The Girl Off The Wagon

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Title: The Girl on the Train

Rating: 4 Stars

In the mystery / suspense world this book has received a lot of attention. It was a huge best seller. It is being made into a movie with a premiere taking place in a little over a month. Now that it’s out in paperback (and before the movie comes out), I wanted to read it to form my own opinion.

I have to admit that it’s pretty good. It’s been compared to Gone Girl. I wouldn’t exactly put it in that same league because Gone Girl has such a strong remorseless anti-hero at its core.

It is the story of three women, all told at various times from their respective first person perspective. The main character is Rachel, who is commuting back and forth from London. As the train slows down at a certain point, she can look into a house and see an apparently loving couple. In her imagination, she has built a charming life for them. She becomes desperately concerned and interjects herself into the case when the woman of the house turns up missing.

It also turns out that she’s a pretty unreliable narrator. Her previously happy life has collapsed. Not being able to conceive a child, she falls into alcohol and depression and drives her husband away. She has been fired from her job. She still does the commute in to London to maintain the facade of working. She has burned through all of her money and is renting a room from an increasingly suspicious friend. She drinks, blacks out, acts foolishly, wakes up, repents, and then repeats.

It appears that Rachel thinks that she can somehow resurrect her life by figuring out what happened to the missing woman. She nearly inevitably makes decisions that actively harm her and cause her to slide back into drink.

The other significant character is Megan, the woman who has gone missing. It turns out that she is definitely not living the magical life that Rachel is dreaming of for her. She has a background that she hides and is cheating on her husband.

The third character is Anna, who was having an affair with  Rachel’s husband that ultimately led to a divorce and Rachel’s husband marrying her. She is suspicious and vindictive of Rachel and can be absolutely ruthless.

The men aren’t a lot better. Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, turns out to be a pathological liar. Megan’s husband, Scott, is abusive. Megan’s therapist, Kamal, is treating Megan in a most unprofessional manner.

In short, there are no heroes here and that’s what makes the book interesting. Even as you cringe at the damage that Rachel inflects upon herself, you wait to see if she can pull herself together and figure out a little more about Megan’s disappearance before she debases herself again. Slowly, as the pages turn, you see what events in Megan’s life has made her the person that she is. You are invested in the characters and are interested in learning what becomes of them.

Through much confusion and many mis-directions, you are slowly led to the night in question and learn what really happened to Megan.

In short, it’s a well crafted mystery and suspense work.

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