Gone Girlby Gillian Flynn
Marriage can be a real killer.
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws/i>/i>
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Marriage can be a real killer.
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.
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—Janet Maslin, New York Times
“An ingenious and viperish thriller… It’s going to make Gillian Flynn a star… The first half of Gone Girl is a nimble, caustic riff on our Nancy Grace culture and the way in which ''The butler did it'' has morphed into ''The husband did it.'' The second half is the real stunner, though. Now I really am going to shut up before I spoil what instantly shifts into a great, breathless read. Even as Gone Girl grows truly twisted and wild, it says smart things about how tenuous power relations are between men and women, and how often couples are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. As if that weren’t enough, Flynn has created a genuinely creepy villain you don't see coming. People love to talk about the banality of evil. You’re about to meet a maniac you could fall in love with.”
—Jeff Giles, Entertainment Weekly
“An irresistible summer thriller with a twisting plot worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. Burrowing deep into the murkiest corners of the human psyche, this delectable summer read will give you the creeps and keep you on edge until the last page.”
—People (four stars)
“[A] thoroughbred thriller about the nature of identity and the terrible secrets that can survive and thrive in even the most intimate relationships. Gone Girl begins as a whodunit, but by the end it will have you wondering whether there’s any such thing as a who at all.”
—Lev Grossman, Time
“How did things get so bad? That’s the reason to read this book. Gillian Flynn — whose award-winning Dark Places and Sharp Objects also shone a dark light on weird and creepy, not to mention uber dysfunctional characters — delves this time into what happens when two people marry and one spouse has no idea who their beloved really is.”
—USA Today, Carol Memmott
“It’s simply fantastic: terrifying, darkly funny and at times moving. The minute I finished it I wanted to start it all over again. Admirers of Gillian Flynn’s previous books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, will be ecstatic over Gone Girl, her most intricately twisted and deliciously sinister story, dangerous for any reader who prefers to savor a novel as opposed to consuming it whole in one sitting….”
—Associated Press, Michelle Weiner
“Gillian Flynn’s third novel is both breakneck-paced thriller and masterful dissection of marital breakdown… Wickedly plotted and surprisingly thoughtful, this is a terrifically good read.”
“That adage of no one knows what goes on behind closed doors moves the plot of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn's suspenseful psychological thriller… Flynn's unpredictable plot of Gone Girl careens down an emotional highway where this couple dissects their marriage with sharp acumen… Flynn has shown her skills at gripping tales and enhanced character studies since her debut Sharp Objects, which garnered an Edgar nod, among other nominations. Her second novel Dark Places made numerous best of lists. Gone Girl reaffirms her talent.”
—South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Oline Cogdill
“A great crime novel, however, is an unstable thing, entertainment and literature suspended in some undetermined solution. Take Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the third novel by one of a trio of contemporary women writers (the others are Kate Atkinson and Tana French) who are kicking the genre into a higher gear… You couldn’t say that this is a crime novel that’s ultimately about a marriage, which would make it a literary novel in disguise. The crime and the marriage are inseparable. As Gone Girl works itself up into an aria of ingenious, pitch-black comedy (or comedic horror — it’s a bit of both), its very outlandishness teases out a truth about all magnificent partnerships: Sometimes it’s your enemy who brings out the best in you, and in such cases, you want to keep him close.”
“Ms. Flynn writes dark suspense novels that anatomize violence without splashing barrels of blood around the pages… But as in her other books, Ms. Flynn has much more up her sleeve than a simple missing-person case. As Nick and Amy's alternately tell their stories, marriage has never looked so menacing, narrators so unreliable.”
—Wall Street Journal
“A portrait of a marriage so hilariously terrifying, it will make you have a good hard think about who the person on the other side of the bed really is. This novel is so bogglingly twisty, we can only give you the initial premise: on their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne’s beloved wife Amy disappears, and all signs point to very foul play indeed. Nick has to clear his name before the police finger him for Amy’s murder.”
