Hello Cannonballers! I’m an occasional commenter and daily lurker on Pajiba and, being pregnant with Love Spawn #2, I figured this would be a fantastic time to attempt a cannonball as I clearly do not have my hands full with a toddler (har har). When I was pregnant with Love Spawn #1, I read multiple books, so I figured what the hell, let’s make this shit official!!!
For my first book of the year I tore through The Girl on the Train and let me say right now I intentionally did not read a single synopses, so the “I’m an alcoholic who drinks to blackout and has a horrible problem” took me by surprise and, frankly, fucked my shit up. We have dealt with this in our past in our family, personally and otherwise (luckily all affected parties are now treating their serious depression which was the root of the alcohol issues and the issues are 100% gone), so going through this spiral with the main character was physically painful for me. IF YOU HAVE HAD THIS EXPERIENCE IN THE PAST OR ARE STILL HAVING IT THIS BOOK COULD BE A TRIGGER FOR YOU. NO FUCKING JOKE, BE WARNED. If you have ever been curious what that particular brand of alcoholism looks and feels like, this book will give you an excellent view inside.
This story is riveting but (obviously) difficult to consume, as nearly all of us, even without such a searing personal history with depression and/or alcoholism, have experienced a black out moment with the horror of waking up knowing that something has gone horribly wrong. The format of the book jumps between the points of view of three women, all circling each other in both expected and unexpected ways.
This book was almost too effective at putting you within the head of each character: I found myself simultaneously identifying with and being deeply repelled by each of the characters in their own ways. Each assumption you make as the reader is challenged: multiple times you think ‘oh I get it, I know this woman, she’s x, y, or z‘ and Paula Hawkins laughs at your myopia and proves your internal metric of personality analysis wrong. The purpose of most novels is to not only take you from point A to B in a real world sense but also from point A to B in a character development sense, so learning more is obviously not anything unique to this writer, however Hawkins’ ability to surprise you with the revelations, not in a mystery solved! sense, rather in an ‘what this character is feeling on the inside intuitively makes sense to me even if I find it flawed’ sense is extraordinarily effective. You may not like the characters by the end of the book, but you will empathize with them, often whether you want to or not.
As to the central mystery itself, I had correctly figured out the main thrust of it even before the half way point, HOWEVER there is much surrounding the thrusting (PHRASING) that took me by surprise, so though you may say ‘um, duh’ you will still say ‘shit, really?’ with plenty of other things. On the whole I did find it a bit lacking, but not enough to dissuade me from recommending the book.
In conclusion, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys character studies with a bit of mystery thrown in. It is the most realistic portrayal I have ever experienced of the cycle of depressive alcoholism (and really, is there any other kind?) and as such will gut the shit out of you depending on your personal experience. If you have been fortunate enough to have never had such a grueling personal experience, this book will educate you in a profound way, with a bit of mystery added for good measure.