Alcoholism, narcissism, and co-dependency…OH MY!
There’s no doubt that book genres trend, and there’s also no doubt that one of the latest hot book trends deals with the darker and creepier side of humanity. Broken people, and very realistically drawn ones, who come face to face with pathological liars and psychopaths and their worst internal demons.
It’s a type of read that sucks me in, every time.
I’d initially been on the fence about buying and reading The Girl on the Train, not because I was put off by the content but because it reminded me of so many other bestsellers I’d already read. But I gotta tell you that I’m a sucker for taking a walk on the dark side, so I eventually caved and made the purchase.
Reminiscent of psychological thriller Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train takes the reader on a twisting trip from page one. But here’s the thing. The book didn’t immediately grab me. I’m the type of reader (and writer) that prefers tight storytelling. I’m a fan of the less is more concept — storytelling that has well-placed and carefully chosen words with uber-high impact. The Girl on the Train, however, contains a lot of internal monologue and thought processes and non-verbal queues with minimal dialogue. I wouldn’t call it sittin’ and thinkin’, but the storytelling style is unique, which could be off-putting if you’re not used to it or willing to invest the time to get past it and into the real meat of the story.
I decided to invest the time.
The story starts with protagonist Rachel staring out the window of her commuter train imagining all the what-ifs about “Jesse and Jason” (a couple whose house Rachel passes every day to and from the office). They seem to have the perfect life and love, and Rachel can very clearly picture “Jesse and Jason” enjoying all the things she lost when her husband, Tom, divorced her to marry Anna. The pangs of envy she feels toward both couples is palpable, but it’s the fact that Anna lives in the very same house that Rachel once shared with Tom (which is just down the road from “Jesse and Jason”) that really rubs salt in her very wounded and damaged spirit.
It’s also one of the reasons (in a long list of reasons) that Rachel has taken to drinking and suffers from frequent blackouts and memory lapses. This sets up for the real suspense in the story — the day when Rachel, from her seat on the train, sees “Jesse” kissing another man. The fairytale in her mind is now spoiled and comes to a screeching halt when Rachel finds out that “Jesse” (whose real name is Megan) disappears.
From there, the story takes off like a thunderbolt. Is Megan alive or dead? And who took her? More than that, did Rachel see something happen to Megan that she can’t remember as a result of a drunken stupor? Or is she directly responsible for Megan’s disappearance and possible death?
But as with other stories in this particular genre, the ending wasn’t a complete surprise for me. It was solidly built up for certain, but there is a point in the story when the reader, if they’re paying close attention, can figure out the who-did-what and why. Which sort of makes the back end of The Girl on the Train formulaic. Without offering up spoilers, it’s for this reason that I gave the book 4 stars. Well, that and the fact that I skimmed some sections of the book because of all the internal monologue.
Despite the formula, the storytelling and style is unique so I’d still suggest you give this a go if you’re into a psychological thriller that digs very, very deep. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted or those looking for happily ever afters, but it’s a solid one if you enjoy reading about humanity’s darker side.
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