Gone Girl: Discussion!

I forgot to post the discussion thread for Gone Girl on Thursday, but by the time I remembered, it didn’t feel right to post a discussion when so many families on the east coast were still struggling post-Hurricane Sandy. I postponed the post until Monday, confident that would be enough time to at least establish electricity in most homes. I was wrong. Hundreds of thousands of homes are still without electricity, and now there is the added threat of a cold storm coming in that will make those homes uninhabitable. Here is a great post detailing organizations we can donate to besides The Red Cross.

I’m so sorry. You are in my prayers.

Gone Girl by¬† Gillian Flynn was a descent into madness. There is no other way to describe the anxiety I had reading this book. It’s difficult to remain calm when you find the two main characters of a book absolutely vile and without redeeming character. I loathed both Nick and Amy from the start, and there is no way I can talk about why without revealing spoilers. If you haven’t yet read the book, proceed with caution.

Nick was a slippery, emotionally unavailable man-child who toyed with misogyny. I disliked him from the beginning with his smiles and hugs and insatiable need to be liked. I’m a people pleaser, too, but if my husband was missing, I would not stop and smile for pictures with the first man to offer to change out my burned out light bulbs or take out my trash. His mistress came as no surprise.

Don’t get me started on Amy. Before the depths of her insanity became apparent, she still annoyed me with her “dancing monkeys” routine. I started to think she was in on her own demise after the 3rd diary entry where she explains away inconsiderate treatment by Nick. I can count the number of women that patient and tolerant in private diary entries on zero hands because they have never existed in the history of human life, ever.

Her entries read like she was writing for an audience. Turns out, she was.

When I hit part II, I thought I would lose my mind. I almost stopped reading. At that point, most people couldn’t put the book down, but I had to fight the urge to put it away and never open it again. I couldn’t stand the idea of Amy pining this all on Nick and didn’t want to see it come to fruition. With the outcry I heard over the ending, I was afraid that’s what would happen.

It may surprise you to hear I had no problem with the ending.

I may have been filled with rage for Amy at the beginning of part II, but midway through I realized Nick was just as insane in his own way. He courted his wife through the media, the same wife who tried to frame him for her murder. Sure, he said it was so he could ultimately clear his name–and kill her–but something about it didn’t ring completely true to me. By part III it was obvious he wanted Amy for Amy despite all his excuses. He could have walked away, he could have killed her. But he didn’t. He stayed because he was as crazy for her as she was for him. Really and truly crazy.

Who would I be without Amy to react to? Because she was right: As a man, I had been my most impressive when I loved her–and I was my next best self when I hated her. I had known Amy only seven years, but I couldn’t go back to life without her. Because she was right: I couldn’t return to an average life. I’d known it before she’d said a word. I’d already pictured myself with a regular woman–a sweet, normal girl next door–and I’d already pictured telling this regular woman the story of Amy, the lengths she had gone to–to punish me and to return to me. I already pictured this sweet and mediocre girl saying something uninteresting like Oh, nooooo, oh my God, and I already knew part of me would be looking at her and thinking: You’ve never murdered for me. You’ve never framed me. You wouldn’t even know how to begin to do what Amy did. You could never possibly care that much. The indulged mama’s boy in me wouldn’t be able to find peace with this normal woman, and pretty soon she wouldn’t just be normal, she’d be substandard, and the my father’s voice–dumb bitch–would rise up and take it from there.

Best of luck, Nick and Amy.

Best of luck to every single volatile, combustible, toxic couple out there. (You’ll need it.) There certainly are plenty of you, and you inspire great movies, books, and music.

Choppy conclusion: I could not get the movie adaptation of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and Rhianna’s “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” out of my head as I read Gone Girl.

Comments
29 Responses to “Gone Girl: Discussion!”
  1. Miss B. says:

    The abrupt ending didn’t bother you! Gah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, they were both the most unlikeable characters of all time. Agreed. Loved reading your take on this:)

    • Jules says:

      Not really. I was done with those crazy people and ready to let them implode on their own like The War of the Roses. I thought it was a thought provoking.

      What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?

      Nick and Amy are still left with the same questions after seven years and a murder. I haven’t decided if they will kill each other like Go predicts, or if they will live (fake) happily ever after because, like Nick and Amy said, they are done pretending they aren’t playing games.

  2. Mamaholt says:

    Oh gosh, I was looking SO forward to this book, but I couldn’t really get into it. I have to admit, I like the beginning a lot, but I thought they just got TOO crazy to be believable, really.

    Hated the ending, but I felt like it mainly a cop out by the author and not really a bad ending, so to speak.

