inflict on another person and still claim to love them?
When I first read a description of Flynn’s latest novel about a woman who disappears on the morning of her fifth anniversary, I was intrigued. As I listened to the audiobook I searched for reasons to be in my car to listen to one more chapter. Then another. I was hooked. Not a “ripped-from-the-headlines” kind of story, this book successfully plumbed the darkest crevices of two minds: Nick, a Midwestern husband and writer and his vivacious, complex wife Amy who relocates with Nick from Manhattan to his childhood home of North Carthage, Missouri.
Part One of the book alternates between Nick’s first person account of the desperate search for his missing wife and Amy’s hopeful, upbeat journal entries that profile the couple’s history together. Perception is everything in this book, and the reader’s perception of characters and events is constantly in flux. By the end of the first half of the book, I had formed at least half a dozen theories on Amy’s disappearance, and had rejected all of them. I loved Nick; I loathed Nick. Amy became the heroine, then the villain. Then the heroine again. The characters gained dimension and complexity as the reader vacillates between love and hate.
As the mystery begins to unravel in the second half of the book, Flynn’s characterization becomes even sharper as she teasingly reveals facets of Amy and Nick’s characters that give the story even more depth and context. Moving from questions of right and wrong, the novel explores the varying degrees to which people become damaged, and how that damage is played out in their relationships and actions. Flynn doesn’t give us the simple choice of liking or disliking Amy and Nick. They are multi-dimensional characters with great flaws, and the reader is left to determine whether or not each is beyond redemption.
The master plan of the plot is brilliantly executed by Flynn. The reader is caught up in the narrative and is buffeted along by twists that reshape the entire direction of the storyline. The final resolution of the mystery of Amy’s disappearance leaves the reader utterly impressed by the delicate intertwining of the details that have been placed throughout the story. The final pages, though, hold the greatest surprise for the reader. Love the ending or hate it, one cannot feel indifferent about the vengeance that is meted out.