Going, going, gone….a whole day gone reading Gone Girl

goneGone Girl

Gillian Flynn

Crown Publishers.  2012.  419 pgs.

So much to do:  MBA assignments, work from the office, stuff around the house — yet for some dark reason I picked up a copy of Gone Girl that my friend had left with a “must read!” message on it.  Started reading around 9:00 am and finished around 9:00 pm.  An entire day engrossed in a world as deep and twisty as the Mississippi river that serves as part of the novel’s backdrop.

Amy and Nick Dunne are on the eve of celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary in Carthage, Missouri.  Transplanted Manhattanites, the Dunnes have retreated to Nick’s home town on the banks of the Mississippi in the hopes of rebuilding their lives after the loss of Nick’s journalism career and to help care for his aging, ill parents.  Amy, too, is in the process of regrouping.  The child of a two famous authors, lovely Amy has spent her life as the inspiration and living symbol of the Amazing Amy series — an iconic series of books featuring a perfect little girl.  At one point in time, almost every “library in America owned an Amazing Amy book.”  Unfortunately, like the rest of America, Amy’s celebrity parents have overspent their means and have now depleted most of her trust fund.  The last Amazing Amy title, which focused on Amazing Amy’s marriage to her fictional sweetheart, was a flop.  Nick sums up their situation to himself:

We were literally experiencing the end of a way of life, a phrase I’d applied only to New Guinea tribesmen and Appalachian glassblowers.  The recession had ended the mall….Carthage had gone bust; its sister city Hannibal was losing ground to brighter, louder, cartoonier tourist spots.  My beloved Mississippi River was being eaten in reverse by Asian carp flip-flopping their way up toward Lake Michigan.  Amazing Amy was done.  It was the end of my career, the end of hers, the end of my father, the end of my mom.

Then, Amy disappears.

The subsequent police investigation, national media frenzy and the slow creep of suspicion towards Nick as a likely suspect takes up the remainder of the book.   But unraveling what happened to Amy will be as difficult as looking beneath the surface of the muddy Mississippi.  Who is or was Amy?  Amazing girl and wife?  Or something else?  Who is Nick?  What happened behind the door of their perfect McMansion on the river?  Finding the answers to some of these questions will do more than solve a crime; they also may answer some of Flynn’s probing into American life in the beginning of the 21st century.  Are we real people — innocent or guilty — or the amalgamation of what we see on TV or on the Internet?  As Nick thinks:

It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters…l would have done anything to feel real again.

Discovering what is real about Amy will take Nick, and the reader, into a world as frenzied and dark as a sensationalistic cable TV show.  From plush Manhattan law offices to illegal catfish harvesting in the Ozarks, the reader works through one layer after another in the hopes of uncovering the truth.  Flynn alternates between two first person narrators, always skillfully advancing the story and holding the reader’s attention through short chapters, diary entries, notes and hanging endings.

This book was Amazing — and I don’t think I will think of that word the same way ever again.  My only quibble with Flynn is the ending — I felt its ambiguity was appropriate, but it stayed a little too out of focus for satisfaction.  But you will have to make up your own mind.  One day gone spent in this world was enough for me — this was an amazing, suspenseful, dark read.

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The Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Author: Andrew Balet. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mississippi_at_Hannibal,_MO.jpg

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