The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins
A new family moves in next door to you. You see them come and go, notice that there are two teen children, that the husband leaves for work in a suit, with a briefcase, at precisely 7:30 AM each day That the wife has a green minivan, that the husband drives an old VW, that the kids (boy and girl) share an aging Toyota. Then one day, the police arrive. The son has killed the mother. Did you see that one coming? no, of course not. How could you?
This, then, is part of the human condition: no matter how intimately you know another, there are things that lie hidden in this other person. And this is the project that Paula Hawkins takes on in this extremely well written novel – along with the willingness of each of us to build an illusory world about the little we know of another person.
Rachel is The Girl On The Train, once married to Tom, who has had an affair with Anna, has divorced Rachel, and Tom and Anna have had a child together, Evie. Down the street live Megan and husband Scott. Rachel lives in another locale, sharing a flat with Cathy, and Rachel is jobless because of her excessive drinking. But each day Rachel rides the train into London for reasons known only partly to the reader. As the train passes, Megan’s and Scott’s house, Rachel fantasizes about them. They seem the perfect couple until she sees Megan kissing a strange man in the back yard. Then Megan goes missing. Is she dead or alive? If she’s dead, was it murder? If so, why? And who murdered her?
Hawkins solves these issues by allowing Rachel, Anna, and Megan their own chapters, presented to the reader in first person, present tense (something I consider writerly dangerous, but which Hawkins pulls off perfectly), each revealing things about themselves – and their connections to one another. Her pacing of the story is near-perfect, and one page flows into another as streams into a river.
The women are the prominent characters in Hawkins’ hands, the men more or less supporting roles. Still, while this book will see extended duty in women’s book discussion groups, men will be mesmerized by it as well.
My rating: 19 of 20 stars