Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has been on my radar for quite some time now. A New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller for thirty-three weeks and counting, bouncing between the number one and number two slots, the book has lit up dialogue online and in book clubs across America. Culture writer Dave Itzkoff has named Gone Girl the biggest literary phenomenon of 2012, behind Fifty Shades of Grey. Gone Girl also took home the Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award for best thriller/mystery book of 2012, by a considerable margin.
Gone Girl is the caustic tale of two underemployed New Yorkers trapped in the wasteland of a declining Midwest town. Once living the high life as glamorous newlywed magazine and quiz writers in the Big Apple, Amy and Nick Dunne and their marriage take a turn for the worse when their respective industries dry up overnight in the wake of the Internet boom. Broke, out of work, and faced with the Alzheimer’s disease and cancer of Nick’s parents, the couple move back to his suburban hometown, where Nick opens a bar with his twin sister Go.
Their relocation turns from an uncomfortable, unwanted life change to a serious problem when Amy goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Has she been kidnapped? If so, by whom? Or, is something more sinister afoot?
Flynn flashes back and forth between Nick’s perspective of events as they unfold and Amy’s diary, which she has been keeping since she and Nick first met. The juxtaposition of past and present creates the suspenseful tension which makes Gone Girl, in a word, “unputdownable.”
A carefully culled down cast of characters leaves Flynn ample time to explore the psychological turmoil of Nick, Amy, and their married life with intense, probing detail. Incredibly intelligent, if sharply critical of their new surroundings, Nick and Amy inspire a battery of emotions in readers: jealousy, distaste, anger, sympathy, hatred, support, and angst. Flynn dissects the outwardly popular “golden couple” with painstaking detail, showing that a veneer of perfection comes at a steep price.
While you may not like the characters in Gone Girl, the intricate twists and turns of the book’s tightly-woven plot keep even the most perceptive of readers guessing until the very last page. The trisected, multilevel structure of the novel prevents readers from entirely grasping Flynn’s plan for her characters and winds the suspense of the book tighter and tighter.
Flynn’s short, choppy prose reads like a good thriller film. She does not get lost in detail or flowery language. Her punchy writing style makes her accessible to a wide audience, while the contrast she strikes with more traditional literary fiction endears her to critics as well.
Gone Girl will likely leave you depressed about your life if you’re a writer and potentially angry if you’re a Midwesterner, but there is something magnetic about the dark, infernally devious depths of this novel.
Gone Girl is a ingenious mind-bender sure to provoke excellent discussions about love, marriage, morality, and mental illness.
Flynn’s greatest accomplishment with this book may very well be that she manages to not only attract habitual readers of mysteries and thrillers but also the uninitiated.