Drunk Book Review: The Girl on the Train

I’m excited for the future if this is the kind of pulpy horror-show vomit-filled drunksploitation lit that passes for book club-appropriate reading nowadays.

Was it Gone Girl that opened the floodgates for this? Whatever it was, I’m grateful. I read this book in three hours and I don’t think I blinked.

Proof.
Absorbing culture.

Everyone is reading this book. Your mom, my mom, your fun aunt, your weird aunt, your boss, my boss. The head of my department at work stopped by my desk, tapped the cover, and said “Everyone at the resort where I was vacationing was reading this.” So jam on a floppy hat and pour your poolside mojito: this is “The Girl on The Train.” INTENSE SPOILERS AHEAD.

Rachel is an alcoholic, and her drink of choice is gin and tonic from a can.* She’s been dumped by her husband because a) she can’t conceive, b) she gets blackout drunk a bunch and hits people (OR DOES SHE??). There was cheating, he traded her in for a younger model, and now Rachel is forced to live with a roommate and she’s the saddest possible sack about it. (Come on, Rach. Literally every millennial is living with at least a dozen people and assorted unwelcome wildlife.) Then, a stranger she routinely spies on from the train gets murdered, and her life develops meaning again as she obsesses over solving the crime.

In many ways, it’s the same old drunk private eye story, but with a woman instead. And I don’t say that disparagingly; I love a good detective tale, and this offers the refreshing spin of a lady detective who is also a complete mess, which I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else. When she pukes on the carpet, I think “Oh god, I’ve been there” instead of “That’s so gross.” Is that sexist of me? Discuss.

I’m going to ruin this book for you. Are you ready? The husband did it. Rachel’s ex-husband, who is currently married to Anna and sleeping with/murdered Megan. Write it on your hand if you need to: divorced Rachel, married to Anna, killed Megan.

It had me guessing up until maybe the last 20 pages, so it’s nothing if not compelling, but it did leave me ever-so-faintly disappointed; I guess I was kinda hoping for milquetoast Anna to turn out to be a murderous monster, or for the ghost of Megan’s dead baby (oh yeah: Megan has a dead baby, write that down) to have come back for revenge, because those are the kind of books I like best. But all in all, this is a very tightly composed little mystery, hard to put down but easy to never pick up again once you’re finished. To describe it in one word: Satisfying.

If you totally meant to read this one but your busy social schedule is preventing you from getting to it any time over the next month, I’ve got your talking points covered. Your book club friends will never know you didn’t even buy a copy. (It still isn’t in paperback, and who has $23 to spend on something that takes less than a day to read? Please.)

 -The husband did it, of course. Then he gets a corkscrew to the neck. Who in your life would you like to stick a corkscrew into?

-He was gaslighting her into thinking she was a violent drunk, but he was actually the violent one and she just got blackout drunk a lot. Talk about times that you’ve been gaslighted/blackout drunk/both.

-The therapist was a red herring. Is your therapist a red herring?

– The book is told from the point of view of a series of unreliable narrators. If you were your own unreliable narrator, what parts of your life would you leave out? (I’ll share mine: that bullshit Pret a Manger breakfast sandwich I ate yesterday. That sweaty excuse for a brioche cost a larcenous five dollars and I’m ashamed of it. Also I would have gone to a different college.)

Et voila, you are the star of book group. The above should be enough for fifteen minutes or so of intelligent conversation, at which point you can spread conspiracy theories about the Boston Olympics bid and “accidentally” open a bottle of wine your hostess was saving for a special occasion.

*No one in my book club had heard of this. Have you heard of this?

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