Sometimes you get to the end of a book and feel completely satisfied and wish the story could continue forever. And sometimes, you get to the end of a book and feel like someone slapped you in the face with 418 pages of GOTCHA. I recently read Gone Girl, and it’s been a while since I was this upset after finishing a book. Not upset in a “this sucked” kind of way. Actually, this book was amazing and I couldn’t put it down. I was more upset in a “friend watching her friends make poor decisions despite them knowing better but I still always end up disappointed” kind of way.
(FYI – this post contains spoilers so if you intend on reading Gone Girl, you probably shouldn’t read this. Unless you like knowing the ending first. Or already saw the movie. Or just don’t care. Whatever floats your literacy boat.)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is the disenchanted love story of an emotionally disconnected husband (Nick) who is suspected of murdering his manipulative wife (Amy). If you’ve heard of Gone Girl, most likely you associate it with being a “sharp-edged thriller”, not a “love story”. But the topic of unconditional love subtly gets thrown in and I think it needs more attention than it gets.
While a lot of things happened in the book that made me really frustrated and forced me to write “WTF WHY” in the margins, what really fucked me up was the very end.
Recap: Amy and Nick have an extremely toxic relationship. Amy is manipulative and gets off on punishing others who have rubbed her the wrong way. Nick emotionally left the marriage years before the “murder” and has a mistress but feels obligated to stay. Yet, after every terrible detail is revealed, they still decide to stay together.
One of the final thoughts in the book are: “I was told love should be unconditional. That’s the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever?…It makes me think that everyone is wrong, that love should have conditions…Unconditional love is an undisciplined love, and as we have all seen, undisciplined love is disastrous”.
Amy and Nick’s situation is the perfect (though very extreme) example of a grey area: the unconditional. This can easily cross a fine line between being understanding and letting anything go (Nick). And for those that understand this, it can also be an open door for manipulation (Amy). They both know they don’t really love each other and their whole relationship is a lie. But they believe they were each the best version of themselves when they were “happy”, so they convince themselves that they need each other (insert so many flashing red flags here). Plus, they face judgement for their unconventional situation. Contrary to everyone’s belief, the husband is actually the victim while the wife was the evil mastermind. But who in this traditional small home town is going to believe that? Especially since everyone was convinced otherwise. Besides, if things were so bad, why not leave? It probably seems easier to keep pretending that everything is perfect the way it is (more flashing red flags).
Amy and Nick’s situation is a reflection of one of the terrifying realties of unhealthy relationships. It doesn’t matter who or what put them in this cycle. It doesn’t matter that these are two toxic, self-destructive individuals who should not be together. What matters is that they do the right(???) thing in the majority’s eye. It’s a vicious, cliché cycle of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold”
“I wasn’t sure what to say now. I raked my memory for the lines” What does the husband say at this point in the movie? Depends on whether he’s guilty or innocent”
“Pretty soon Cool Girl became the standard girl. Men believed she existed – she wasn’t just a dreamgirl one in a million. Every girl was supposed to be this girl, and if you weren’t, there was something wrong with you”
“It was kind of romantic. Catastrophically romantic”
“We weren’t ourselves when we fell in love, and when we became ourselves – surprise! – we were poison. We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way”