24 Books in 2015 - The Girl on the Train (October)

My first read for October was Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train, recommended to me by my mother-in-law (thanks, Connie!). It's about a woman named Rachel and her involvement in a missing persons case. Poor Rachel is riding the struggle bus - divorced, unemployed, and suffering from alcoholism - and only finds happiness in her train rides each day. The train ride includes a stop near a home where she's created a backstory for the couple (who she actually knows nothing about) who lives there. One half of the couple goes missing - and unfortunately turns up dead - and Rachel decides to involve herself in the case. By the way, this couple lives right down the street from Rachel's ex-husband Tom, his new wife, and their child. That shouldn't be a big deal, right? Right? Of course, drama, awkwardness, and further mystery shortly ensue.

The story takes place from multiple points of view, a la Gone Girl and Reconstructing Amelia, so we see the plot unfold through the eyes of Rachel, her ex-husband's new wife Anna, and one half of the couple with which Rachel is enamored - Megan. Rachel is our main protagonist, though, so most of the story is told from her perspective, which isn't always a pleasant one. Hawkins paints an honest picture of what alcoholism looks like - the strong desire to quit, the sometimes stronger desire to escape and give in, and the disappointment and shame that comes when the latter desire prevails. We see Rachel try and fail so many times that it gets frustrating, but Hawkins makes it clear how difficult it is for Rachel to change, even though she wants to change so badly.

In most stories, characters (at least point of view characters) are written like they don't have major flaws; it's the world against them. Hawkins doesn't do this. Rachel, Anna, and Megan are wounded, troubled, messed up people. They've all done horrible things in their lives and are still deeply impacted by them. None of these characters hide their faults, and fortunately they learn from them in the end.

SPOILERS ABOUND IN THIS PARAGRAPH, HIPSTERS. Not to toot my own horn, but I can usually figure out the killer/bad guy/perpetrator in the movies I watch and the books I read. If you pay enough attention, the clues are there. This was not the case with The Girl on the Train. Hawkins does an excellent job of drawing out the mystery - who killed this character? Why did they do it? BUT SERIOUSLY, WHO DID IT?!?! When the "bad guy" was revealed, it didn't make much sense to me. I didn't pick up a lot of clues that this character was the antagonist until literally just now as I was writing this post. Our three point of view characters, like I said, are flawed and acknowledge it. They also acknowledge the flaws in others...except for Tom. Tom: Rachel's ex-husband, Anna's husband, and the man with which Megan had an affair can do no wrong. He's kind, patient, and good-looking. He's perfect, the only character in the book that's perfect. Tom is able to build a facade of perfection and tricks all three of these women (the reader is tricked, too!) into believing it's true. But it's not true - he's cruel, manipulative, dishonest, and above all a killer.

NO SPOILERS HERE, HIPSTERS. YOU CAN COME BACK NOW. The Girl on the Train was a wonderful read. If I've said it before, I'll say it again: mystery usually isn't my favorite genre, but when the story is told so intelligently, frustrates me, and doesn't make sense to me until I've sat and thought about it for a while, I can get behind it. The Girl on the Train makes you think. It doesn't provide you with easy answers to the mystery, and I love that. Its thoughtfulness and its honest portrayal of addiction and humanity in general is so appealing, and I do hope you'll read this one for yourself.

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