Sundered Peak

through the mind of kyle tolle

Gone Girl and Marriage

Toward the end of 2014, I read the novel “Gone Girl”. It’s been a while, so details might be fuzzy, but I wanted to review it. This review will likely contain spoilers and be stream-of-consciousness.

I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. I read it over the course of 6 days, which is pretty quick for a book with 560 pages. It kept my attention, and the short chapters helped with that. It’s easy to say “just one more chapter” when they are quick and captivating. The writing style was easy to comprehend, which also helped with reading.

The twist was unexpected, and the ending was good. I wonder how realistic it would be for Amy to plan something so completely. To cover so many bases and foresee so many of Nick’s actions. It seems outlandish, but the book suspended my disbelief. The unknown depths of human willpower help with the suspension.

Here is a woman who wants to get away, but she actually escapes to another, worse corner to be backed in to. But she’s even got a way around that. Creepy, unrequited love didn’t stand a chance. Reminder: you’ll never be happy unless you let yourself be happy now.

The husband cheating on her helped solidify his “motive” for harming her, but I can’t remember, was that her sole reason for going through with it? She’d planned it out for some time… years. Oh, I think she really wanted an ability to have a say about her life. To not live in the picture her parents painted for her. Interesting side plot there, with her parents. Lesson learned: plan for your financial future!

What stood out most about this book is how it’s another piece of popular media about a marriage falling apart. Hell, it was so popular a movie was made. (No, I haven’t seen it yet. Don’t spoil it for me ;-P) Although it has the twist of coming back together, albeit in a different way than would have been expected at the beginning of the book. Be careful what you wish for, Nick. Amy. Everyone.

It does feel easier to write about stories where things go wrong. We don’t have books or movies talking about how things worked out just perfectly throughout the entire story. Media is also used for overstating the case, to make a point. Like Orwell’s “1984”. None of that surveillance and thoughtpolicing existed then (now is an entirely different matter). It was meant to be a warning call. Perhaps this is in the same vein. Take care, beings, of one another and yourself and this is the price for noncompliance.

The marriage falls apart; the woman is unhappy; the boy cheats on the girl. Feels cliche with the building blocks. I guess if more books were to focus on happy marriages, they’d end up cliche romance novels, right? And it’s saying something to write a book built on a cliche foundation and turn it into something else all together. The three sections of the books have titles which allude to this cliche.

But the plot does bring up the point: how can you ever really know someone? You can plan to stay with someone your entire life, and even if your perspective on that doesn’t change (unlike happens in the book), the other person could be a wildcard. Perhaps they have been misleading you from the beginning. Or, less conspiratorially, perhaps you don’t grow together; they grow uneasy, and you can’t mend that. They push you away. There’s an uncertainty which could never be ruled out, because of its “what if” aspect. Even if it’s not probable, it’s possible.

I believe I mentioned this in my company’s chatroom and a coworker (I can’t remember who specifically) said that a vocal minority captures a lot of attention when it comes to the negative portrayal of marriages. It feels true. Or perhaps it’s that portrayal that sticks with one the most. Is it the availability heuristic?

In fact, there’s no data to back up the claim that half of all marriages still end in divorce. So, to an unmarried man, who someday hopes to be, it encouraging to see that a significant majority of marriages don’t end in divorce. Urban legends be damned.

Another article mentions that successful marriages are built on kindness and generosity. It seems simple, though I’m sure is harder in practice. But it’s a start. It’s a thing to focus on in relationships in general - romantic and platonic. Be kind to yourself; be kinder to others. Build the habit, until it becomes automatic. Muscle memory.

There’s always the uncertainty of what you or someone will think in the future, but we can’t live our lives afraid of every negative possibility. In the same way we can’t live by banking on every positive possibility. Probability is more telling.

I’ll focus on what I can control. My behavior and actions. I’ll act with kindness and in the spirit of generosity. It’s the best chance we’ve got of living life happily with our loved ones.

Thanks, Ronnie, for letting me borrow the book!