    What’s next? ; )

  3. Shaina says:

    I had to re-read my notes after reading your take. I thought I remembered feeling the same way but apparently not, LOL. Here are my “live” notes that I jotted into my phone while reading this a few months ago:
    Part One
    The author is doing a good job if making Nick both likeable and intensely unlikeable
    A soon as the mistress was introduced, I immediately thought she had a part in the disappearance.
    I believed Nick. Then I believed Amy. Like Amy’s diary entry about Nick hunched over credit card bills after he’d just told the detectives that they weren’t his purchases. I couldn’t figure out why he’d kept lying about SO MUCH.
    The clue at the end of Part One didn’t clear things up for me either. I still thought it was his mistress, or some other psycho acting in righteousness that had seen what he was doing. I finished Part One just in time to go to work. All I knew was that something very bad was in that shed.
    Part Two
    Holy crap Amy is freaking insane. I mean really. A YEAR’S worth of planning? She was good at it though. Really good. Very clever. Every step’s explanation raised my eyebrows a little further. Wow. I have trouble with chess because I don’t think more than a few moves ahead. She had an entire “game” sorted out.
    About halfway through Part Two, I see hints to Amy’s demise. She’s impatient to see the plan unfold. She’s angry that her stranger cabin “friend” thinks the Amy on TV is a “rich bitch”, lol. Seems like all of this could easily come back to bite her.
    Part Three
    Well I did NOT see that twist coming. Curse words of astonishment and disbelief – that’s all I had at the unfolding of the end.

  4. jeanne says:

    before I read this book, I read the author’s other one, Sharp Objects. really disliked it-over the top characters and just a really distasteful, unbelieveable story. Then comes this highly acclamined book, which I read this summer on vacation. YUCK! Do the people that love this crap not know what a REALLY good story is? I must be too rooted in reality to appreciate this kind of crazy story line. It’s hard to like a book with no likable characters.

    Loved the link to Liz and Dick. I want to rent that one now. She was amazing.

    • Shaina says:

      I read books to suspend my reality. It’s an escape for me – good or bad. The crazier and zanier, the better ;-)

    • Jules says:

      I do a pretty fantastic job of suspending reality when I read books. I’m tolerant of insane plots and impossibilities, but I’m a fan of magical realism. So, I wasn’t so put off by the outlandishness of a person planning something so intricate for a year, changing her mind, and then completely getting away with everything.

      The most realistic/true to life part of the book was the ending for me. Those sorts of toxic relationships never die. The parties are too addicted to each other to let go. They just keep circling around each other, making ever extending concentric ripples that eventually pull into their wake everyone around them.

      Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is one of the top 10 most disturbing movies I have ever seen.

  5. Naomi says:

    I liked it. It’s hard for me to reason out why I liked it, but I think it has everything to do with the fact that I was raised by a mother like Amy: she was different people and personalities to everyone she met. I tried desperately to understand her (like Nick), and found that as the years went on I was becoming different people, too–not because I was crazy, but because it was the only thing that worked.

    I think some people are like tornadoes–you see them from the periphery, you see them coming from a mile away, and even though you know you need to run you’re rooted to your spot on the earth. Soon you’re sucked into their miasma of cruelty and you don’t remember any other way to exist.

    So I feel sorry for Nick. Yeah, he cheated, but in a broad sense I condone it (at least in this instance). It’s like that was his desperate grasp for someone that was exactly who they had always been.

    • Jules says:

      This is a really interesting perspective, and I love your analogy about being rooted to the earth in the face of a tornado.

      When I say that Nick’s adultery didn’t surprise me, I mean that he needed something to make him despicable to the readers and, of course, to John Q. Public when Amy’s disappearance made news. He needed more than being “just” a narcissist.

      I have no proof of this, so I could be completely wrong and injecting my desires into the story, but I didn’t get the impression Flynn wanted Nick to be seen as a victim in this relationship. I felt she wanted him to be seen as crazy as Amy, but in a different way. I’m not sure she pulled that off completely, but she came close, at least for me. I’m opposed to the glorification of physiological/physical abuse, but I just didn’t get the impression that it was (supposed to be) an abuser/victim relationship like, say, Rhianna and Chris Brown. Towards the end of the book I couldn’t see them with anyone else but the other, as disastrous as that would be.

      That’s why I kept thinking about Liz and Tim in the Woolf movie. Both culpable, both trapped, and yet both thoroughly enjoying their “catastrophically romantic” relationship.

  6. I love psychological thrillers, so it’s no surprise I loved this book. I really enjoyed Flynn’s writing style, and that’s what kept me completely riveted. It feels like a book (voice, etc.) that I could’ve written.

    The movie should be interesting (Reese Witherspoon is producing and starring).

