Released June 5, 2012
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
Oh man, I actively avoided this book in 2012 when it was the big “It” book of the summer. I do things like that – purposely avoid things that are popular. I’m not really sure why, but in this case, a thriller about married people just did not press any of my buttons. I didn’t read much about it or know anything about the plot. For some reason I thought it was about college a missing college student for a while.
But then they made it into a movie and the previews looked very intriguing. So several years late, I got the book from the library and dived in. I figured a change from my usual YA / science fiction / fantasy rotation would be good for me. So how’d the change work out for me?
BIG GIANT SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK – LIKE THE BIGGEST OF ALL THE SPOILERS
I don’t know if I picked up plot points back in 2012 through cultural osmosis without realizing it, but somewhere around the third or fourth chapter, Fernando asked me what was happening in the book. I responded with, “I think the girl faked it all and she’s framing her husband because she’s some evil bitch.”
So yes, the big magic, earth-shattering twist? I called it before the 50 page mark. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book until page 227. Had this book ended after the first chapter revealing Amy’s fake out and the very beginning of the following Nick chapter where he finally finds all the stuff he supposedly bought in a woodshed, it would have been perfect. It would have been a captivating thriller with an unlikeable main character and an epic ton of red flags and mystery.
Too bad those other 200 pages exist. Any narrative tension built in the first half is wasted away by one despicable act after another. I didn’t even find any tiny bit of catharsis at the tiny bit of trouble Amy finds herself in. I just found myself wishing that everyone in this book would throw themselves over the side of a cruise ship and disappear forever.
Gone Girl is a book full of horrible people, who only seem to know how to take out their troubles on everyone else. Nick makes stupid choices in an attempt to remain the nice guy even during the darkest point where it looks like he killed his wife instead of confessing to an affair and tarnishing his (growingly disturbing) reputation. Amy is just an irredeemable shrew that really deserves to rot in jail.
I suppose this could be a testament to Gillian Flynn’s writing that I left this book hating these people as much as I did. Then again I also had to drag myself through the last half of it, and seriously considered giving it up. I don’t give up in the middle of books.
So, the first half of Gone Girl is a really intriguing story with great pacing even if you do know the “twist” ahead of time. The second half is an unnecessary add-on that might help some readers find a weird sense of closure, but just left me incredibly bored. If you’re anything like me, you will then doubt the motivation of everyone you don’t know, and be incredibly thankful for those people you do know well that aren’t evil.
Gone Girl is a mix bag, though I imagine regular readers of thrillers probably enjoy this book much more than me. It was a little too “this could really happen” for me to enjoy it. Give me back my witches and spaceships, thank you.