“Readers who prefer more virulent strains of unreality will appreciate the sneaky mind games of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, a thriller rooted in the portrait of a tricky and troubled marriage.”
—New York Times
“[Flynn has] quite outdone herself with a tale of marital strife so deliciously devious that it moves the finish line on The War of the Roses… A novel studded with disclosures and guided by purposeful misdirection… Flynn delivers a wickedly clever cultural commentary as well as a complex and driven mystery… What fun this novel is.”
—New York Daily News
“Flynn’s brilliantly constructed and consistently absorbing third novel begins on the Dunnes’ fifth wedding anniversary… The novel, which twists itself into new shapes, works as a page-turning thriller, but it’s also a study of marriage at its most destructive.”
“Gillian Flynn's barbed and brilliant Gone Girl has two deceitful, disturbing, irresistible narrators and a plot that twists so many times you'll be dizzy. This "catastrophically romantic" story about Nick and Amy is a "fairy tale reverse transformation" that reminded me of Patricia Highsmith in its psychological suspense and Kate Atkinson in its insanely clever plotting.”
“For a creepy, suspenseful mystery, Ms. Pearl suggested Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a novel due out this week. "You will not be able to figure out the end at all. I could not sleep the night after I read it. It's really good," Ms. [Nancy] Pearl said. "It's about the way we deceive ourselves and deceive others."”
“Gillian Flynn's new novel, Gone Girl, is that rare thing: a book that thrills and delights while holding up a mirror to how we live… Through her two ultimately unreliable narrators, Flynn masterfully weaves the slow trickle of critical details with 90-degree plot turns… Timely, poignant and emotionally rich, Gone Girl will peel away your comfort levels even as you root for its protagonists—despite your best intuition.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Flynn’s third noir thriller recently launched to even more acclaim than the first two novels, polishing her reputation for pushing crime fiction to a new literary level and as a craftsman of deliciously twisting and twisted plots.”
—Kansas City Star
“I picked up Gone Girl because the novel is set along the Mississippi River in Missouri and the plot sounded intriguing. I put it down two days later, bleary-eyed and oh-so-satisfied after reading a story that left me surprised, disgusted, and riveted by its twists and turns… A good story presents a reader with a problem that has to be resolved and a few surprises along the way. A great story gives a reader a problem and leads you along a path, then dumps you off a cliff and into a jungle of plot twists, character revelations and back stories that you could not have imagined. Gone Girl does just that.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“To call Gillian Flynn's new novel almost review-proof isn't a put-down, it's a fact. That's because to give away the turn-of-the-screw in this chilling portrait of a marriage gone wrong would be a crime. I can say that Gone Girl is an ingenious whodunit for both the Facebook generation and old-school mystery buffs. Whoever you are, it will linger, like fingerprints on a gun… Flynn's characters bloom and grow, like beautiful, poisonous plants. She is a Gothic storyteller for the Internet age.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The setup of Gone Girl lulls readers with what appears to be a done-too-often plot, but, oh, how misleading that is. This thriller is told in alternating voices, a risky form of narrative that works masterfully here because the characters are so distinct and convincing…. The first half of the story leads readers on a merry chase and gives the term "red herring" new meaning. The second half takes readers on a calculated descent into madness. The ending…is one of the most chilling we've seen in recent years.”
—The Sacramento Bee, Allen Pierleoni
“If you do have room in your summer reading for new mysteries, pack Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. It's my pick for one of the summer's best.”
“In this fast-paced thriller, Flynn tracks the disintegration of a marriage and asks: How does a couple go from uttering passionate vows to living separate lives?”
“Gillian Flynn’s terrific psychological thriller, Gone Girl, wanders into an alternate criminality, to the darkest corners of mind and matrimony, using Occam’s razor to slit its own throat… Aside from the plot’s high entertainment value, Flynn has buttressed her book with humor and great writing.”
—The Daily Beast
“Gone Girl is a dark, satisfying, psychological thriller… Gone Girl is at times brilliant, compelling, surprising, diabolical, and it’s definitely dark and twisted… It ranks as one of the best books I’ve read in the past year…I’d highly recommend it if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers or just plain great fiction.”
