The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

(No Series)

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”

A fascinating book as good as its reputation says it is.

The dream-like trance the alcoholic protagonist was in led me to feel the surreal experience fully. As she rode the train and fantasized about the imagined lives of the neighbors, while passing by the house of her ex who she obsessed over and wouldn’t psychologically let go of, she fully took me along for the ride in a creative way. I was sucked into her head, even if she repulsed me with her weakness, as she went back and forth from present day to past tense, trying to reclaims memories that would help solve a mystery.

The multiple point of book also digs into a few other heads too, the wife she sees through the window and imagines a life for, and the ‘other woman’ that stole her husband from her years before. Their stories merge together.

While the story is strong with keeping me glued as to what’s going to happen next, it was a detailed character study more than anything. The protagonist is so weak sometimes she does nauseate, but overall was likeable. Out of all the characters, I disliked Anne the most - ugh. Most of these people were flawed paper people with few redeeming qualities, but it had a realism in the intensity.

An unusual, well-done experience. The very end isn't a shocker, but it was a good twist/wrap-up. There are surprises in store for the reader, twists in the almost Hitchcock-type tale, everyday lives made extraordinary when brushed with crime. It works better since the characters aren’t completely likeable, because their realistic flaws make the plot believable. It helps the story is told in patches by characters who aren’t always reliable because of addiction, memory lapses, lies, false motives, and coming from different areas of the playing field.

“When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.”

If you take away the mystery, the crime and tension, you get a sad drama that tugs on the heart strings and makes the reader emphasize with the characters who dig their own graves. Is it harder to feel sympathy for someone who makes their own mess and keeps sabotaging themselves? In this book, not really; I kept sympathizing while being repulsed as the longer I read about the character, the more I understood the trance-like weaknesses.

This is a book I’d recommend for any reader. Whether you’re into drama, horror, suspense, mystery, most of that’s here. The train itself almost takes on its own personality, you get that strong of a feel for the environment these characters are in. The writer is talented and dishes all this out slowly under a druggish haze that heightens the experience. Completely recommended.

Read Excerpt here

   Book Quotes:

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” 

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.” 

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