Reading Gilliam Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” about a woman’s sudden disappearance, reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s “In the Lake of the Woods.” Vietnam Veteran John Wade endures horrific flashbacks. He has just finished a losing race for the U.S. Senate, and he and his wife retreat to the Minnesota woods to recover from a bruising campaign.
In both “Woods” and “Gone” the husband becomes the prime suspect in this wife’s disappearance. From there the comparison vanishes. The Wades deserve sympathy. Nick and Amy Dunne — not so much.
The two writers live in New York, meet, marry, and lose their jobs (financial crisis circa 2007). Their “marriage turns rancid.” Amy morphs into despicable she and Nick continues his “liar, liar, pants of fine” role. He thinks a move to his hometown in Missouri may solve their problems. Amy lends him a large chunk of her trust fund to rent a McMansion on the Mississippi and to open a bar with his sister Margo.
One morning, after Nick leaves for work, Amy disappears, the front door wide open, the furniture upended. The police suspect murder. Who done it? The husband, of course — or maybe not.
From there the plot becomes more twisted than barbed wire. The language, however, is literary, especially Amy’s. Here’s one metaphor among many. As Amy walks along a New York street she “feels a man barnacling himself to (her) side as (she) sailed along.” Although the Page Turners found Amy “manipulatively smart,” her clever use of language did not redeem her.
Nick is less fanciful: “I was the kid … who made curfew …, the writer who hit my deadlines. I respect rules.” Sister Margo says, “You’d lie, cheat and steal … to convince people you’re a good guy.” In spite of his quirky behavior, the group did not dislike Nick.
Nor did they dislike the structure. Nick’s narrative style alternates with Amy’s diary entries, which date from January 2005 to June 2012, on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary, the day Amy disappears. Then they stop. Instead she tells her account of events, which also alternates with Nick’s. Bear in mind, both of them are unreliable narrators. Be on the alert for “Gones” “pitch-black comedy.”
If you don’t object to a novel without redemption, you will not put this book down. Be prepared for a “shock and awe” conclusion to this modern day “War of the Roses.”
Rating: Seven thumbs up, one thumb down.
September selection: “Room” by Emma Donoghue
For more information about book clubs from the Destin Library call Tina Kaple, 837-8572.
Marilyn Schroer is a member of the Page Turners at the Destin Library.