“Pick up the sharp, mercilessly entertaining psychological thriller Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn as though with a razor, giggling all the while.”
“Gone Girl [is] a thriller with an insane twist and an insidiously realistic take on marriage.”
—New York magazine
“A twisting, turning, zooming-up-the-charts thriller.”
—Real Simple, announcing their book club pick
“An unnerving, gorgeously written marital thriller that features one of the most compelling narrators in recent memory… Anyway, go read Gone Girl. It's quite good.”
—The Atlantic Wire
“Buy Gone Girl and don't settle down for a long winter's nap or any kind of nap. I read it in two days, nonstop, useless for anything but my own incredible pleasure.”
—Liz Smith, New York Social Diary
“Gillian Flynn’s killer thriller is unputdownable, and just when you think you know where she’s going, she’s gone.”
“A satisfyingly scathing take on a marriage so broken even the truth is built on lies.”
“If, instead, you're a fan of gripping, well-crafted tales about complex relationships, try Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.”
“After a chilling, bombshell twist, you won’t know which clues to trust nor whom to believe.”
Flynn’s ability to reach further and further into the deep, dark recesses of the human psyche brings a much greater edge and feeling of suspense to this novel. Gone Girl is a fast-paced, always surprising page-turner of a book…Gone Girl is a superbly crafted novel by a talented and daring young writer and it will keep you guessing until the very last sentence.”
—Cincinnati City Beat, John Kelly
“A highly original thriller that’s also a razor-sharp depiction of a relationship gone off the rails.”
“Dark yet funny with a devious twist, this is everything that made Flynn’s Sharp Objects a bestseller—but better.”
“The story unfolds in precise and riveting prose…even while you know you're being manipulated, searching for the missing pieces is half the thrill of this wickedly absorbing tale.”
“Full of midnight-black wit and gorgeous writing…About halfway through the book, something happens…That’s the moment you should check the clock and firmly put the book down if you have to rise early the next day. Because trust me, if you keep reading, you won’t stop till you finish it.”
—Dallas Morning News, Joy Tipping
“Gillian Flynn's third mystery is burned-coffee black and flavored with cyanide. (As far as I'm concerned, those are compliments of the highest order.)…Flynn is a master manipulator, deftly fielding multiple unreliable narrators, sardonic humor, and social satire in a story of a marriage gone wrong that makes black comedies like “The War of the Roses” and “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf” look like scenes from a honeymoon. Veteran mystery readers may see as far as the opening of the second act, but Flynn has more surprises in store on her way to the sucker-punch of an ending. It is, in a word, amazing.”
—Christian Science Monitor, Yvonne Zipp
“A perfect wife’s disappearance plunges her husband into a nightmare as it rips open ugly secrets about his marriage and, just maybe, his culpability in her death… One of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are chilling.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“[W]hat looks like a straightforward case of a husband killing his wife to free himself from a bad marriage morphs into something entirely different in Flynn’s hands. As evidenced by her previous work (Sharp Objects, 2006, and Dark Places, 2009), she possesses a disturbing worldview, one considerably amped up by her twisted sense of humor. Both a compelling thriller and a searing portrait of marriage, this could well be Flynn’s breakout novel. It contains so many twists and turns that the outcome is impossible to predict.”
—Booklist (starred review)
"Flynn cements her place among that elite group of mystery/thriller writers who unfailingly deliver the goods...Once again Flynn has written an intelligent, gripping tour de force, mixing a riveting plot and psychological intrigue with a compelling prose style that unobtrusively yet forcefully carries the reader from page to page."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Flynn masterfully lets this tale of a marriage gone toxically wrong gradually emerge through alternating accounts by Nick and Amy, both unreliable narrators in their own ways. The reader comes to discover their layers of deceit through a process similar to that at work in the imploding relationship. Compulsively readable, creepily unforgettable, this is a must read for any fan of bad girls and good writing."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Gone Girl is one of the best and most frightening portraits of psychopathy I've ever read. Nick and Amy manipulate each other with savage, merciless and often darkly witty dexterity. This is a wonderful and terrifying book about how the happy surface normality and the underlying darkness can become too closely interwoven to separate.”
