“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?”
Thoughts: The trick to explaining one’s reactions to Gillian Flynn’s latest novel, Gone Girl, is to avoid giving away too much detail or providing too many hints as to the plot. Even the most innocuous of mentions would be enough to impact a reader’s overall enjoyment of the story, as its power lies in its ability to shock and awe a reader. To ruin that shock for a reader does the reader and the novel a disservice. Consider this a warning that this is going to be an attempt at an extremely vague review.
Part aside, part journal entry, Gone Girl explores the two sides when a beloved wife goes missing and the aftermath that befalls her husband. There is so much depth to the story, and to each of the characters, that a reader gets a very real understanding of the motivations and thought processes behind their actions. It is as complete a picture of a character as one would wish to have. In fact, a reader might wish for less insight into the characters, as the understanding only increases the emotional connection between reader and character. The result is one intense emotional roller coaster that never really ends even upon cessation of reading.
The events and the characters in Gone Girl provide even the most amateur of psychologists with enough fodder for thought to keep one busy for months, if not years. Both Nick’s and Amy’s actions and reactions are as much nurture as nature, and it takes complete knowledge of each character to be able to discern which attribute is inherent and which is learned. Ms. Flynn’s trick is to uncover each in small bits, enticing one to keep reading in order to be able to uncover yet another piece of the puzzle.
As Amy and Nick, Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne are masterful. Each narrator manages to convey the smugness, the fury, the righteousness, the innocence, the confusion, and the fear each character feels as the story progresses. In fact, their performance helps enhance the mind games that make Gone Girl such an amazing experience. Their individual adjustments to pitch, intonation, and accent not only help listeners understand that they are speaking on behalf of another character but also provide clues as to the mindset of the individual narrator. This is extremely important once a listener understands the true nature of the Dunnes. To say anymore would be to unveil essential plot points that, to learn in advance, would only serve as to ruin some of the surprises. Suffice it to say, the audio version of Gone Girl does much to enhance the strange twists and turns that occur throughout the novel thanks, in large part, to Ms. Whelan’s and Mr. Heyborne’s performances.
Look up the phrase “mind game” in the dictionary, and Gone Girl should now appear as one of the examples listed. In fact, it takes the phrase “mind game” to an entirely new level, as the plot winds around and back on itself in such a manner that a reader never really knows what is next going to happen. From almost the first sentence, the reader is completely drawn into the lives of these incredibly vivid characters, and the emotional involvement that results is agonizingly strong. The final scene is quite literally jaw-dropping, and the entire novel will leave a reader bereft of speech over its intensity and cleverness. Gone Girl is earning rave reviews for a very good reason. It will not be a surprise if it ranks among one of the best novels of the year. It is that good, and the audio version makes it even better.
Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.