Rachel is living a lie. Every day she leaves her friend’s home where she has been staying “until she can get back on her feet,”and takes the train into London. Ostensibly she is going to work, but she lost her job weeks ago and now when she gets to London she goes to the library or the park, and buys canned gin and tonics and drinks those until it is time to go home. Sometimes she drinks so much that she loses blocks of time that she cannot account for, a fact that scares her but not enough to stop the drinking. Her friend knows she drinks; Rachel cannot hide the slurred speech or the smell, but her friend doesn’t know about the blackouts or that Rachel lost her job because of the drinking. Rachel keeps meaning to tell her, but her friend’s reaction-the disgust, the impatience, keeps Rachel from saying the words. So every morning, Rachel gets up and gets dressed and takes the train to London and every day on the train she passes the house where this young couple live. She has named them Jess and James and they are all that she is not; young, happy, married and living together in a cute house. They are living the life that Rachel should have had but does not, and every day Rachel fantasizes about their life, projecting all her longings and lost dreams on them and in some strange way it soothes her pain.
Then one day from the window of the train she sees Jess kissing another man and soon after that she finds out that Jess has disappeared and the police are now looking for her.
Megan, the one Rachel calls Jess, is not living the dream life that Rachel imagines. Although she loves her husband, sometimes she wonders if this is enough. She has also lost her job, but doesn’t know what she wants to do. In the meantime she decides that maybe she could babysit for the couple down the street who have a new baby, giving herself some time to sort things out and talk it over with her therapist.
Anna is married to Tom, Rachel’s ex husband. They live in the home that Tom and Rachel lived in when they were married and Anna is now busy making it her own. Their new baby is a symbol of all that went wrong between Rachel and Tom. When Rachel found out that she could not have children their marriage deteriorated and Rachel’s drinking escalated. Rachel still makes drunk calls to Tom which Anna resents enormously and sometimes shows up at the house which terrifies Anna. Although she loves the baby, she is surprised by how much energy and time it takes, so she is relieved to find that Megan, who lives just up the street, is willing to babysit so Anna can have a break.
Hawkins is a deft story teller. Although Rachel is an “unreliable narrator,” there is something likable about Rachel and you want to know her story and she makes you understand her pain. As Hawkins shifts from character to character we see what led up to Megan’s disappearance and the interconnections between our characters’ lives. As the story progresses and Rachel’s blackouts play a bigger and bigger role in what happened, the tension rises and each revelation brings you closer to knowing what happened to Megan.
Although compared to Gone Girl, I found this book much more satisfying. It is wonderfully written, with characters that are realistic and relatable, Hawkins explores the depths of a woman’s despair, the consequences of trusting too much and you come away with the realization that you never really know what goes on in a marriage or behind closed doors.
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian, Lauren and Keith
Book Study worthy: Yes
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