  7. Melissa says:

    I agree with most of your assessment, Jules, though I didn’t feel particularly attached or repelled by either character. I didn’t like them–certainly wouldn’t want to be around either of them–but I did feel that many of their character flaws can be laid at the feet of their parents. Not that that excuses their behavior, but I suppose I felt some empathy for them. For me, that made Nick slightly more tolerable, knowing that some of his stupidest moves were almost involuntary. I gave less of a pass to Amy, who seemed like more of a sociopath from way back.

    I found the ending realistic, too. They were both so trapped in their patterns of behavior that it was almost a relief that they weren’t going to inflict their personalities on someone new. I did enjoy the twists and turns–I think it was a well-plotted and paced novel.

    • Jules says:

      I think Flynn made a point to lay their flaws at their parents feet. It does give Amy and Nick a little humanity. Like you said, you can almost empathize with them.

  8. Phaedra says:

    I read this book in two days. I would love to say that I loved it, but truly I was just so disturbed by it that I couldn’t put it down. Neither character was likeable or particularly redeemable ( I don’t think there was a likeable character in the book actually!)
    They were busy trying on fake lives right from the get go. I don’t think Nick spent one minute in his life truly reflecting on anything other than himself & putting on that smile for the world, wanting to be liked. He was quite enjoying the lifestyle that Amy & her parents were providing for him. It all LOOKED good to people around him/them!
    Amy spent her time manipulating everyone (even the anniversary treasure hunt continued to be all about her and if he failed to figure out the answer she pouted like a 2yr old) and thinking the world revolved around her. At the same time her family was a contributing factor in how she turned out. She was Amazing Amy, and even if she wasn’t, they turned the other cheek. Don’t want to ripple the surface by any means!
    As for the planning that Amy did to pull off her crime(s) & the time it took, I didn’t find it so unbelievable after years reading true crime and thinking to myself, ‘who even thinks of this stuff let alone the time it takes to plan?!’ ( Yes, some of the things were over the top in this story, but when I’m reading fiction for entertainment I’m not generally looking for strict adherance to reality.)

    I agree with Naomi above that it’s not so hard to picture a person, especially a woman, trying on different ‘personalities’ & hobbies to see what’s a fit- especially at a young age. While I was reading the diary I felt that was believable enough having tried hard to fit in with a boyfriend’s crowd of friends or family myself when I was late teens & early 20s. I also find it totally believable that within their relationship the things they loved about each other in the beginning they HATE about each other & he found himself a mistress and she hatched her plot. I can’t say what it was exactly that tipped me to the fact that Amy was C-C-C-Crazy early on, but I saw the main plot line twist coming. I did not see the ending, but felt that it was perfect when I got to it.
    I could not imagine them doing anything else but continuing to circle each other, thriving on the drama and putting on fake happy faces for the world. Just like they’d been doing througout their 5 years of marriage. At the end, I found myself thinking, ‘yes, they DID know each other far better than they realized. knew exactly what buttons to push…’

    great pick! loved it. looking forward to Anna Karenina. I read it last year & will have to spend some time reviewing it so I can be ‘fresh’

  9. Kate says:

    I hated Amy from the beginning. I couldn’t explain why. I just know I had a visceral dislike for her. At one point I even thought, “I hope he DID kill her.” As it went on my thoughts were that she either faked it or they faked it together.

    The ending devastated me simply because the idea of a child growing up with those two parents killed me! They both lacked redeeming qualities (besides a perfectly shaped head and beyond average attractiveness). I had to remind myself it was fiction before I sent a check to pay for the therapist!! That said, the ending fit perfectly. They deserve each other. Not a baby. But each other.

  10. Ellen S says:

    And my opinion is: I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Anna Karenina. :-)

  11. Kat in Canada says:

    This is the third time I have tried to write my review. Let’s see if I can make it through without closing the window and giving up.

    I thought the first part of the book was excellent- I couldn’t put it down.

    I was surprised at how let down I was to discover that Nick HADN’T killed Amy.

    Neither main character is likeable- I didn’t even like Margo. If anything, this should be a cautionary tale to all parents, about JUST HOW MUCH their own behaviour impacts their children, even if you don’t mean it to; and even if you make changes, it may be too little, too late.

    I had absolutely no sympathy for Nick, but that is coloured by my own experiences. And every time he launched one of his misogynistic mental rants, I wanted to beat him with a tire iron. An attitude like that is such utter bull-poopy…and for all the whining he does about how much he hates his father, he sure doesn’t put much effort into NOT TURNING INTO HIS FATHER. Too much work, I suppose, and if there’s one thing that Nick abhors, it’s work (which is crazy- he craves appreciation and acceptance, but is too lazy to do things that would get him appreciation and acceptance! ARGH!!!!). Also, he’s always the victim, and nothing is ever his fault, so why should he do anything about the situation? Ugh. Such a ridiculous way to look at things, and unfortunately all too common in some of the people in my life.

