The Girl On The Train

review: Anita Paddock

WARNING: If you have something important to get completed in the next few days, do not start reading this book. The Girl on the Train will demand your full attention and keep you up till all hours of the night.

The novel opens in the suburbs of London. Rachel, a recently divorced woman with a serious alcohol problem rides the 8:01 commuter train into London every weekday. The train stops at stations every few miles, giving her ample opportunities to view life on the other side of the tracks. Her life is so miserable that she makes up a romantic story about a couple she sees on their terrace as the lumbering commuter train passes their charming neighborhood. She even gives the perfect couple names: “Jason and Jess.” And, oh, how she envies them, even wondering how they got the perfect marriage when she did not.

In the room she rents from her friend Cathy, she continues to think about them. There’s not much in her own life to occupy her time. She’s grown heavy and depressed, and she’s been fired from her job in London. She has some money from her divorce settlement, but it is quickly dwindling, and she gets an occasional check from her mom. She’s on the train every day because she doesn’t want Cathy to know she’s lost her job. To occupy her time, Rachel visits London’s libraries, book stores, museums, and parks. She also does a good bit of drinking.

Rachel is still in love with her ex-husband, Tom, who married Anna, the woman he had an affair with, and the couple and their new baby live in Rachel and Tom’s old house. This is something that hurts Rachel immensely. She can’t seem to get over him, often texting Tom, phoning his house, and even breaking in. To make matters worse, the house is only four doors down from where “Jason and Jess” live, and Rachel sees it each time the train goes by.

But not everything in “Jason and Jess'” life is as perfect as Rachel first imagines. She spots “Jess” kissing another man one day, and this new information startles her. Later, she reads in the paper that “Jess and Jason’s” names are really Scott and Megan, and that Megan has been reported missing.

That night Megan went missing is particularly troubling to Rachel, since she has only sketchy memories of her own behavior. Rachel was drinking especially hard, and remembers only vaguely a man with red hair and a woman who was running from him. Somewhere along the way, Rachel ended up with a concussion, and woke up to find her clothes bloody. She knows only one thing: she has to find out what really happened to Megan.

This is a chilling story, told by first-time novelist Paula Hawkins, who used to be finance editor for the London Times. There is surprise after surprise, right up until the stunning ending. I predict this book will be the next Gone Girl in popularity. If you like fast-paced stories, full of twists and turns, then you’ll absolutely love The Girl on the Train.

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