I have to admit it. This month’s TBR Challenge theme was a tough one. I looked at my TBR and realized that I didn’t have any truly buzzed-over books sitting there. Of all the possibilities that I could think of and that actually interested me, they’d either been reviewed or I had simply read from curiosity some time ago already.

I was getting ready to simply read a book I’d seen recommended by bloggers whose tastes are similar to mine, when a copy of Gone Girl dropped into my lap. This 2012 book by Gillian Flynn is pretty much the epitome of a much buzzed-about read. I’d have to live under a rock not to know about it. It’s been mentioned all over romance sites, mystery sites, and all kinds of mainstream literary sites. Usually the literary fiction “Best Books of the Year” lists don’t hold a lot of allure for me, but this book is definitely different from just about anything out there. If I read it for review, it would be a B+.

The book opens with Nick Dunne getting called home. There he discovers his house standing open, with signs of a struggle in the living, and his wife Amy is gone. And it’s really hard to tell you much more than that without spoiling the story. Part of the genius of this book lies in its structure. Chapters are told alternately from Nick and Amy’s point of view, some set in the present and others filled with memories from the past via Amy’s diary. And as the chapters unfold, the reader notices two big things: This story is filled with many layers of secrets and it’s hard to figure out at times just how reliable the narrators truly are.

As the story unfolds, the author artfully drops in shocking revelation after shocking revelation. Just when you think you know what’s going on, it all changes. Even more importantly, just when you think you know Nick and Amy, they reveal something new. And that’s what hooked me. The twists and turns of the often surprising story captured my imagination, and I just HAD to know what happened next. In addition, Flynn is not afraid to take risks with her characters. As they evolve, some of the people in this book go to some very dark places and Flynn is pretty unflinching in that exploration.

A stylistic note: I’d call this book literary suspense. Flynn is a very polished writer, but also a very wordy one. In addition to experimenting with characterization and painting a very vivid portrait of a marriage, I often got the sense that the author liked playing with words. At times I enjoyed it because it shows she has a distinctive voice, but at other points, I felt like saying, “Oh, just get to the point already!” So, if you either love or hate that style of writing, just be aware that it’s there.

This read came close to being a DIK for me, so why not quite there? Well, the wordiness I mention above didn’t always work for me, and I had to force myself to get a few chapters into the story before the completely warped nature of the story caught my attention and compelled me to keep reading. And then, in the latter parts of the book, some of the plot twists were just a little too perfect. Even so, I can honestly say I’ve never read a story quite like this one and it’s a very good, if sometimes unsettling, read.

– Lynn Spencer