Review by Kai Parker.
“The truth is malleable,” a character says at one point in Gone Girl, the amazing third novel from Gillian Flynn (Dark Places, Sharp Objects). That statement about the truth serves as a perfect thesis for the novel’s ever-shifting perspective on what is true and how easily the line between truth and lie can become entwined with one another. That she frames this theme within the context of a marriage makes it relatable and familiar in ways that are alternately frightening, compelling, and darkly comic.
The central plot concerns the marriage of the Dunnes, Nick and Amy, two attractive, well-to-do New York socialites who seem to have the perfect marriage, until they are forced to move to Missouri to care for Nick’s aging parents, and Amy goes missing soon thereafter on their fifth wedding anniversary. There are signs of a struggle in their home, and Nick, who just can’t seem to tell the police the truth about anything, quickly becomes the primary suspect. If this all seems a little too familiar, it should. Flynn is counting on the fact that we’ve seen one too many of these stories, the same ones that the endless cycle of cable news can’t help but obsess over every detail of, shaping public opinion well before a body can even be found. That the national media should become interested in Nick and Amy’s story is inevitable. That they, too, don’t seem concerned with the truth is expected, and the ways that Flynn uses this to further serve her narrative objectives are ingenious.
While Nick is the only character in the present-tense, we get Amy’s voice in alternating chapters as she narrates from pages of her diary, slowly revealing the story of their relationship, from first meeting and the happy first few years of their marriage to the troubled days leading up to her disappearance. Both are narrated from the first person perspective, and, without spoiling the story, neither one turns out to be very reliable. What plays out, however, is never what you expect, with Flynn doling out new revelations and twists at breakneck speed, but which never seem contrived or overwrought. Every time you think the story is in danger of running out of steam, a new turn is revealed and you find yourself plunging right back in. The pacing is perfect, and Flynn’s elegant, dynamic prose lingers on considerate, evocative details (which take on new and even more poignant meaning as the story progresses) that elevate the story far above its sometimes lurid subject matter. She makes you want to believe the characters, and believe in them, even when you know they aren’t being completely honest with you.
Gone Girl is an impressive novel in every respect, a thrilling mystery, a cutting satire of the media and our consumption of it, and an affecting examination of the many ways that the truth is far more malleable than we’d like to believe. Highly recommended.