—Tana French, New York Times bestselling author of Faithful Place and Into the Woods
“The plot has it all. I have no doubt that in a year’s time I’m going to be saying that this is my favorite novel of 2012. Brilliant.”
—Kate Atkinson, New York Times bestselling author of Started Early, Took My Dog and Case Histories
“Gone Girl builds on the extraordinary achievements of Gillian Flynn's first two books and delivers the reader into the claustrophobic world of a failing marriage. We all know the story, right? Beautiful wife disappears; husband doesn't seem as distraught as he should be under the circumstances. But Flynn takes this sturdy trope of the 24-hour news cycle and turns it inside out, providing a devastating portrait of a marriage and a timely, cautionary tale about an age in which everyone's dreams seem to be imploding.”
—Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Dangerous Thing and I’d Know You Anywhere
“Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is like Scenes from a Marriage remade by Alfred Hitchcock, an elaborate trap that’s always surprising and full of characters who are entirely recognizable. It’s a love story wrapped in a mystery that asks the eternal question of all good relationships gone bad: How did we get from there to here?”
—Adam Ross, New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Peanut
“Just this minute I finished a week of feeling betrayed, misled, manipulated, provoked, and misjudged, not to mention having all my expectations confounded. Considering how compulsively I kept coming back for more, I am seriously thinking of going back to page one and doing it all again.”
—Arthur Phillips, author of The Tragedy of Arthur
“I cannot say this urgently enough: you have to read Gone Girl. It’s as if Gillian Flynn has mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it taste really, really good. Gone Girl is delicious and intoxicating and delightfully poisonous. It’s smart (brilliant, actually). It’s funny (in the darkest possible way). The writing is jarringly good, and the story is, well...amazing. Read the book and you'll discover—among many other treasures—just how much freight (and fright) that last adjective can bear.”
—Scott Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan
“Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl reminds me of Patricia Highsmith at the top of her game. With Gone Girl, she’s placed herself at the top of the short list of authors who have mastered the art of crafting a tense story with terrifyingly believable characters.”
—Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author of Fallen
"Gone Girl manages to be so many stellar things all at once—suspenseful, inventive, chilling, funny, unsettling—as well as beautifully plotted and fiercely well-written. Gillian Flynn is a thrilling writer.”
—Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man
“Reminds suspense readers of the old Alfred Hitchcock stories...This is one puzzle you do not want to miss.”
—Amy Lignor, Suspense Magazine
“Absorbing thriller…In masterly fashion, Flynn depicts the unraveling of a marriage – and of a recession-hit Midwest – by interweaving the wife’s diary entries with the husband’s first person account.”
“A psychological thriller reminiscent of Hitchcock.”
—Aspen Daily News
“Devilishly clever he said/she said thriller.”
—AJC.com, Atlanta Journal Constitution
“Flynn’s sly and rippingly suspenseful novel, Gone Girl, is one of those novels it’s hard not to try and shanghai other people into reading, as in immediately. Flynn (Sharp Objects, Dark Places) lays down a vivid and plainspoken narrative that can read like the most jet-fueled of airport thrillers but is still bejeweled with sparkling asides and dead-on commentary. Her writing is, as needed, funny, perceptive, headslappingly honest, or sometimes an amalgam of the three. That this all happens in a book whose plot seems at first ripped from a Dateline NBC true crime is all the more impressive.”
“A riveting novel, a Midwestern noir with completely unreliable narrators.”
—Knoxville Metro Plus
“Part thriller, part macabre love story…The book is told deliciously…The twists and turns are never obvious.”
—New York Post
“Dark yet funny with a devious twist, this is everything that made Flynn’s Sharp Objects a bestseller—but better.”
