It seems that it's rare these days for me to find a book that makes me stay up all night just to finish it (hey, I like my sleep--what can I say?) but a tense and mysterious debut novel from author Paula Hawkins called The Girl on the Train did just that.
I'm a huge fan of psychological thrillers and crime dramas, so was I perhaps predisposed to falling in love with this book? I seriously doubt it.
The story's pacing, it's strategically-timed vignettes of the lives of the characters involved, and the author's voice made The Girl on the Train come alive with an intensity that one seldom sees in a debut work.
Hawkins gives us a glimpse into the life of Rachel, the "girl" to which the title alludes, who commutes by train every day from the suburbs into London. Each morning during the commute, the train stops to adjust its station arrival time on a portion of rail behind a row of neat middle-class homes. Rachel sometimes sees the people who live in the houses just beyond the train and creates imaginary background stories and little soap opera-type scenes of them to prevent the issues in her own life from surfacing and consuming her during her time on board.
Rachel's commute is predictable (and maybe even a bit soothing to her because of it) until the day she sees the face of a woman from one of those houses on a missing poster.
After replaying in her mind the events she'd witnessed in the weeks prior to the woman's disappearance, Rachel believes she may have information that could be valuable to the police, so she comes forward and talks to the investigating detectives. She soon discovers that inserting herself into the investigation sends her life into a rapidly-devolving sequence of missing time, actions she regrets, and situations that put her own life in jeopardy.
Think of The Girl on the Train as the nail-biting bombshell of a film that Alfred Hitchcock never got to make.
In short: I loved it. It's my favorite book that I've read in the past year.
Have you read it? Do you plan to add it to your wishlist soon? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments!