Quite a bit of hype has been surrounding The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, earning it the hefty compliment and responsibility of being “the next Gone Girl” (phenomenal book). All the buzz and talk of this breakout book of the year, 29 weeks and counting on the New York Times Bestseller List, has made it almost impossible for eager readers to get a hold of. I waited months in library queues to get my hands on it! So what was all the fuss about?
Day in and day out Rachel rides the same commuter train, fixating on a picturesque couple she passes every morning whom she refers to as “Jason and Jess.” Rachel is a depressive alcoholic, still mourning the demise of her crumbled marriage to Tom, so she clings to the idea of perfection surrounding Jason and Jess: “They’re happy, I can tell. They’re what I used to be, they’re Tom and me five years ago. They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”
One morning, she sees something troubling as she passes Jason and Jess’s rooftop. When Jess goes missing a few days later, Rachel decides she must come forward with what she knows, enveloping herself into the investigation, only she’s already part of the investigation as a prime suspect. Rachel becomes more and more concerned as bits and pieces of her hazy blackout from the night in question come back to her. Can she fit the pieces to this bloody puzzle together before it’s too late?
The Girl on the Train is very woman-centric as there are only female narrators: Rachel, Rachel’s ex-husband’s wife Anna, and Megan (aka Jess). Each woman’s viewpoint gives us a different side to the story, an alternate understanding every step of the way and really proves that first impressions are deceiving; not everything is how it appears to be on the surface. The Girl on the Train focuses on the roles that the narrators play and are expected to play in society: “Let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.” The reader also gets to see three very different, bleak marriages: “I can’t do this, I can’t just be a wife. I don’t understand how anyone does it – there is literally nothing to do but wait. Wait for a man to come home and love you. Either that, or look around for something to distract you.”
Paula Hawkins delivered a well-written suspenseful read, but oh so depressing! Everyone is a liar, cheater, abuser, addict, victim, murderer, or all of the above. “I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it that said following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.”
Since it’s a valid and relevant question when discussing “this year’s Gone Girl,” I feel as though I should address it: how does The Girl on the Train stack up to Gone Girl? They may both be in this same, somewhat new genre that’s recently become all the rage on bookshelves—the suspenseful, dark, chilling thriller with an unreliable narrator; however, they are not the same. By all means, do read both, as both provide two completely different reading experiences. You may enjoy both, you may love one but not the other, or you may realize that this genre just isn’t for you. I really liked this book a lot. I immediately wished I had someone to talk to about it after consuming it, but I did not love it like I did Gone Girl.