Friday, May 25, 2012

Gone Girl

Bibliophile brought home a book for me. Not just any book, but an early release copy of Gillian Flynn's new novel, GONE GIRLicon, which is due out this June.


Let me just preface this with full disclosure.  I believe in comeuppance.   I believe in the underbelly.   I believe if you get "whacked" you violated a sacred code and probably deserved it.  I believe that Earl had to die.  I believe there is no wrong side of the tracks.  And most assuredly, I believe that Jon Cusack's role as a hit man in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank is a reasonable career choice and that flexible morality is a lifestyle choice.  Truly, as the Stones said, "you can't always get what you want"; what they left out is that you can usually find someone to get it for you if the price is right. 

My "discovery" of Gillian Flynn began about three years ago as I was prowling through Powell's in Portland. I reached for her first novel, SHARP OBJECTSicon, and ran my fingertips over the raised picture of a razor blade.  That's all it took.  Kismet.  I awaited Ms. Flynn's second novel, DARK PLACESicon with great anticipation and was equally pleased with her sophomore effort.  I gave both these books to friends who lean towards the darkness rather than the light.  They say much can be revealed by shining a light on it; Ms. Flynn shows us how very much more becomes illuminated in darkness.

I hesitate to say too much about her third novel, GONE GIRLicon, which has so many exquisite twists and turns that I ended up gloriously dizzy as I turned the pages, but I shall try to relate to you why I was so drunkenly satisfied.  The main protagonist in GONE GIRLicon is Amy.  Her parents have written a series of children's books featuring "Amazing Amy" so that is the identity through which the world has seen her.  Amy marries Nick Dunne and through a series of unfortunate events the two of them move from New York to Missouri.  Amy was not meant, destined, or designed to live in Missouri.  "There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold", Flynn writes, and as early as page seven we have a taste of both her fabulous prose as well as something being terribly wrong here.  Here meaning with Amy and Nick Dunne.  Here meaning Missouri and not New York.  Here meaning today, in this story, something has gone wrong.

There are so very many ways the story of Amy and Nick turns, backtracks, begins again, challenges your memory, your own ability to judge truth from fiction, as well as your own sense of right and wrong.  There are passages in the book that absolutely made me stop and read again.  Passages where as I read I called out to Bibliophile, "honey, come listen to this", and then would read them aloud to her because I had to share a sentence RIGHT NOW.  The book was filled with these moments for me.

Amy has a very hard time in the novel living up to and being,  in some ways how she was expected to be, Amazing Amy. Her parents have largely shown their love for her through these books and made her a symbol of sorts.  Gillian writes, "Don't screw up, you are Amazing Amy.  Our only one.  There is an unfair responsibility that comes with being an only child--you grow up knowing you aren't allowed to disappoint, you're not even allowed to die.  There isn't a replacement toddling around; you're it.  It makes you desperate to be flawless, and it also makes you drunk with power.  In such ways are despots made.  These are the many "hints" that Gillian spins throughout the novel that tell us that things may not be what they seem, there may indeed be a soft underbelly here that is being implied but not defined.  Ms. Flynn has a writing style that gives away only what you are willing to believe, suspect, intuit, and pull from your own beliefs and expectations of people and their relationships.  You no doubt will see yourself at some point in Ms. Flynn's writing; the question that will remain is whether you like what you see or if anyone knows this about you.

Because you can't be in love as we were and not have it invade your bone marrow.  Our kind of love can go into remission, but it's always waiting to return.  Like the world's sweetest cancer.  And so it was with Amy and Nick and this is their journey through marriage.  It might not be as many of us pictured it but it is alluring nonetheless.

Not without humor,  Ms. Flynn does poke some fun at the midwest.  The rug says:  All Are Friends Who Enter Here.  It is from Costco.  I have learned about bulk shopping in my four weeks as a Mississippi River resident.  Republicans go to Sam's Club, Democrats go to Costco.  But everyone buys bulk because - unlike Manhattanites - they all have space to store twenty-four jars of sweet pickles.  And - unlike Manhattanites - they all have uses for twenty-four jars of sweet pickles.  (No gathering is complete without a lazy-Susan full of pickles and Spanish olives right from the jar.  And a salt lick.)

My favorite part of Ms. Flynn's new novel is that it is longer than both her previous efforts and I found myself not wanting the book to end.  That being said, she wrote one of the most perfect endings I have read in a very long time.  Color me satisfied.

Both at home and at work I have people who take on the role of my moral compass.  I give them that role freely because I'm not sure my own points to true north, but more likely points to true self.  These people in my life know a lot about what lurks in my nooks and crannies and they love me anyway.  I'm thinking one of the things that makes Ms. Flynn's novels so legendary to me is that her writing makes you question and shine light on your own individual DARK PLACESicon and ask yourself very hard questions.  But that's just me.  Therapist.  Maybe some people just read it as an outlandish tale that never would happen. The absolute guts and glory of this writing is that I think most of you will visit places in your heart and mind that often lie silent and private.

One pet peeve that I will announce here is that I noticed someone called Ms. Flynn a "crime writer".  Seriously?  If she wants that label I will not argue with her, largely because I don't have the opportunity.  I would posit to you, her readers, that Ms. Flynn is writing novels that are thrillers of our subconscious.  Mysteries of our souls.  So far beyond the term, "Crime Writer".

I have purposefully not said a lot about the actual bones of the plot.  To do so would be to rob each of you of the experience as it unfolds, a delightful journey that I hope many of you will take.  I will leave you with a quote from Ms. Flynn's second novel.  It was in the acknowledgements at the end and said,  "Finally, thanks to my brilliant, funny, giant-hearted, super-hot husband, Brett Nolan. What do I say to a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off."   Since reading that I have often thought that of Bibliophile.  To know and be known, that is a true love story, and that is the story you will find in GONE GIRLicon.


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  1. Good post. These books look intriguing.

  2. I love your review. I just finished it this morning. I am still recovering.

  3. I can't say much about Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl without revealing too much about the story. Suffice to say, Gone Girl is an amazing book. Like most books it has slow parts but the vast majority of the book is fast paced and enthralling. I highly recommend Gone Girl and Gillian Flynn's other books. I'm looking forward to reading Flynn's next book.