Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cannonball Read VI: The Undiscovered Country - Entry 1, "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn

"...realized in beautifully damning prose, with an ending that made me so uneasy and upset, I realized hadn't felt that about a character in a while."

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions of the human psyche. It crashes our systems, lowers our defenses, and makes us act irrationally - all in the hopes that everything will turn back to normal, and the puzzle that is our fear will be solved into security. If someone can tap into this basest of emotions within us, we either praise them (when they do so for entertainment) or damn them (when they do so for our own suffering). I've experienced both, and now I've found a book that intersects both realms by taking a very real fear, and fictionalizing it. 

Nick and Amy Dunne are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, and things aren't exactly perfect. Within their years of marriage they've both been laid off, resigned to move from New York to Missouri (in order to take care of Nick's parents), and they might be starting to drift apart as a couple. As if this wasn't bad enough, Nick's about to be thrust into the limelight of a missing person's investigation, as this is also the day that his wife disappears without a trace. Front door open, living room slightly disheveled, and an anniversary present as the last remaining artifact - Nick and the police are going to have their work cut out for them. As the days pass, and the pieces start to fall into place, our protagonist will find his task growing in difficulty. And all throughout the events that come to pass, just one question bears repeating, as if the Universe were suggesting it become Mr. Dunne's new mantra... "Where's Amy, Nick?"

The reason I wrote a prologue describing the effects of fear is because Gillian Flynn's hit novel Gone Girl touches on one of my greatest fears. It does so in such an effective manner that by time I was finished with it, I sat deadly still in my chair. The finale was a culmination of my greatest nightmare, realized in beautifully damning prose with an ending that made me so uneasy and so upset, I realized hadn't felt that way about a character in a good long while. Never had I wanted a character to make it out unscathed so bad, and never had I wanted a character to die so much. 

This book drew me in, and made me question how it was going to sustain its length, only to drop twists that made its plot not only able to continue, but made it a requirement that it did so. Ms. Flynn's writing style made me feel like I was watching a perfectly paced TV show; complete with season arcs, episodic cliffhangers, and well fleshed out characters. (Being a former TV critic for Entertainment Weekly kinda helps with that sort of thing.) What I thought was going to be a tale with the surface level of suspense took a hard left turn early on, and kept making itself into a more claustrophobic house of mirrors. It is a modern Noir thriller that takes the momentum of the fun house finale in Orson Welles' The Lady From Shanghai, and sustains it for the latter two acts of the text.

With the movie on the way this fall (and pretty much a shoo-in for awards contention, should it live up to the promise of the prose), now is the best time to read Gone Girl. Not only is everyone going to want to read it before the film comes out, but they'll want to read it before it's possibly nominated for an Academy Award. If this film is half as good as the book is (keep in mind, David Fincher is directing, with Ben Affleck starring as Nick), then this is going to have a great day at next year's Oscars.

So do yourself a favor: read it before the movie comes out. Read it before it's hard to find a copy on shelves near you. Read it before everyone spoils it for you. Read it before the trailer possibly spoils it for you. Read it...before you know who finds you.