CBR-V Review #5: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Why I Read It: Because I’m basically the last person in America to get my hands on it. Seriously, I’ve been wanting to read this for months.

My Rating: 4 stars

Summary: Nick is an all-American guy with a beautiful, charismatic wife, Amy, who he might be falling out of love with. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, he discovers that she’s missing–and he quickly finds himself the main suspect of the police investigation. That’s really all I can give without spoiling anything.

My Review: It’s hard to review mysteries, because so much depends on the twists and turns and, most importantly, the ending. What I want out of a mystery (and all books, really, but mysteries especially) is for a sense of resolution that isn’t cheap–it needs to be organic and satisfying. I think Flynn mostly succeeds with this–this book is a hell of a read, and was so much fun.

I literally couldn’t put this down. I read it in less than twelve hours (I was snowed in and had nothing else to do but read–best snow day ever). Devoured is probably the more accurate word. It’s dark and incredibly smart and delicately crafted. Gillian Flynn is pretty awesome, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

I truly loved the first half of the book. The present-day scenes of Nick grappling with the loss of his wife, trying to figure out what really happened to her while defending his innocence to the police, are interspersed with excerpts from Amy’s diary, where we learn how the couple met, and follow some of the ups and downs of their relationship, leading up to the time around which she disappears. Nick and Amy are both incredibly well-written characters. Despite the fact that neither of them is particularly likeable–Amy’s kind of pathetic, and Nick is kind of an asshole–I felt for them both. Amy’s diary entries are heartbreaking; Nick’s conflicted feelings are raw and believable. I was kept guessing for the entire first section of the book, completely absorbed in the mystery and genuinely unable to even guess at what actually happened. Flynn does a really good job of keeping things from the reader, even when she’s narrating through Nick, so we have no idea whether or not he’s innocent (as he claims) or if he’s just doing an excellent job of covering for himself.

The second half of the book is still gripping–and horrifying, and WTF-worthy–but it’s a huge shift in tone. While the first half is a stunning portrayal of a marriage gone wrong, the loss of love, and the shock of loss, the second half is much more of a standard thriller, and gets a bit cheesy. I still thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was much less believable and definitely unexpected.

The ending is insane. That’s all I’m going to say. I keep going back and forth on whether or not I liked it, and I still can’t decide. So: crazy. Not sure if it was bad-crazy or good-crazy.

Should You Read It: Absolutely. If you like a well-crafted mystery, it doesn’t get much better than this.

CBR-V Review #4: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Why I Read It: Another Cannonball-er reviewed it a few months ago and it caught my interest!

My Rating: 4 stars

Summary:  The Fangs are a family of artists. The parents, Caleb and Camille, stage elaborate performance art pieces across the country, infiltrating and shocking mainstream America. For years, they involved their children–Annie and Buster–in their art, making them participate in the chaos. We meet the Fangs years past their prime. Annie and Buster are in their twenties, with lives of their own, but are far from thriving. After a few big personal/career mistakes, they both move back to their parents’ home in Tennessee, where they are finally forced to come to terms with the effects of their bizarre upbringing.

 

My Review: This was…not what I was expecting. For some reason, I was kind of reluctant to actually read this. It was sitting around my room for at least two weeks before I picked it up and gave it a try, but once I did, I was hooked. This book was more than a little weird, but it’s also funny and tragic and really unique. Wilson takes the common trope of the dysfunctional family and warps it to make it completely his own, and it works so well. There’s a definite similarity between this book and The Royal Tenenbaums–wacky family, off-beat sense of humor, implausible-yet-just-human-enough scenarios–but Wilson is far from derivative. These characters, especially Caleb and Camille, could have easily devolved into caricatures, but Wilson has just enough restraint to make them feel believable. Annie and Buster are especially well-drawn, with the damage that their parents have inflicted on them clear but not too obvious, controlling their adult lives in ways they can’t quite recognize. I wasn’t expecting to become so attached to them, or to be so emotionally affected by this book.

This book is also really, genuinely funny. The clear highlights are the short segments interspersed with the present-day action that describe some of the crazy pieces the Fang parents thought up. I loved these parts–they got more and more unbelievable, and were pretty hilarious.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the ending, but I liked it. Without giving anything away, obviously, I think it ends as appropriately as it can–it maintains the weirdness and pain of the rest of the book, and I don’t know that Wilson could have come up with an ending that was any better. It was a puzzling conclusion, and definitely a strange one, but I think it made sense.

Should You Read It? If you like quirky humor, then definitely.