When I read this book last year, I was hooked on every word, relishing the twists and giddy over all of the things I didn’t see coming. It was brilliant – right until the end. Then, like a sucker, I had fallen for a story that left me unsatisfied and ripped off, like I’d been taken on a fabulous date only to be dumped on the doorstep. I took to the internet and found solace with others like me who rejected Gillian Flynn’s ending. I also discovered that there was another group, just as strong, who defended the book in its entirety. We were at an impasse.
Before I dig in, I’m going to give you an out. For those who’ve not read the book (or seen the movie), turn away NOW so you aren’t exposed to spoilers. If you don’t care either way, go ahead, but I’m going to talk plainly about this story so consider yourself warned.
Here we go.
Amy Dunne needed to die or, at the very least, get caught in some obscene public way. She needed to be shamed, ridiculed, or turned inside out in front of her neighborhood, her parents, and the media. SOMETHING. When I finished Gone Girl, I wanted to pitch the book across the room. That wasn’t going to happen since I read it on my iPad. BUT STILL. Nick wasn’t innocent nor smart, but by golly he deserved to be free of his wife. The resolution left me unresolved. Instead of a resolution, it was a resignation, and I wanted a do-over. STAT.
I was so bothered by the book that I studied it and used it for a presentation in my novel class last fall. It was months after I originally read it, but I was still unnerved and chose to present the novel as an anti-genre – the sort of story that is different for the sake of being different. Any time someone mentioned Gone Girl, I sprung at them: “WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE ENDING?” Some loved it, others hated it.
Yesterday I saw the movie with Lesli and I’m here to tell you – it’s damn near perfect. From the casting to the soundtrack (Trent Reznor!) to the set design to the adherence to the book – all of it. It was a touch more gruesome than I’d imagined, but none of it deterred me. Despite knowing how the story played out, I was gripped by every scene. It was so well done.
And yet, it is still unnerving. Thursday’s review in the San Fransisco Chronicle called it “thrilling, until it’s not,” saying that instead of going to hell at the end it just goes “to limbo.” I agree. With both the book and the film, you’re left feeling like you want to punch someone. (Specifically, Amy Dunne.) After the credits rolled I asked Lesli what she thought. Her response: “They deserve each other.” I agree there too. Sociopaths should keep each other company.
Still, I keep wondering: How else it could’ve ended? Should Amy have died? Should she have been arrested? Detective Boney could have outed her, Nick could have strangled her, or Tanner Bolt could’ve found something over which to sue her. Would any of that have made me feel better?
I don’t know, and frankly, it doesn’t even matter. It’s taken me more than a year and a movie to realize that the ending of Gone Girl is just as it should be, frustrations and all. Here’s why: I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read in my life. I don’t keep count. I probably own 200 books, mostly fiction, but that doesn’t account for what I’ve taken to resale shops, lent out, or purchased but not yet read. It also doesn’t account for all of the things I read in high school and undergrad or books I’ve borrowed from friends or the library. There are dozens of books I’ve read and cannot remember more than the protagonist’s names, maybe the last name of the author, or maybe some arbitrary scene that was interesting for some arbitrary reason. There are some that I know I’ve read but all the details are lost to time.
On the flip side, there are some books that I’ve consumed like food, savoring all the particulars. I obsess and re-read them, and then I push them on my friends. Then I read everything that author has ever written and vow to read every one of his or her books from here to eternity. I hang on to a story because it bothered me or moved me or changed my perspective about something really huge. I meditate on its creativity until I’m racked with jealousy and wishing I had that level of talent.
If you’re a writer, you want to be talked about, not forgotten.
So it goes with Gillian Flynn. She threw out a prime rib and we ate it up like hungry dogs. She spun a complex thriller that put us all on edge clamoring about it for two years. She brought in $38 million to the box office in one weekend with a screenplay that was just as intriguing as the book. And even though fans are still split on the ending, wondering what else could’ve happened to Nick and Amy Dunne, her writing left a remnant on every one who read her book.
For that, my friends, Gillian Flynn is a literary genius.