Gone Girl: A Novel

Hardcover | June 5, 2012

byGillian Flynn

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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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From the Publisher

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 Gi...

GILLIAN FLYNN is the author of the runaway hit Gone Girl, an international sensation that has spent more than ninety-five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Her work has been published in forty languages. Gone Girl is soon to be a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox. Flynn’s previous novels, Dark Places and Dagger Award winner Sharp Objects, were also New York Times bestsellers. A former writer ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:432 pages, 9.41 × 6.5 × 1.43 inPublished:June 5, 2012Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:030758836X

ISBN - 13:9780307588364

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Chapter OneNick Dunnethe day of When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape ofit, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of thehead 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 theVictorians would call finely shaped head. You could imagine theskull quite easily. I’d know her head anywhere. And what’s inside it. I think of that too: her mind. Her brain, allthose coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast,frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspoolingher brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin downher thoughts. What are you thinking, Amy? The question I’ve askedmost often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the personwho could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over everymarriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who areyou? What have we done to each other? What will we do? My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian flutteringof the lashes, no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awakeningwas mechanical. A spooky ventriloquist- dummy click of the lids:The world is black and then, showtime! 6- 0- 0 the clock said— in myface, first thing I saw. 6- 0- 0. It felt different. I rarely woke at such arounded time. I was a man of jagged risings: 8:43, 11:51, 9:26. Mylife was alarmless. At that exact moment, 6- 0- 0, the sun climbed over the skyline ofoaks, revealing its full summer angry- god self. Its reflection flaredacross the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at methrough 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 herefor two years. It’s a rented house right along the Mississippi River,a house that screams Suburban Nouveau Riche, the kind of placeI 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—detest. “Should I remove my soul before I come inside?” Her first line uponarrival. It had been a compromise: Amy demanded we rent, not buy,in my little Missouri hometown, in her firm hope that we wouldn’tbe stuck here long. But the only houses for rent were clustered inthis failed development: a miniature ghost town of bank- owned,recession- busted, price- reduced mansions, a neighborhood that closedbefore it ever opened. It was a compromise, but Amy didn’t see it thatway, not in the least. To Amy, it was a punishing whim on my part, anasty, selfish twist of the knife. I would drag her, caveman- style, to atown she had aggressively avoided, and make her live in the kind ofhouse she used to mock. I suppose it’s not a compromise if only one ofyou considers it such, but that was what our compromises tended tolook like. One of us was always angry. Amy, usually. Do not blame me for this particular grievance, Amy. The MissouriGrievance. Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents,blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use theInternet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TVand movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, backwhen anyone cared about what I thought. I’d arrived in New York inthe late ’90s, the last gasp of the glory days, although no one knew itthen. New York was packed with writers, real writers, because therewere magazines, real magazines, loads of them. This was back whenthe Internet was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of the publishingworld— 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: atime when newly graduated college kids could come to New York andget paid to write. We had no clue that we were embarking on careersthat would vanish within a decade. I had a job for eleven years and then I didn’t, it was that fast. Allaround the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing toa sudden infection brought on by the busted economy. Writers (mykind of writers: aspiring novelists, ruminative thinkers, people whosebrains don’t work quick enough to blog or link or tweet, basically old,stubborn blowhards) were through. We were like women’s hat makersor buggy- whip manufacturers: Our time was done. Three weeks afterI got cut loose, Amy lost her job, such as it was. (Now I can feel Amylooking over my shoulder, smirking at the time I’ve spent discussingmy career, my misfortune, and dismissing her experience in one sentence.That, she would tell you, is typical. Just like Nick, she wouldsay. It was a refrain of hers: Just like Nick to . . . whatever followed,whatever was just like me, was bad.) Two jobless grown- ups, we spentweeks wandering around our Brooklyn brownstone in socks and pajamas,ignoring the future, strewing unopened mail across tables andsofas, eating ice cream at ten a.m. and taking thick afternoon naps. Then one day the phone rang. My twin sister was on the otherend. Margo had moved back home after her own New York layoffa year before— the girl is one step ahead of me in everything, evenshitty luck. Margo, calling from good ole North Carthage, Missouri,from the house where we grew up, and as I listened to her voice, Isaw her at age ten, with a dark cap of hair and overall shorts, sittingon our grandparents’ back dock, her body slouched over like an oldpillow, her skinny legs dangling in the water, watching the river fl owover 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 meanderedtoward the great gray beyond. But it looked like our mother wouldbeat him there. About six months, maybe a year, she had. I could tellthat Go had gone to meet with the doctor by herself, taken her studiousnotes in her slovenly handwriting, and she was teary as she triedto decipher what she’d written. Dates and doses. “Well, fuck, I have no idea what this says, is it a nine? Does thateven make sense?” she said, and I interrupted. Here was a task, apurpose, held out on my sister’s palm like a plum. I almost cried withrelief.  “I’ll come back, Go. We’ll move back home. You shouldn’t have todo 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 assumedI 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— andtransplant her to a little town on the river in Missouri, and all wouldbe fine. 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. Theirfew meetings had left them both baffled. Amy would dissect the conversationsfor days after—“And what did she mean by . . . ,” as if mymother were some ancient peasant tribeswoman arriving from thetundra 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 mybirthplace, and yet for some reason, I thought moving home wouldbe a good idea. My morning breath warmed the pillow, and I changed the subject inmy mind. Today was not a day for second- guessing or regret, it was aday 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 sortinga collection of metal pots and iron pans (ruzz-shuzz!). A culinaryorchestra tuning up, clattering vigorously toward the finale, a cakepan drumrolling along the floor, hitting the wall with a cymballiccrash. Something impressive was being created, probably a crepe,because crepes are special, and today Amy would want to cook somethingspecial. 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 onprinciple, as I tried to decide whether I was ready to join my wife.Amy was in the kitchen, oblivious to my hesitation. She was hummingsomething melancholy and familiar. I strained to make it out— a folksong? 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- butterhair was pulled up, the hank of ponytail swinging cheerful as a jumprope,and she was sucking distractedly on a burnt fingertip, hummingaround it. She hummed to herself because she was an unrivaledbotcher of lyrics. When we were first dating, a Genesis song came onthe radio: “She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah.” And Amycrooned 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 thesong truly loved the man because she put his hat on the top shelf. Iknew I liked her then, really liked her, this girl with an explanationfor everything. There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory andfeeling utterly cold. Amy peered at the crepe sizzling in the pan and licked somethingoff 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 fullHeat 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 foolishthing when we both moved back home. We had done what we alwaystalked about doing. We opened a bar. We borrowed money from Amyto do this, eighty thousand dollars, which was once nothing to Amybut 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— Icould feel my dad twisting his lips at the very idea. Well, there are allkinds 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. Amyand I both needed new careers; this would be mine. She would pickone someday, or not, but in the meantime, here was an income, madepossible by the last of Amy’s trust fund. Like the McMansion I rented,the bar featured symbolically in my childhood memories— a placewhere only grown- ups go, and do whatever grown- ups do. Maybethat’s why I was so insistent on buying it after being stripped of mylivelihood. 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 meall these things. I won’t make that mistake again: The once plentifulherds of magazine writers would continue to be culled— by theInternet, by the recession, by the American public, who would ratherwatch 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 dayin a cool, dark bar. The world will always want a drink. Our bar is a corner bar with a haphazard, patchwork aesthetic. Itsbest feature is a massive Victorian back bar, dragon heads and angelfaces emerging from the oak— an extravagant work of wood in theseshitty plastic days. The remainder of the bar is, in fact, shitty, a showcaseof the shabbiest design offerings of every decade: an Eisenhowereralinoleum floor, the edges turned up like burnt toast; dubiouswood- paneled walls straight from a ’70s home- porn video; halogenfloor lamps, an accidental tribute to my 1990s dorm room. The ultimateeffect is strangely homey— it looks less like a bar than someone’sbenignly neglected fixer- upper. And jovial: We share a parkinglot with the local bowling alley, and when our door swings wide, theclatter of strikes applauds the customer’s entrance. We named the bar The Bar. “People will think we’re ironic insteadof creatively bankrupt,” my sister reasoned. Yes, we thought we were being clever New Yorkers— that thename 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’dyou name it The Bar? But our first customer, a gray- haired woman inbifocals and a pink jogging suit, said, “I like the name. Like in Breakfastat 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 fromthe bowling alley— thank you, thank you, friends— then steppedout of the car. I admired the surroundings, still not bored with thebroken- in view: the squatty blond- brick post office across the street(now closed on Saturdays), the unassuming beige office building justdown the way (now closed, period). The town wasn’t prosperous, notanymore, not by a long shot. Hell, it wasn’t even original, being oneof two Carthage, Missouris— ours is technically North Carthage,which makes it sound like a twin city, although it’s hundreds of milesfrom the other and the lesser of the two: a quaint little 1950s townthat 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 parkinglot, I looked straight down the road and saw the river. That’s whatI’ve always loved about our town: We aren’t built on some safe bluffoverlooking the Mississippi— we are on the Mississippi. I could walkdown the road and step right into the sucker, an easy three- foot drop,and be on my way to Tennessee. Every building downtown bearshand- 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 strongropy currents. Moving apace with the river was a long single- fi le lineof men, eyes aimed at their feet, shoulders tense, walking steadfastlynowhere. As I watched them, one suddenly looked up at me, his facein shadow, an oval blackness. I turned away. I felt an immediate, intense need to get inside. By the time I’d gonetwenty feet, my neck bubbled with sweat. The sun was still an angryeye in the sky. You have been seen. My gut twisted, and I moved quicker. I needed a drink.

