When I made it back home from the Hill this past May, the first place I drove was to Barnes & Noble. I was going to get back to the days of long car rides, train commutes to my New York City internship and lazy weekends with a book in my hand, ripping through them at a speed that my parents still haven’t been able to comprehend after almost two decades of watching me read. I was going to browse the shelves and come home with a stack of the most anticipated books of the summer. I was going to reread some classics. I was going to get to those volumes that had been sitting on my shelf waiting. I was going to see all of the things I may have missed during my time buried under a pile of research paper sources.
And then I saw that on top of the “Bestseller” shelf, there were three books with monochromatic covers based on Twilight fan fiction. And a part of my bookworm soul died.
As I turned toward the Starbucks café to mourn the demise of my literary summer with a Frappuccino, I grabbed a copy of O Magazine and flipped to the “Reading Room” section as I waited for my order. Thankfully, Oprah Winfrey still has the same love of literature that launched her book club (which has just been reincarnated with the memoir Wild) and chose to feature “6 Books You’ll Tear Through” as part of her Summer Reading special. At the top of the list was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which since its release in June has been hailed as one of the best books of the year and has been at the top of every major selling list, albeit hovering below a certain erotic trilogy that shall not be named. Intrigued, I made my way to the “New Fiction” shelf, grabbed one of the last copies (a good sign, in retrospect) and pulled out my B&N membership card to get the 30% discount. That night, I settled on my couch and started reading.
And then, I couldn’t stop.
The book starts as a simple mystery. On the morning of his fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne, a thirty-something, out-of-work-writer-turned-bar-owner who has recently moved back to his childhood town in Missouri gets a phone call from a neighbor saying that his front door has been left wide open and his cat is sitting on the porch. Sensing something is seriously wrong, Nick returns to the home he shares with his wife, Amy, to find his living room torn apart and the house empty. Before long, the police are involved, Amy’s parents have come to town, and the entire national media is on his front stoop trying to figure out what happened. The narrative, starting with Nick and alternating from there to Amy’s diary entries, follows the couple in both the present day and from the time they met and started dating in New York City. The book is engaging and a fairly predictable read (especially for this Dateline-enthusiast) until the teeny line found at the end of the first 50 pages, where Nick tells us that his story about making a reservation for dinner to surprise Amy for their anniversary is “the fifth lie I told the police. I was just getting started.” Cue the “wait…WHAT?” moment. Turns out no one is reliable. At all. Between the two perspectives, Gone Girl is a veritable “he said, she said” of a modern day marriage that has gone terribly wrong.
So what’s true? What’s false? Is Amy dead? Is Amy missing? Is Nick guilty? Is Nick innocent? Who’s lying? Was someone else involved? What was their marriage really like? Who’s crazy? Who do we trust? What happened to the cat?!
The truth is, I can’t tell you. I can’t really say much more about what happens because even the tiniest detail can give something away. So all I can say is read this book. If you read nothing else this summer, read this. The only thing is, you'll have to read it with someone, and not in the physical sense of having them in the room, but this book needs to be talked about, even more so than this week's episode of The Bachelorette. It’s creative, detailed, thrilling, crazy, terrifying, brilliant, and proof that in a world where literature is starting to cheapen to appease the mainstream, there is hope.
And it doesn’t have handcuffs on the cover. That also really helps.
Picking a book to review when you’ve read so many great ones is tough. So, because I just can’t get enough of sharing the literary love, here’s a quick list of books that can get you through the dog days of summer:
Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt) The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) The Prisoner of Heaven (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) The History of Love (Nicole Krauss) I am an Executioner (Rajesh Parameswaran) 11/22/63 (Stephen King) The Art of Fielding (Chad Harbach)