Gone Girl Theater times

The Girl on the TrainEvery morning, Rachel Watson rides a train from her house in the suburbs to her job in the city. Every night, she rides it back. In between, she has secrets to spare (that we won’t spoil here), but the most exciting part of her day always happens early, when a tricky signals stops her morning commuter train on the backside of a charming bedroom community where Rachel, not so very long ago, used to live. Unmoored by various aspects of her life, Rachel is rooted to few things, but her commute is one of them, so it’s not entirely surprising that it’s within the confines of this routine that she finds something to obsess over.

Unlikable, rude, thoughtless, drunk, and horribly wounded, Rachel isn’t a “likable” character, a wild anti-heroine who has been compared (quite rightly) to Gone Girl‘s own Amy Dunne, but Paula Hawkins‘ The Girl on the Train chugs its story and its characters (mainly Rachel) right into some new territory. Hawkins’ novel, released earlier this year, is a smash hit and a New York Times bestseller that appears to be sweeping the book club crowd (my book club read it after it was recommended by a member’s mom, whose own book club had just finished it) thanks to its heady blend of big mystery and canny storytelling — and now it’s going to be a movie.

Hawkins’ book slips seamlessly between time periods (most of the novel’s action takes place over a spring and summer span of a few months, which keeps things interesting but very manageable) and points of view — Hawkins neatly notates who are narrator is at the start of each chapter, along with the dates it takes place, which should be easy enough to translate to the big screen, but that already has a readymade cinematic feeling built right in — and though it’s definitely Rachel’s story, two other ladies get their own say, too.

Kate ErblandRachel becomes fixated on a young couple she sees most mornings on her daily commute, a happy-looking pair that live right along the train tracks. Rachel doesn’t have a whole lot going on in her own life — and we soon find out why that’s so — and she also has a weirdo attachment to the street that “Jess” and “Jason, ” as she terms them, live on, so her unsettling obsession sort of makes sense. When Hawkins’ book opens, Rachel has been watching Jess and Jason for months, and she’s certain she’s figured out their lives. She’s idealized them really, which makes the truth of their relationship that much more awful for an already unhinged Rachel to deal with. Jess — her real name is Megan, and she gets her own chapters, too — goes missing one day, and when Rachel realizes it’s her, she starts connecting some dots.

It doesn’t help matters that Rachel, who is especially prickly about infidelity, saw Megan embracing a strange man the day before she went missing (nope, not “Jason, ” who is really named Scott). As Rachel starts investigating the disappearance for herself, she — and the readers — learn lots more about both Megan and Rachel. Oh, and there’s even a third narrator, just for grins: Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife, who has her own links to Megan.

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