Who knows us best in the world? Our parents are guardians of most of our history, but they love us as a creator loves creation. Our siblings share much of our history, but their feelings are complicated by rivalries and birth order issues. It’s our spouses who see us most clearly. Marriage makes the glass darkly become the glass all too clear. Love makes us shine in our spouses’ eyes. Love makes our faults reverberate through the years, their echoes growing with each utterance. The first few years of marriage are glowing extensions of courtship. Then comes the harsh reality of having committed yourself to a person who tried very hard to hide their faults during courtship and who now lets them hang out and emit on a frighteningly regular schedule.
Gillian Flynn plays with the ugly truths about marriage and creates a thriller that is terrifying in its razor’s edge proximity to real life. Amy is a beautiful rich girl from the East Coast who has married a handsome working-class Midwesterner who drags her to Missouri to care for his ailing parents when they both lose their jobs and most of Amy’s trust fund. Resentments abound and the spouses, who had reflected their best selves in their early years, now become everything they repressed and despised.
It’s their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick narrates and tells us he despises his wife. His narrations alternate with entries from Amy’s diary, until midway through the novel.
Flynn brilliantly crafts a protagonist that we like, and then despise, and then pity. She manipulates us much like Nick and Amy manipulate one another. She builds us up, then lets us crash and watches as we gasp for breath before jerking us up for another ride.
Gone Girl is a grim novel that makes us question the nature of marriage and relationships in “today’s day and age,” but that ultimately offers us redemption through the exceptional nature of the main characters.
I can’t wait to read Flynn’s two earlier novels and to see how Gone Girl is adapted for the screen. Even knowing where the big hills are, I’m sure the roller coaster ride will be just as thrilling, which is a testament to the skill of its designer.