Bookclub Guide

A Reader’s Guide for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn   For additional features, visit www.gillian-flynn.com.   In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel. If you have not finished reading Gone Girl, we respectfully suggest that you wait before reviewing this guide.   Introduction Deceit, infidelity, suspicion . . . and that’s only the beginning. When Nick and Amy fall in love, they are the confident, handsome man and the beautiful, privileged young woman embracing in front of their Brooklyn Heights brownstone and sharing a laugh at the expense of less blissful couples. Eventually, their picture-perfect union falters: Amy grows weary of the “cool girl” image she’s portrayed; Nick gives rein to old impulses and easy lies. As with many marriages, friction works its way into everyday exchanges, and the glow of the honeymoon fades. But with Amy and Nick, that fracture takes a much darker turn.   In a story full of surprising twists, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl tracks the course of a marriage gone spectacularly wrong. For the protagonists, it’s a psychological battle with everything at stake; for the reader, an excavation of human failings and incredible depths of betrayal . . . and a mystery whose resolution is every bit as troubling as its beginning.   Questions and Topics for Discussion 1. Do you like Nick or Amy? Did you find yourself picking a side? Do you think the author intends for us to like them? Why or why not?   2. Does the author intend for us to think of Nick or Amy as the stronger writer? Do you perceive one or the other as a stronger writer, based on their narration/journal entries? Why?   3. Do you think Amy and Nick both believe in their marriage at the outset?   4. Nick, ever conscious of the way he is being perceived, reflects on the images that people choose to portray in the world—constructed, sometimes plagiarized roles that we present as our personalities. Discuss the ways in which the characters—and their opinions of each other—are influenced by our culture’s avid consumption of TV shows, movies, and websites, and our need to fit each other into these roles.   5. Discuss Amy’s false diary, both as a narrative strategy by the author and as a device used by the character. How does the author use it to best effect? How does Amy use it?   6. What do you make of Nick’s seeming paranoia on the day of his fifth anniversary, when he wakes with a start and reports feeling, You have been seen?   7. As experienced consumers of true crime and tragedy, modern “audiences” tend to expect each crime to fit a specific mold: a story, a villain, a heroine. How does this phenomenon influence the way we judge news stories? Does it have an impact on the criminal justice system? Consider the example of the North Carthage police, and also Tanner Bolt’s ongoing advice to Nick.   8. What is Go’s role in the book? Why do you think the author wrote her as Nick’s twin? Is she a likable character?   9. Discuss Amy’s description of the enduring myth of the “cool girl”—and her conviction that a male counterpart (seemingly flawless to women) does not exist. Do you agree? Why does she assume the role if she seems to despise it? What benefit do you think she derives from the act?   10. Is there some truth to Amy’s description of the “dancing monkeys”—her friends’ hapless partners who are forced to make sacrifices and perform “sweet” gestures to prove their love? How is this a counterpoint to the “cool girl”?   11. What do you think of Marybeth and Rand Elliott? Is the image they present sincere? What do you think they believe about Amy?   12. How does the book deal with the divide between perception and reality, or between public image and private lives? Which characters are most skillful at navigating this divide, and how?   13. How does the book capture the feel of the recession—the ending of jobs and contraction of whole industries; economic and geographical shifts; real estate losses and abandoned communities. Are some of Nick and Amy’s struggles emblematic of the time period? Are there any parts of the story that feel unique to this time period?   14. While in hiding, Amy begins to explore what the “real” Amy likes and dislikes. Do you think this is a true exploration of her feelings, or is she acting out yet another role? In these passages, what does she mean when she refers to herself as “I” in quotes?   15. What do you think of Amy’s quizzes—and “correct” answers—that appear throughout the book? As a consistent thread between her Amazing Amy childhood and her adult career, what does her quiz-writing style reveal about Amy’s true personality and her understanding of the world?   16. Do Nick and Amy have friends? Consider Nick’s assurance that Noelle was deluded in her claims of friendship with Amy, and also the friends described in Amy’s journal. How “real” are these friendships? What do you think friendship means to each of them?   17. What was the relationship between Amy and Nick’s father? Do you think the reader is meant to imagine conversations between the two of them? Why does Nick’s father come to Nick and Amy’s home?   18. Amy publicly denounces the local police and criticizes their investigation. Do you think they did a good job of investigating her disappearance? Were there real missteps, or was their failing due to Amy’s machinations?   19. Do you believe Amy truly would have committed suicide? Why does she return?   20. Were you satisfied with the book’s ending? What do you think the future holds for Nick, Amy, and their baby boy?