Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn

(Crown, $25, 432 pages)

Who is this author?

Gillian Flynn, a novelist who lives in Chicago, was making a pretty good name for herself with her best-selling “Dark Places,” which was named a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, Weekend TODAY Top Summer Read, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009, and Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction choice; and “Sharp Objects,” which won a Dagger Award  and was an Edgar nominee for Best First novel, a BookSense pick, and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. But her career has really taken off with her new thriller/mystery account of a marriage gone really, really bad, “Gone Girl,” which is garnering breathless reviews that all seem to quote that old cliché, “you can’t put it down.”

What is this book about?

The story opens on the fifth anniversary of uneasily married Amy and Nick, both of whom lost their New York City jobs as writers due to the rotten economy and have semi-reluctantly moved to small-town Missouri, which Amy loathes, to help care for Nick’s fading father. Nick and his twin sister, Margo, open a bar and are muddling along when suddenly, inexplicably, terrifyingly, Amy disappears. And Nick, increasingly revealed as far from the perfect husband (just as Amy is shown to be a deeply flawed wife) soon becomes the focus of suspicion for everyone from the neighbors to Nancy Grace-like TV hosts. We’ve all seen enough “Law and Orders” to know that the husband did it. Or did he? That’s where Flynn shines: she gives her story enough twists that the reader is kept guessing right up to the last pages, when she uncorks a chilling denouement.

Why you’ll like it:

Few reads are as satisfying as those in which you really don’t know what is coming next, but trust the author to get you there honestly and with panache, as Flynn does in this book. Besides being a terrific thriller, “Gone Girl” also is a biting portrait of a deteriorating marriage and an indictment of these parlous economic times. Professional and amateur reviewers alike praise this book for its sharp insights and tricky twists. Here is what Flynn told Amazon.com about the way she writes:

“You might say I specialize in difficult characters. Damaged, disturbed, or downright nasty. Personally, I love each and every one of the misfits, losers, and outcasts in my three novels. …But it’s my narrators who are the real challenge.

“In [the] first two novels, I explored the geography of loneliness–and the devastation it can lead to. With “Gone Girl,” I wanted to go the opposite direction: what happens when two people intertwine their lives completely. I wanted to explore the geography of intimacy–and the devastation it can lead to. Marriage gone toxic.

“…Nick and Amy Dunne were the golden couple when they first began their courtship. Soul mates. They could complete each other’s sentences, guess each other’s reactions. They could push each other’s buttons. They are smart, charming, gorgeous, and also narcissistic, selfish, and cruel.

“They complete each other–in a very dangerous way.”

What others are saying:

“Ice-pick-sharp… Spectacularly sneaky… Impressively cagey… “Gone Girl” is Ms. Flynn’s dazzling breakthrough. It is wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with — even if, as in Amy’s case, they are already departed. And if you have any doubts about whether Ms. Flynn measures up to Patricia Highsmith’s level of discreet malice, go back and look at the small details. Whatever you raced past on a first reading will look completely different the second time around,” says Janet Maslin in The New York Times.

“An ingenious and viperish thriller… It’s going to make Gillian Flynn a star… The first half of “Gone Girl” is a nimble, caustic riff on our Nancy Grace culture and the way in which ”The butler did it” has morphed into ”The husband did it.” The second half is the real stunner, though. Now I really am going to shut up before I spoil what instantly shifts into a great, breathless read. Even as “Gone Girl” grows truly twisted and wild, it says smart things about how tenuous power relations are between men and women, and how often couples are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. As if that weren’t enough, Flynn has created a genuinely creepy villain you don’t see coming. People love to talk about the banality of evil. You’re about to meet a maniac you could fall in love with. A.” says Jeff Giles in Entertainment Weekly.

The New York Times Book Review says:  “What makes Flynn so fearless a writer is the way she strips her characters of their pretenses and shows no mercy while they squirm…Flynn dares the reader to figure out which instances of marital discord might flare into a homicidal rage.”

Says Kirkus Reviews: “A perfect wife’s disappearance plunges her husband into a nightmare as it rips open ugly secrets about his marriage and, just maybe, his culpability in her death. …Partly because the evidence against him looks so bleak, partly because he’s so bad at communicating grief, partly because he doesn’t feel all that grief-stricken to begin with, the tide begins to turn against Nick. Neighbors who’d been eager to join the police in the search for Amy begin to gossip about him. Female talk-show hosts inveigh against him. The questions from [detectives] get sharper and sharper. Even Nick has to acknowledge that he hasn’t come close to being the husband he liked to think he was. But does that mean he deserves to get tagged as his wife’s killer? …One of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are chilling.

When is it available?

Get on the list for “Gone Girl” at the Downtown Hartford Public Library or its Goodwin and Mark Twain branches.

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