My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nick and Amy are about to celebrate their 5 year anniversary. Nick wakes up the morning of, sees his wife fixing breakfast, and then goes to work. He gets a call from a neighbor that something is amiss at his house and rushes back to find furniture overturned and his wife gone. A missing persons case ensues, and the reader follows Nick and the police as they try to discover what happened to Nick’s wife.
I really liked this book. It’s very well-written and I liked the dual-narrative structure. The husband, Nick, narrates events happening from the day of his wife’s disappearance, forward. His wife, Amy, narrates events via her diary entries, which start from the day they met, up until her disappearance. These chapters are woven together like a patchwork quilt. Or more like a puzzle, in which the pieces don’t quite fit, and more than a few are missing.
Nick is an unreliable narrator. Although he’s telling the story, and the reader is right there with him as events unfold, we find that we don’t really trust him. There are gaps of time at crucial points in his narrative. He sees his wife for breakfast and then goes to work. But the reader later finds that there is a huge chunk of time between which these events occur. So where was he? Also, as Nick narrates, he constantly alludes to the fact that he is lying to the police. As the reader we don’t know why he is lying. Is he guilty? The husband is usually the primary suspect, right? The book takes place in modern day, and the author is aware that many readers are familiar with popular crime shows such as CSI, or real-life cases such as Scott Peterson. It usually is the husband. Gillian Flynn toys with the audience by neither confirming nor denying whether the husband is the killer. He’s the narrator, so the reader immediately wants to identify with him, but Flynn does a great job of planting doubt. Nick certainly isn’t acting like an innocent man. Innocent men don’t normally lie to the police. But it can’t be him because that would be too obvious. Or would it?
The story is told in 3 parts. Part 1 uses the dual narrative structure to describe the events that happen immediately following Amy’s disappearance, as well as tell the story about how a marriage might unravel. Both Nick and Amy talk about their marriage and how it seems to be falling apart. Nick narrates from the present, and talks about the fact that his wife seems to no longer be enchanted with him, always finding fault. Amy narrates through her diary entries, and describes the initial excitement of falling in love and describes trying to please a husband who becomes increasingly aloof. It seems like a classic case of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, common communication issues that every couple goes through. Except, again, certain things don’t add up. There are conflicts in their narratives about crucial decisions which leave the reader wondering who to believe. Parts 2 and 3 and expand on the story and add quite a few twists and turns.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. There have been some complaints that the ending was a bit too open-ended. I was ok with this. The story ends and it’s up to the reader to draw his own conclusions about what might happen next. I will definitely check out more from this author.