For the self proclaimed “people watchers” – everyone who has ever found themselves making up stories about strangers on the train or in the park. For anyone who has suffered from substance abuse or known someone who has. For you over there in the corner who just got out of a long relationship and aren’t feeling entirely “over it” – and for the rest of us who maybe just love a good mystery novel or thriller.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been the media darling “it book” of the last several months. Everyone is talking about it. Due to the crazed hype, my book club decided to read it last month and see what all the fuss was about.
First, a description from goodreads.com:
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
This book was like a roller coaster that a friend talked you into riding and you keep wondering if said friend is possibly going to get you killed. Hawkins does a great job of constantly making you suspect basically everybody. Just like the best crime dramas on tv, she tells you what she wants to tell you, when she wants to tell you – making excellent use of her unreliable narrator, she carefully peels away her story with precision timing.
This book was probably too dark for me. It sucked me in and would’t let me go and was just “realistic” enough that it was easy to find myself relating to characters that I’d rather not. But once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Hawkins’ writing is kind of like cocaine – addictive, riddled with poor life choices and prone to making you jumpy (are coke addicts jumpy? I’m just guessing here, having never been one). You’ll feel like that rubber necker on the side of the road who can’t seem to look away from that horrific accident (much like the main character) even though you should probably knock it off and get to work already.
Some of my fellow book clubbers were less enamored with this one. I don’t blame them, really. Is the prose stunning? Not really. Are there amazing, heroic characters to root for? Nope. Is there a satisfying and happy ending? Ehhhhh. Life lessons to be learned? I suppose we could call the entire book a “don’t do this” manual for a happy life. i.e. if it’s in the book: Don’t do that.