Gillian Flynn's new novel explores the complications of relationships within a thrilling murder plot.
Gillian Flynn’s new novel explores the complications of relationships within a thrilling murder plot.

Relationships take work. Just ask anyone, except for newlyweds Nick and Amy Dunne, the protagonists of Gillian Flynn’s new mystery novel, “Gone Girl.”

A psychological thriller that takes the genre to a new level, “Gone Girl” is complex, multi-dimensional and breathtaking in both its suspense and its accurate wielding of psychology to create engrossing, frighteningly troubled characters.

This is superficially the story of a traditional American marriage. After both lose their New York jobs, the couple moves back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri. Through Nick’s narrative and Amy’s diary, we learn about their passionate romance, admire how well they mesh together and despair over the subtle unraveling of their relationship through the years. But don’t worry, action lovers and thrill seekers, this is far from your average relationship. Because, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and what erupts is a wild game of Whodunit, as an entire small-town Missouri community bands together in support of the missing woman.

The only thing left of Amy — besides her blood on the kitchen floor and a ravaged living room — is the annual treasure hunt she leaves for Nick on their anniversary, leading him to his final gift. This year is no different, and as Nick tries to unravel her clues in hopes of discovering what’s happened to her, the evidence begins to implicate him as a devoted husband turned murderer. And whether or not Nick is guilty, his strange behavior suggests there may be one or two things about him that aren’t so innocent.

Flynn is a master of manipulation. Her tale of a marriage gone wrong, of a couple so dysfunctional, is so engrossing that this book truly earns the title of page-turner. Despite its length, it’s hard not to devour it in only a few select sittings, even if that means forgetting to eat in favor of getting to the next chapter. The plot is impeccably crafted, the writing salty and witty. The dynamic characters are very real people, multifaceted to such a degree that they’re still learning about themselves as we learn about them.

It’s almost impossible not to empathize with the Amy initially presented to us: She’s beautiful, smart and charismatically likeable. Like us, she wants to make something of herself and has grand plans of a perfect marriage that she truly wants to make work. Opinions waver on Nick: At times, he’s the perfect husband, but at others, he’s apathetic and seems to blame for most of the couple’s marital woes.

But as the characters betray each other, Flynn betrays us. We’re yanked through a tale of deceit, manipulation, dark ingenuity and a complete inversion of perception. A hyperbole of messed-up marriages, the novel’s true strength lies in its awareness of the catalysts behind sociopathic behavior. Amy’s parents are soul mates, but perhaps too in love to truly pay attention to their only child. Nick, a mama’s boy to the core, is mourning his mother’s death and is burdened with an angry, misogynistic father suffering from dementia. The other characters aren’t exempt from parental shaping: Amy’s ex, rich-boy Desi whose best friend is his mother, has a thing for slim, pretty blondes, especially those that look like dear old Mom and Amy.

And even if you start to suspect where things are going, Flynn makes sure the journey getting there is so riddled with unexpected twists that we’re constantly left in suspense. She knows what makes her characters tick, she knows what makes us tick and the result will make “Gone Girl” your favorite book of the summer.

What does it take to make a marriage work? How far are we willing to go to stay with our soul mate? As with everything in her novel, Flynn makes sure the answer isn’t one we’ve heard before.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *