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Book Cover of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Once in a while, a book comes along that I find absolutely compelling. One that takes over my waking thoughts and haunts my dreams. Gone Girl is one of those. With the first sentence, I was hooked and it often felt like a seat belt would have helped.

Gone Girl tells the story of two people who have been married for five years. It opens on the morning of their fifth anniversary. Nick waking early, is thinking of his wife's head; Amy, his wife, is downstairs preparing crepes for breakfast. By the end of the day, Amy is missing, the living room disturbed and blood detected on a freshly mopped kitchen floor. Nick slowly begins to look responsible for her disappearance.

Echoes of the Laci Peterson murder are heard as Nick's demeanor does not conform to the popular idea of how an innocent man should appear while the press haunts our narrator and tracks his every move.

The story is well told through chapters that alternate between Nick's narration and Amy's journal. We hear both voices and slowly learn about their marriage and the distances between them. Both writers, they fell in love and married in New York, which was Amy's home, but now live in a rented riverfront McMansion in Nick's hometown of North Carthage, Missouri, where they relocated to care for his parents. Although neither one is anything close to a perfect person, Nick doesn't really seem to be capable of murder. But if not him, who?

It is a compelling mystery brilliantly told. The ending is satisfying but unsettling, just as the author planned. I know I will have to read her two earlier books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, and hope that they contain gems like this one about the relationship between Amy and Nick's mother-

Their few meetings had left them both baffled. Amy would dissect the conversations for days after -- "And what did she mean by..." -- as if my mother were some ancient peasant tribeswoman arriving from the tundra with an armful of raw yak meat and some buttons for bartering, trying to get something from Amy that wasn't on offer.

Amy didn't care to know my family, didn't want to know my birthplace, and yet for some reason, I thought moving home would be a good idea.

Gillian Flynn
I was not a nice little girl. My favorite summertime hobby was stunning ants and feeding them to spiders. My preferred indoor diversion was a game called Mean Aunt Rosie, in which I pretended to be a witchy caregiver and my cousins tried to escape me. Our most basic prop was one of those pink, plastic toy phones most little girls owned in the '80s. (Pretty girls love to talk on the phone!) Alas, it was always snatched from their fingers before they could call for help. (Mwahaha) In down time, I also enjoyed watching soft-core porn on scrambled cable channels. (Boob, bottom, static, static, boob!) And if one of my dolls started getting an attitude, I'd cut off her hair.

My point is not that I was an odd kid (although looking at this on paper now, I worry). Or that I was a bad kid (here's where I tell you — for the sake of my loving parents — that I had enjoyed happy wonder years back in good old Kansas City). But these childhood rites of passage — the rough-housing, the precocious sexuality, the first bloom of power plays — really don't make it into the oral history of most women. Men speak fondly of those strange bursts of childhood aggression, their disastrous immature sexuality. They have a vocabulary for sex and violence that women just don't. Even as adults. I don't recall any women talking with real pleasure about masturbating or orgasms until Sex and the City offered its clever, cutie-pie spin, presenting the phrases to us in a pre-approved package with a polka-dot bow. And we still don't discuss our own violence. We devour the news about Susan Smith or Andrea Yates — women who drowned their children — but we demand these stories be rendered palatable. We want somber asides on postpartum depression or a story about the Man Who Made Her Do It. But there's an ignored resonance. I think women like to read about murderous mothers and lost little girls because it's our only mainstream outlet to even begin discussing female violence on a personal level. Female violence is a specific brand of ferocity. It's invasive. A girlfight is all teeth and hair, spit and nails — a much more fearsome thing to watch than two dudes clobbering each other. And the mental violence is positively gory. Women entwine. Some of the most disturbing, sick relationships I've witnessed are between long-time friends, and especially mothers and daughters. Innuendo, backspin, false encouragement, punishing withdrawal, sexual jealousy, garden-variety jealousy — watching women go to work on each other is a horrific bit of pageantry that can stretch on for years.

Gillian Flynn included these words in an essay she wrote for Powell's Books when her debut novel, Sharp Objects was released. But her longing for a truly wicked woman character persists, as she discussed on CBS This Morning on July 26, 2012.
I'm very pro scary women in fiction. I feel that there's a lot of over the top scary women. You know, they're kind of vampy, soap opery villainesses. But as far as those women who really get under your skin and unsettle you and make you fear for your life - I don't think there are a lot of those in fiction right now.
For all her talk of female violence, Gone Girl is free of any graphic depictions of it. Any violence that does occur does so only in the mind of the reader.

From the CBS website:

The dark and disturbing "Gone Girl" - about a wife who suddenly goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary - has spent the last six weeks on the New York Times best-sellers' list.

Thursday on "CBS This Morning," Flynn described the book as a portrait of "the dark side of marriage."

"My first two books had very unattached narrators, they couldn't make any connection at all," Flynn said. "I wanted to go the opposite way, which is what happens when you choose to yoke yourself with someone for life. In this case, very bad things happen because of that."

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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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