The summer thriller is filled with enough suspense and twists to keep any beach reader happy, but it is also a book about writing. The main characters are avid readers, and they write letters, articles, journals, kid’s books and memoirs. The novel references other books, little Easter eggs nestled in the plot.”
“A fiendishly clever tale of a marriage gone toxic, and revenge exacted to a disturbingly lethal degree.”
“Flynn keeps us guessing with equal parts charm and menace. An addictive read.”
—More magazine, Alice LaPlante
“After a chilling, bombshell twist, you won’t know which clues to trust nor whom to believe. Told from two perspectives, Gone Girl forces you to ask yourself, what would you do and who dunnit?”
Flynn’s ability to reach further and further into the deep, dark recesses of the human psyche brings a much greater edge and feeling of suspense to this novel. Gone Girl is a fast-paced, always surprising page-turner of a book. It’s not only a murder mystery, but a commentary on the disappearance in the last decade of nearly everything we hold near and dear, from jobs to our parents’ health and welfare to the landscape of our cities and towns…Beginning with Amy’s sudden disappearance, to the local police department’s slipshod investigation and the media’s obsessive coverage, Gone Girl is a thrilling roller coaster of a ride with enough twists and turns to give the reader whiplash…Flynn deserves credit for creating not just an exciting murder mystery, but also forcing us to look at the lies we tell ourselves. Gone Girl is a superbly crafted novel by a talented and daring young writer and it will keep you guessing until the very last sentence.”
—Cincinnati City Beat
“Gone Girl is a superbly constructed, ingeniously paced and absolutely terrifying. You begin by thinking that all marriages are a bit like this: they start with high hopes and get bogged down in nagging and money worries. But then the psycho-drama creeps up on you with chilling power. A five-star suspense mystery.”
—A.N. Wilson, Reader’s Digest (UK)
“Gone Girl is as skillfully creepy as her previous work… A chilling, stylish read about another unknowable woman.”
“The married duo in Gillian Flynn’s superb third novel takes the idea of unreliable narrators to a whole new level. When Nick Dunne’s lovely wife Amy is violently abducted on their fifth wedding anniversary, the police and the press immediately put Nick in the frame for her murder. Amy’s friends testify that she was afraid of her husband, and the missing woman’s diary backs up their impressions. Nick’s computer is full of inexplicable searches, his mobile phone is plagued by mysterious calls and his own inner monologue offers a darker perspective on amazing Amy and the state of their turbulent marriage. Flynn keeps the accelerator firmly to the floor, ratcheting up the tension with wildly unexpected plot twists, contradictory stories and the tantalizing feeling that nothing is as it seems. Deviously good.”
—Marie Claire (UK)
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Meet the Author
GILLIAN FLYNN is the author of the New York Times bestseller Dark Places, which was a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, Weekend TODAY Top Summer Read, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009, and Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction choice; and the Dagger Award winner Sharp Objects, which was an Edgar nominee for Best First novel, a BookSense pick, and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. Her work has been published in twenty-eight countries. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.
More from this Author
Read an Excerpt
Gone GirlA Novel
By Gillian Flynn
CrownCopyright © 2012 Gillian Flynn
All right reserved.
the day of
When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of
it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the
head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it.
Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the
Victorians would call finely shaped head. You could imagine the
skull quite easily.
I’d know her head anywhere.
And what’s inside it. I think of that too: her mind. Her brain, all
those coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast,
frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspooling
her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down
her thoughts. What are you thinking, Amy? The question I’ve asked
most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person
who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every
marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are
you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?
My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian fluttering
of the lashes, no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awakening
was mechanical. A spooky ventriloquist- dummy click of the lids:
The world is black and then, showtime! 6- 0- 0 the clock said— in my
face, first thing I saw. 6- 0- 0. It felt different. I rarely woke at such a
rounded time. I was a man of jagged risings: 8:43, 11:51, 9:26. My
life was alarmless.
