Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

How often do we look at strangers and make judgments about their lives? Maybe we see someone often enough to have a short narrative about them- the cashier in the grocery store we see every week or person on the next treadmill at the gym. In The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Rachel does that every day during her morning and evening commute about a couple she sees out the window as the train passes their home. She imagines their names, their occupations, she even imagines their conversations. Of course, this couple has the idyllic life that Rachel herself wishes she had, at least they do in Rachel's imagination. Rachel has had a hard few years and that has led her to alcoholism. She has precious little to look forward to in her day; viewing this couple and their happiness may just be it. When the woman goes missing, Rachel feels personally invested in the investigation. She has come to think of these people as her friends and she is worried about the missing woman.

In this book, we also meet Anna and Megan. One of them is the missing woman and the other is the person Rachel blames for ruining her life. These three women are all a mess, train-wrecks if you will. And perhaps that is part of what makes this book so readable. These women are deeply flawed and the reader can't help but find out what happens to them. These women take turns narrating the story so we are allowed into each of their heads for a time. We learn what they feel, their motives and their regrets. The only complaint I have is that in addition to switching narrators, the timeline also switches back and forth. In the beginning it was difficult for me to keep up with when we were reading.

This book has been widely compared to Gone Girl, but I think that is a faulty comparison. This is a women-centered thriller in which a woman has gone missing. I feel the similarities end there. Just as a few years ago, so many books were called "the next Twilight", this seems to me to be the work of lazy marketing hoping to capitalize on a previous bestseller. This book was compelling, the mystery had me guessing for nearly the entire book. I really didn't see where it was leading until the author finally began to tip her hand near the end. I don't read a lot of thrillers, but this one I enjoyed. If this is a favorite genre of yours, I think you would really like it. Let me know what you think!

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