Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books, January 13th 2015
Synopsis: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…
I wiped the condensation off my fingertips and folded my grocery list into a lopsided rectangle before continuing down the isle. My cart was half-full of veggies and frozen tofu meals. I was wearing a sweater for the first time of the season and I was already thinking about making hot cocoa and constructing an autumn reading list. With one hand shoved in my pocket and the other pushing my cart around an island of tortilla chips, I eyed the toy-office supplies-magazine-book isle. It was an isle I always did my best to ignore, but that day my spirit was weak and I steered right down that isle without hesitating. I figured it was within my budget that week to make a purchase I didn’t need.
Oh how wrong I was.
The Girl on the Train was a purchase I did need. I had avoided adding it to my bookshelf due to its recent popularity, fearing it was just another “best seller” that would fail to meet raised expectations, but I was wrong to be weary. Hawkins has created a serious of characters that will haunt me long after I have put this book away on my shelf. The choice of first person point-of-view creates a narration that rings true, no matter the character. And we get three in all: Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Although I think Megan’s character was intriguing, Rachel was the character I found myself eager to read from. She was so incredibly human, so painfully flawed. Every time she was about to do something I know she would regret, I wanted to shout. At one point in the second third of the novel, I realized that I couldn’t even remember what she had lied about and to whom she had lied to. As a character, Rachel had trouble keeping her lies consistent, and like her I felt myself turning over the same information, lost and hungry to solve the mystery.
Anna’s narration is something I want to mention, because I felt as if it wasn’t actually needed in the story. Everything we get from Anna’s point-of-view is something we are about to see, or have already witnessed via Rachel. Her side of the story doesn’t even become relevant until the last fifty pages. Yes, her part in the ending was crucial, but something still bothers me about those first few Anna chapters. They seemed almost petty.
Then there’s the ending. I was floored once I hit the last few chapters. It was nearly 1 am, and the spine of the poor paperback was folded and creased to death, but I couldn’t stop. I just had to know how all the loose ends were going to tie up. Although I felt the push all the way through to the end, there’s something about long segments of dialogue at the end of a thriller (at the very climax, no less) that turns me off. It’s to build tension, yes, but I don’t want the entire truth of the mystery, motive and all, to be explained by a single character in a grant monologue. The ending of The Girl on the Train teetered at the brink of this. But still, I left the book a satisfied reader, grateful to finally claim sleep after that incredible rollercoaster ride of a plot.
Although I hate to compare the two, there is something about The Girl on The Train that hits incredibly close to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. For anyone who loved that book, this psychological thriller is for you. Both Hawkins and Flynn explore marriage, unique and chilling characters, and the flaws that make us undoubtedly human.