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Gone Girl Cover & Gillian Flynn graphic

MAF members engaged in a lively discussion about this immensely popular novel of psychological suspense. It proved to be a polarizing read for members, with some who hated the book, particularly the characters, and those who – while not fans of the characters – found a lot to interest them in the exploration of the relationships.

The key relationship being the failing marriage between Amy and Nick, we gave it the majority of our attention. While it was difficult (or even impossible) to like either Nick or Amy, it proved fascinating to follow the twists and turns of their relationship. When we meet them, they are “the golden couple…Soul mates. They could complete each other’s sentences, guess each other’s reactions…they are smart, charming, gorgeous, and also narcissistic, selfish, and cruel.” (as the author states).

We also talked about the other thing they had in common: they were both lonely. Loneliness, and how different characters handle it, is a common theme in Flynn’s books. The first two books focus on an individual character’s loneliness. Here, the author weaves it into the mix of what makes up the marriage between Amy and Nick.

Members commented on how initially their sympathy was with “Diary Amy” and that Nick was essentially a jerk. He didn’t seem to appreciate her efforts (although her “treasure hunts” were felt to be manipulative & self-centered from the start) her willingness to move to North Carthage Missouri, or her giving Nick and his sister the money to open the bar.

We also felt Nick depended on women to fix things for him and take care of him, while not particularly liking them. We speculated that his being the “baby” of the family was an early formation point for his character, just as “Amazing Amy” plays a critical role in the formation of Amy’s character.

The revelation near the end of Part 1 (Boy Loses Girl) about Nick’s guilty secret lost even more sympathy for him from the group. Those who hadn’t initially thought he was involved in her disappearance, started to believe that he actually killed her. One member pointed out how the scenes where Nick is “dreaming” about Amy on the bloody, kitchen floor was subtly written. The reader could either think it was Nick’s guilty conscience reliving his act of murder, or a concerned Nick whose imagination has run wild creating the scene.

We felt there was a “switch” thrown in Part 2 (Boy Meets Girl) where much of what one thought about “Diary Amy” is revealed to be lies, and the narration given by Amy lets readers know just how viciously manipulative and calculating she is. As we became more and more aware of how Amy sees the world and her rightful “amazing” place at the center of it, we realized her calculated acts were her version of dispensing “judgment” on those she find guilty of crimes against her. We also realize that both narrators have not only lied to each other, but to the reader as well.

We also come to know that she is fully aware of Nick’s secret, and appreciated the writer’s tongue-in-cheek moment calling the character “Able Andie” – the name of the character fictional “Amazing Amy” is supposed to have wed. A number of members expressed how much they disliked the whole “Amazing Amy” aspect of how her two child psychologist parents raised her. Some felt it was a major contributor to her problems while one person felt that maybe the whole “Amazing Amy” was their way to stay safe around their psychotic child!

In the final Part [Boy Gets Girl Back (of Vice Versa)], we saw the fruition of another statement the author makes about them: She has said “they complete each other – in a very dangerous way”. In the story Amy talks about one of them having thorns and the other having the perfect holes for the thorns to fit into. We felt that was creepily accurate. Members were also horrified to think about what kind of parents these two would be, particularly Amy as a mother – and how it brings the cycle of horrible parenting full-circle.

We talked about Flynn’s interest in the “con” of dating, where people often pretend to be different than whom they really are. Amy is a past master at this, and part of Nick’s confusion about her is that the Amy he married and the Amy he’s been with in Missouri are very different people. What he hasn’t seemed to realize is or own up to, is that he too is a very different Nick than the one Amy married – and she’s determined to get “him” back. By the end of the story both Amy and Nick are the versions she wants them to be – at least on the surface…

Members found that while Gone Girl was an uncomfortable read, most even disliking it –  it not only led to a discussion that everyone enthusiastically got into – they had to talk about it!

If you’ve been burning to talk about Gone Girl, please add your comments too!

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Adrenaline Cover With Jeff AbbottMurder Among Friends members braved a forecasted storm to revisit author Jeff Abbott through the first book in his latest series – Adrenaline. We first experienced Jeff’s writing in last year’s A Kiss Gone Bad and were especially curious to see if the new series raised the bar yet again for his storytelling. The group has felt that each series Jeff has produced, (and each book in the series) improves as the series progresses. Adrenaline was no exception. One of our members has continued to read the series already, and said that, just like his other series, the next Sam Capra novel is better than this first book in the series.

The group loved the pacing, characters, and plot twists, while finding a couple of situations a bit implausible. There was disagreement in the group about whether or not Sam’s skills and knowledge (speaking multiple languages, deep knowledge of both the streets and the rich, etc.) were believable given his relatively young age (around 27). The majority however, did not feel this was unbelievable, and that a little bit of a “larger than life” aspect to the lead characters is part and parcel with the conventions of the thriller genre in particular. Universally, everyone really liked Sam and felt the twists in his personal life in particular showed that he does have some flaws. It was hard for the group to believe that he really had no suspicions about his situation on the home front. (This however, is also colored by the fact that none of us liked the other party involved!)

We were intrigued by Mila, and liked Midwestern CIA agent, August Holdwine for both his straight-forward commitments to both the CIA and Sam, as well as his instinctive distrust for Lucy Capra. We empathized with Yasmin’s situation and talked about the issue of brainwashing and torture and how these affected not only Yasmin, but Sam and the women taken by human traffickers. Mila’s reactions to the last group was another topic of conversation, and we wondered if we will learn more about Mila’s own past in future books. (The member who has already read ahead only smiled at us mysteriously…) There were multiple characters mentioned for how well the author did creating memorable secondary characters, but one example was Yasmin’s father Bahjat Zaid. He was completely believable as an arrogant, corporate honcho as well as a frightened, vulnerable father trying to get his daughter back. That his concern is also based on his having supreme control over his daughter becomes tragically ironic as her fate plays out within the terrorist group who kidnapped her.

For its overall intensity in both characterization and pacing, we all agreed that Jeff is off to a great start with this classic thriller. Have you read Adrenaline? More discussion is always welcome — if you’ve read the book and would like to leave a comment, please do!

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