Book Review: The Girl on the Train

I haven't written a book review since grade school, if you consider a book report to be the same thing. So while there may be better book reviewers out there than me, I can say with absolute certainty that they are not wearing my pants right now. So, I've got that going for me.

Paula Hawkins' debut novel The Girl on the Train occupies a similar space as Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. In both, we move through the minds of multiple narrators who may or may not be lying, to us and/or to themselves. This ends up being very effective and is what pulls you forward into the story, despite the fact that the inciting incident doesn't rear its head for thirty or forty pages.

While there are three characters we focus on throughout the book, the first is arguably the main character: Rachel. She has been divorced for two years and is a serious alcoholic. She blames her drinking for her current state and for the end of her marriage. She's living with a friend, paying rent, and lost her job several months ago. Too ashamed to admit it to anyone, she continues to take the train into the city every day. 

The train stops regularly in the same place, behind some houses in a nice little town. From her vantage point on the train, Rachel watches a married couple go about their morning. She calls them Jess and Jason, though she doesn't have any idea what their real names are. She's constructed a perfect little life for them in her head. 

But it falls apart the morning Rachel sees Jess kissing another man on her back porch. And shortly after that, Jess goes missing entirely.

I won't say more for fear of spoiling what is genuinely a good story. Just know that we get multiple perspectives on the events, and everyone is much more connected than may first be apparent.

Honestly, I only have one gripe with the story, and we're tiptoeing around spoiler territory here for sure, so skip to the end if you'd rather not know ANYTHING.


My only real problem with the story is the way the villain is presented at the end. I thought the twist leading up to the reveal was cool, and fairly well executed, but the behavior of the villain seems to become almost cartoonish in the end. I didn't feel like the book earned an over-the-top villain, and it would have been better to show this person as more conflicted, rather than outright evil and insane.


Highly recommended if you're into Gone Girl and that sort of dark, psychological thriller. A well-constructed mystery with compelling characters. Three thumbs up.