At that exact moment, 6- 0- 0, the sun climbed over the skyline of
oaks, revealing its full summer angry- god self. Its reflection flared
across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me
through our frail bedroom curtains. Accusing: You have been seen.
You will be seen.
I wallowed in bed, which was our New York bed in our new house,
which we still called the new house, even though we’d been back here
for two years. It’s a rented house right along the Mississippi River,
a house that screams Suburban Nouveau Riche, the kind of place
I aspired to as a kid from my split- level, shag- carpet side of town.
The kind of house that is immediately familiar: a generically grand,
unchallenging, new, new, new house that my wife would— and did—
“Should I remove my soul before I come inside?” Her first line upon
arrival. It had been a compromise: Amy demanded we rent, not buy,
in my little Missouri hometown, in her firm hope that we wouldn’t
be stuck here long. But the only houses for rent were clustered in
this failed development: a miniature ghost town of bank- owned,
recession- busted, price- reduced mansions, a neighborhood that closed
before it ever opened. It was a compromise, but Amy didn’t see it that
way, not in the least. To Amy, it was a punishing whim on my part, a
nasty, selfish twist of the knife. I would drag her, caveman- style, to a
town she had aggressively avoided, and make her live in the kind of
house she used to mock. I suppose it’s not a compromise if only one of
you considers it such, but that was what our compromises tended to
look like. One of us was always angry. Amy, usually.
Do not blame me for this particular grievance, Amy. The Missouri
Grievance. Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents,
blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the
Internet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TV
and movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, back
when anyone cared about what I thought. I’d arrived in New York in
the late ’90s, the last gasp of the glory days, although no one knew it
then. New York was packed with writers, real writers, because there
were magazines, real magazines, loads of them. This was back when
the Internet was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of the publishing
world— throw some kibble at it, watch it dance on its little leash,
oh quite cute, it definitely won’t kill us in the night. Think about it: a
time when newly graduated college kids could come to New York and
get paid to write. We had no clue that we were embarking on careers
that would vanish within a decade.
I had a job for eleven years and then I didn’t, it was that fast. All
around the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing to
a sudden infection brought on by the busted economy. Writers (my
kind of writers: aspiring novelists, ruminative thinkers, people whose
brains don’t work quick enough to blog or link or tweet, basically old,
stubborn blowhards) were through. We were like women’s hat makers
or buggy- whip manufacturers: Our time was done. Three weeks after
I got cut loose, Amy lost her job, such as it was. (Now I can feel Amy
looking over my shoulder, smirking at the time I’ve spent discussing
my career, my misfortune, and dismissing her experience in one sentence.
That, she would tell you, is typical. Just like Nick, she would
say. It was a refrain of hers: Just like Nick to . . . whatever followed,
whatever was just like me, was bad.) Two jobless grown- ups, we spent
weeks wandering around our Brooklyn brownstone in socks and pajamas,
ignoring the future, strewing unopened mail across tables and
sofas, eating ice cream at ten a.m. and taking thick afternoon naps.
Then one day the phone rang. My twin sister was on the other
end. Margo had moved back home after her own New York layoff
a year before— the girl is one step ahead of me in everything, even
shitty luck. Margo, calling from good ole North Carthage, Missouri,
from the house where we grew up, and as I listened to her voice, I
saw her at age ten, with a dark cap of hair and overall shorts, sitting
on our grandparents’ back dock, her body slouched over like an old
pillow, her skinny legs dangling in the water, watching the river fl ow
over fish- white feet, so intently, utterly self- possessed even as a child.
Go’s voice was warm and crinkly even as she gave this cold news:
Our indomitable mother was dying. Our dad was nearly gone— his
(nasty) mind, his (miserable) heart, both murky as he meandered
toward the great gray beyond. But it looked like our mother would
beat him there. About six months, maybe a year, she had. I could tell
that Go had gone to meet with the doctor by herself, taken her studious
notes in her slovenly handwriting, and she was teary as she tried
to decipher what she’d written. Dates and doses.
