The Girl on the Train by Puala Hawkins takes on a ride with Rachel Watson who is obsessed with Jess and Jason, a couple she watches from her commuter train window each day on her way into London. She has created lives for them, a fairy tale story that helps her get through her day and deal with her own wrecked life and her ex-husband’s new family. One day she sees Jess with another man and Rachel has to do something about it. In a drunken stupor she finds her way to their house, only to wake up the following morning with no idea what happened, but the knowledge that something has happened. When she learns that Jess, her Jess, is missing, has just disappeared, Rachel finds herself pulled into this mystery (in reality, inserting herself into their story) and discovers more about her own past as Jess’s life is slowly revealed.
Told from different perspectives, you get to learn a little about the lives of other women surrounding Rachel and this mystery. Megan (Rachel’s Jess) leads us through her own past, revealing bits of her tragic life. Anna (the new wife of Rachel’s ex) chronicles her own troubles dealing with the drunk Rachel who won’t leave her family alone. These were both nice breaks from Rachel’s terrible decision-making. Megan’s perspective was the most interesting because of everything she reveals.
Rachel’s character is one that you desperately want to help. You want to help her with her drinking and cringe every time she takes another drink because you both know it’s not going to end up well for her. When she shows up at the scene of the crime, you want to yell, “What are you doing?” and walk her back to the train and escort her home to the room she lets from an old friend. Each step Rachel makes is a mistake and everyone knows it, but they’re steps she has to make in order to move her life forward. They are steps that only this character would make.
Starting off The Girl on the Train, it was slow-going and I wasn’t sure if I would finish it. Having just finish Gone Girl a few months ago, this felt so similar that at first it wasn’t authentic. The characters seemed like they could have come from that story and didn’t belong here in this foreign space. It wasn’t until after the first 50 pages or so that I was pulled in and couldn’t stop reading. This is where the characters and the space of the novel began to be real to me. This is where it grabbed me and wouldn’t let me stop, made me find a few minutes here and there to fit in a page or two, uncover another clue.
If you liked Gone Girl you will certainly enjoy The Girl on the Train as well, but be certain to give it a bit to settle in and get comfortable. This is another book where you’re just not sure what the outcome will be, but I’m sure you’ll be surprised. Every step of the way, more details are revealed that lead you down the same path as Rachel, and it’s not a comfortable road to walk, but it’s one you won’t be able to leave either.