2016 Reading Challenge: Book 4

A book a friend recommended: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


I read this book in one sitting because it was just too intriguing to put down. I immediately identified with Rachel, our first narrator, whose life has hit rock bottom. After trying to conceive a child only to be told she was barren, she began drinking heavily to ease her pain. Her marriage begins falling apart as a result, and her husband ends up leaving her for another woman. Alone, alcoholic, and depressed, Rachel moves into the spare bedroom of an old friend and survives of off cheap liquor and spending her days on long train rides to London and back. Much of her storyline is spent idealizing her past and acting out in drunken rages to try and get her life back. As a divorcee, I understood the hopelessness she faces at times and completely empathized with some of her struggles. She does, however, become frustrating as she refuses to move on and start her life over—she is happier living in a fantasy world where she makes up people and relationships in her mind. Enter “Jess.”

“Jess” is a woman that Rachel sees every day from the train, and Rachel has constructed a fantasy world about “Jess” and the life she leads. “Jess” lives a few doors down from Rachel’s ex-husband and his new wife, so she often fixates upon “Jess” to avoid looking at her old home as the train passes through the station. Rachel builds “Jess” up as a paragon of womanhood—representing everything she herself lost, until one day, she sees “Jess” doing something shocking. This causes Rachel to relive the emotions of her own sordid past and she grows angry at the fictional person “Jess” has come to represent in her twisted imaginary world. She soon learns “Jess’” real identity as she turns up missing the following day. Rachel has no memory of the evening of “Jess'”–real name Megan– disappearance as she was on an alcohol-fueled rampage in the neighborhood harassing her ex-husband and his new wife Anna. She wonders…where is Megan, and is Rachel responsible for her disappearance?

This event throws Rachel into a tailspin. Her life and hold on reality slips even further. As she struggles to remember what happened, she involves herself in Megan’s life and disappearance to a degree that is dangerous to her physically and legally. Yet as she slips further from herself, Rachel comes closer to the truth.

We briefly see Anna, the new wife’s, perspective on the events throughout the novel, but the reader is left wondering constantly, who can I trust? We have a drunk, a liar, and a home-wrecker. Whose intentions can we truly see and who has hidden motives?

This thrill ride of a novel will keep you turning the pages until the end when the reader, Rachel, and Anna come face to face with the shocking truth.


About alycemsustko

Reader, writer, catmom extraordinaire
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