Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Book: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (2012)

It’s Nick Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, and he hasn’t bought his wife Amy a gift yet. He’s done nothing lately but bring turmoil into her life; after they both lose their formerly high-flying New York media jobs, Nick insists that they move back to his Missouri hometown so he can tend to his ailing parents. They’re stretched thin financially, Amy’s out of her comfort zone and far from her own doting family, things around the McMansion they can barely afford have been tense. And, lest we forget, Nick hasn’t bought an anniversary present.

Turns out he won’t need one. Because Amy vanishes without a trace. People are initially sympathetic, but suspicion always falls on the husband. And Nick’s attitude doesn’t exactly bolster his claims of innocence: “My wife was no longer my wife but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her, and I was not up to the job with my thick, numb, nervous fingers. Country fingers. Flyover fingers untrained in the intricate, dangerous work of solving Amy.”

Already I fear I’ve given too much away. Permit me some brevity: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is the book of the summer, and it deserves to be.

It’s an expansive book, fearlessly anatomizing the woes that can undermine a marriage while laying bare the effects of the Great Recession on individuals, communities and entire industries. Like Flynn’s previous novels it’s astonishingly dark, but every action is grounded in consistent psychological behavior. Her authorial voice, brazenly confident and frequently seductive, is a huge ally; Flynn is always ready with a joke or a sly line as she leads you further into the shadows. (Non-spoiler alert: she sticks the landing, too.)

Most impressive of all is Flynn’s structural skill. Elements that initially seem contrived are most definitely intentional, paying off in shocking and unexpected ways. I found myself pumping the brakes even as I tore through the final pages, hoping to attenuate the suspense and lingering over every last uncomfortable moment. Gone Girl is racking up accolades, huge sales, and comparisons to the work of masters like Patricia Highsmith. Read it and find out why.