Hawkins, Paula. The Girl on the Train. 2015. New York. Riverhead Books.
I downloaded a copy of The Girl on the Train to my iPod a couple of nights ago. “You’re not going to believe that book. It’s a lot like Gone Girl,” said my friend. “That’s what people are saying. I remember the way Gone Girl kept you up at night.” It most definitely did, but it was hard for me to believe that The Girl on the Train could have the same mesmerizing pull. Often, with audio books, I curl up in bed with the expectation that the book I’m listening to will lull me to sleep, even as I try to keep track of the minutes, so that the next morning I can remind myself where I was when sleep took hold and resume listening in more or less the same place.
The Girl on the Train woke me at three in the morning for two nights in a row, and I found myself folding laundry and washing sinks and dishes at 5 am as I followed the movements of the three women in the story — Rachel, Anna, and Megan — trying to sort out truth from madness. Rachel, the primary narrator, could easily be abandoned by readers as an unforgiveable alcoholic who doesn’t deserve our trust or attention, but I felt compelled to carry on with her story, and was rewarded as I listened to the spine-tingling events unfold — the details of a murder. The Girl on the Train is about more than murder, though. Indeed, it is about how women continue to follow the protocols set down for them by generations past and sometimes present. It is a book with a feminist edge — one about women driven to marry and have babies as a way to a “happy” life. Through the course of this novel, Paula Hawkins taught me that sometimes societal expectations can stand in the way of urgency, and in harrowing ways I hadn’t imagined.
by Dominique McCafferty-Snapp