“Well, fuck, I have no idea what this says, is it a nine? Does that
even make sense?” she said, and I interrupted. Here was a task, a
purpose, held out on my sister’s palm like a plum. I almost cried with
“I’ll come back, Go. We’ll move back home. You shouldn’t have to
do this all by yourself.”
She didn’t believe me. I could hear her breathing on the other end.
“I’m serious, Go. Why not? There’s nothing here.”
A long exhale. “What about Amy?”
That is what I didn’t take long enough to consider. I simply assumed
I would bundle up my New York wife with her New York interests,
her New York pride, and remove her from her New York parents—
leave the frantic, thrilling futureland of Manhattan behind— and
transplant her to a little town on the river in Missouri, and all would
I did not yet understand how foolish, how optimistic, how, yes,
just like Nick I was for thinking this. The misery it would lead to.
“Amy will be fine. Amy . . .” Here was where I should have said,
“Amy loves Mom.” But I couldn’t tell Go that Amy loved our mother,
because after all that time, Amy still barely knew our mother. Their
few meetings had left them both baffled. Amy would dissect the conversations
for days after—“And what did she mean by . . . ,” as if my
mother were some ancient peasant tribeswoman arriving from the
tundra with an armful of raw yak meat and some buttons for bartering,
trying to get something from Amy that wasn’t on offer.
Amy didn’t care to know my family, didn’t want to know my
birthplace, and yet for some reason, I thought moving home would
be a good idea.
My morning breath warmed the pillow, and I changed the subject in
my mind. Today was not a day for second- guessing or regret, it was a
day for doing. Downstairs, I could hear the return of a long- lost sound:
Amy making breakfast. Banging wooden cupboards (rump- thump!),
rattling containers of tin and glass (ding- ring!), shuffling and sorting
a collection of metal pots and iron pans (ruzz-shuzz!). A culinary
orchestra tuning up, clattering vigorously toward the finale, a cake
pan drumrolling along the floor, hitting the wall with a cymballic
crash. Something impressive was being created, probably a crepe,
because crepes are special, and today Amy would want to cook something
It was our five- year anniversary.
I walked barefoot to the edge of the steps and stood listening,
working my toes into the plush wall- to- wall carpet Amy detested on
principle, as I tried to decide whether I was ready to join my wife.
Amy was in the kitchen, oblivious to my hesitation. She was humming
something melancholy and familiar. I strained to make it out— a folk
song? a lullabye?—and then realized it was the theme to M*A*S*H.
Suicide is painless. I went downstairs.
I hovered in the doorway, watching my wife. Her yellow- butter
hair was pulled up, the hank of ponytail swinging cheerful as a jumprope,
and she was sucking distractedly on a burnt fingertip, humming
around it. She hummed to herself because she was an unrivaled
botcher of lyrics. When we were first dating, a Genesis song came on
the radio: “She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah.” And Amy
crooned instead, “She takes my hat and puts it on the top shelf.”
When I asked her why she’d ever think her lyrics were remotely, possibly,
vaguely right, she told me she always thought the woman in the
song truly loved the man because she put his hat on the top shelf. I
knew I liked her then, really liked her, this girl with an explanation
There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and
feeling utterly cold.
Amy peered at the crepe sizzling in the pan and licked something
off her wrist. She looked triumphant, wifely. If I took her in my arms,
she would smell like berries and powdered sugar.
When she spied me lurking there in grubby boxers, my hair in full
Heat Miser spike, she leaned against the kitchen counter and said,
“Well, hello, handsome.”
Bile and dread inched up my throat. I thought to myself: Okay, go.
I was very late getting to work. My sister and I had done a foolish
thing when we both moved back home. We had done what we always
talked about doing. We opened a bar. We borrowed money from Amy
to do this, eighty thousand dollars, which was once nothing to Amy
but by then was almost everything. I swore I would pay her back,
with interest. I would not be a man who borrowed from his wife— I
could feel my dad twisting his lips at the very idea. Well, there are all
kinds of men, his most damning phrase, the second half left unsaid,
and you are the wrong kind.