    I felt like Gillian Flynn changed the ending halfway through the book, and had to alter the plot to fit. The entire first part, and most of the second, is Amy framing Nick for her murder. Then, all of a sudden, she’s dumb enough to get robbed (AS IF she wouldn’t have kept her money in more than one hiding spot! Hide it in your car!!), ends up back with an old boyfriend who she offs in short order to escape and return to Nick (years planning the first crime, but less than a month to plan the second? Really?)….it seemed like a radical departure from the methodical, plotting Amy of the beginning of the book. THAT Amy didn’t make mistakes.

    Despite the fact that Amy is COMPLETELY UNHINGED (and that’s putting it mildly!), I think I really wanted to see Nick pay, so the ending (while being a great twist) was disappointing to me.

    Anyway. Thank goodness next month is Anna Karenina- nothing like an 800+ page Russian novel to cheer you up! ;-) ;-)

    • Jules says:

      You bring up the one plot point I couldn’t explain. It didn’t seem likely to me that Amy would get robbed. She already knew those two were shady, and there were at least two times where she became nervous about being around them with so much money. If she was strategic enough to save long strands of hair in the event she needed evidence, you would think she would be smart enough to store her money in more than one place.

      The only way I was able to justify it in my head was that Amy, without Nick, lost her edge. She was so obsessed and involved in him that she literally could not think clearly without him. He consumed her (the feeling was obviously mutual), and at the point she was robbed she was starting to rethink her plan/fall back in love with him. I can only justify that strange twist in the plot by saying that her mind was clouded with first love. He head just wasn’t in the game. I guess. That’s what I told myself, anyway.

  12. Amy says:

    I had so much fun hating Nick and Amy. This book truly surprised me more than once, and I haven’t been able to say that about a book for some time. I have been loudly and proudly recommending Gone Girl, but I know that not everyone will love it as much as I did.

    Great post with insightful comments!

  13. Kelly says:

    Finally able to give my 2 cents…

    I went into the book knowing that this was genre (thriller) fiction, as opposed to realistic literary fiction, and as such, had a good time. I knew there’d be surprises & plot twists, so for the first 1/3 of the book,was thinking maybe anyone might have murdered her (the parents were more than a little creepy too, and stood to profit hugely by Amazing Amy’s sensational death). Or maybe even Go, since she didn’t like Amy from the start.

    Also felt near-instant dislike for both members of the happy couple, and thought early on, “aha, Flynn is having fun with the whole “unreliable narrator” motif. I did like crazy/sociopath Amy way more than Diary Amy…the whole time I thought, “what a self-loathing, anti-female freak” in her attempts to excuse away Nick’s bad behaviors (and he really was a pretty big dick). So it was almost a relief to find a cooler, calmer Amy existed beneath that manic false-front. And I thought Amy’s (Flynn’s?) examples of how young women try to turn themselves into Cool Girl to impress guys was actually pretty spot-on social criticism. (And I may have been guilty of some of that put-on tough schtick myself as a single girl.)

    Like Jules, I’m also really, really good at suspending my disbelief & putting myself into the world of a book but I didn’t feel anxious or freaked out by any of the characters or plot turns. (My heart races more while watching medical dramas.) Call me a sick puppy, but I thought it was a fun ride for a couple of days.

  14. Susan G says:

    Very late to this discussion because I had just started the book Monday. I also read it in two days and was thoroughly entertained, while being deeply disturbed at the same time. (I can’t tell you how much will power it took to avoid this post until I had finished!) A couple random thoughts:
    I found Amy, of course, crazy, but Nick? Just not as interesting and pretty dislikable. At one point in the second half he refers to “secretly dating” Andie. Secretly dating? You don’t “date” when you are married, you CHEAT! I think that one phrase made me dislike him more than anything else!
    Flynn likens them at one point (and I don’t remember which character says this) two a prickly ball (Amy) and one full of holes that have been pricked into him (Nick) and that’s why they fit so well together. I do think there’s a lot to that in any successful (i.e. lasting) relationship. Maybe it’s good for the rest of us that the crazies fit so well together!
    A movie will be interesting, but I just remarked to someone (before I knew there would be a movie) that the structure of the book will be lost in a movie – that the story is definitely movie material but the diary/reality tool is something to read, not something to watch. Sometimes it’s the opposite – A Beautiful Mind, for example, is an amazing book, but the visuals in the movie (actually seeing that office with scraps of paper taped to the walls, seeing the people he imagines and then seeing them disappear) are very powerful and really add to the book.

    Anyway – very glad to have read this. Thanks!

    • Jules says:

      I KNOW!!! Secretly dating!! Please! Typical narcissist.

      I think they were made for each other. And I agree with you on the movie. I don’t know how the diary part will work out. Flash backs? It makes no sense to me. I’m curious to see how that will work.

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.