But truly, it was a practical decision, a smart business move. Amy
and I both needed new careers; this would be mine. She would pick
one someday, or not, but in the meantime, here was an income, made
possible by the last of Amy’s trust fund. Like the McMansion I rented,
the bar featured symbolically in my childhood memories— a place
where only grown- ups go, and do whatever grown- ups do. Maybe
that’s why I was so insistent on buying it after being stripped of my
livelihood. It’s a reminder that I am, after all, an adult, a grown man,
a useful human being, even though I lost the career that made me
all these things. I won’t make that mistake again: The once plentiful
herds of magazine writers would continue to be culled— by the
Internet, by the recession, by the American public, who would rather
watch TV or play video games or electronically inform friends that,
like, rain sucks! But there’s no app for a bourbon buzz on a warm day
in a cool, dark bar. The world will always want a drink.
Our bar is a corner bar with a haphazard, patchwork aesthetic. Its
best feature is a massive Victorian back bar, dragon heads and angel
faces emerging from the oak— an extravagant work of wood in these
shitty plastic days. The remainder of the bar is, in fact, shitty, a showcase
of the shabbiest design offerings of every decade: an Eisenhowerera
linoleum floor, the edges turned up like burnt toast; dubious
wood- paneled walls straight from a ’70s home- porn video; halogen
floor lamps, an accidental tribute to my 1990s dorm room. The ultimate
effect is strangely homey— it looks less like a bar than someone’s
benignly neglected fixer- upper. And jovial: We share a parking
lot with the local bowling alley, and when our door swings wide, the
clatter of strikes applauds the customer’s entrance.
We named the bar The Bar. “People will think we’re ironic instead
of creatively bankrupt,” my sister reasoned.
Yes, we thought we were being clever New Yorkers— that the
name was a joke no one else would really get, not get like we did.
Not meta- get. We pictured the locals scrunching their noses: Why’d
you name it The Bar? But our first customer, a gray- haired woman in
bifocals and a pink jogging suit, said, “I like the name. Like in Breakfast
at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn’s cat was named Cat.”
We felt much less superior after that, which was a good thing.
I pulled into the parking lot. I waited until a strike erupted from
the bowling alley— thank you, thank you, friends— then stepped
out of the car. I admired the surroundings, still not bored with the
broken- in view: the squatty blond- brick post office across the street
(now closed on Saturdays), the unassuming beige office building just
down the way (now closed, period). The town wasn’t prosperous, not
anymore, not by a long shot. Hell, it wasn’t even original, being one
of two Carthage, Missouris— ours is technically North Carthage,
which makes it sound like a twin city, although it’s hundreds of miles
from the other and the lesser of the two: a quaint little 1950s town
that bloated itself into a basic midsize suburb and dubbed it progress.
Still, it was where my mom grew up and where she raised me and Go,
so it had some history. Mine, at least.
As I walked toward the bar across the concrete- and- weed parking
lot, I looked straight down the road and saw the river. That’s what
I’ve always loved about our town: We aren’t built on some safe bluff
overlooking the Mississippi— we are on the Mississippi. I could walk
down the road and step right into the sucker, an easy three- foot drop,
and be on my way to Tennessee. Every building downtown bears
hand- drawn lines from where the river hit during the Flood of ’61,’75,
’84, ’93, ’07, ’08, ’11. And so on.
The river wasn’t swollen now, but it was running urgently, in strong
ropy currents. Moving apace with the river was a long single- fi le line
of men, eyes aimed at their feet, shoulders tense, walking steadfastly
nowhere. As I watched them, one suddenly looked up at me, his face
in shadow, an oval blackness. I turned away.
I felt an immediate, intense need to get inside. By the time I’d gone
twenty feet, my neck bubbled with sweat. The sun was still an angry
eye in the sky. You have been seen.
My gut twisted, and I moved quicker. I needed a drink.
Excerpted from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Copyright © 2012 by Gillian Flynn. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.
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