What do I think of the plot and treatment?
The plot wasn’t new, but it was still intriguing: it’s the story of a man whose wife has gone missing on their fifth anniversary. From that alone you get questions–why did she disappear, and how? That was interesting enough. But then Flynn did something awesome. She made the reader ask who the missing woman and her husband are as people. And THAT’S where everything goes down the darkest relationship rabbithole I’ve read in my life. That’s when you realize that great love stories sometimes involves the kind of dedication you can attribute to serial killers.
Yes, above all else, this messed up thing is a love story of epic proportions; it’s an unflinching look at what it takes to make a relationship work despite the problems. I know that it seems like I’m romanticizing this whole thing, and maybe I am. But there is no other way for me to look at this book without going insane. This is about two people who aren’t perfect, but have the pathological need to be seen as such by the world. This is about two people who have started to see cracks in the perfection they are trying to create, and the way they handle seeing those cracks in their personas. This is about two people who pretend, who cannot admit to or handle ugliness (while inflicting it at the same time), who blamethrow in the face of unhappiness JUST LIKE REGULAR COUPLES. This is about two people who take this all to the next level, with some ridiculously terrifying consequences to their loved ones.
This is a story about people who are perfect for each other, who create and destroy each other, as if they alternate between being Shiva and the world.
Again, that might be me romanticizing this whole thing. But I can’t help it–this honest-to-God forces you to focus on Nick and Amy as a couple the whole freaking time, even if the whole plot was framed by a crazy missing persons/possible murder case. I don’t know if this is a clever psychological trick on Flynn’s part, using the fact that we tend to conjoin acknowledged romantic partners in way that makes it difficult for us to regard each “half” as an individual (see things like “Brangelina” or “Bennifer”).
I guess the reason why my brain refuses to let me think about this kind of thing is because it forces me to contemplate romantic life partnerships in general. I mean, aren’t we all raised on the idea of love conquering all? Don’t we all, in a certain level, believe that our boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives will fully devote themselves to a relationship because love makes them want to and because love makes it easier? Don’t we lash out at and pin our disappointments on the shortcomings of our beloved partners? Don’t we all make sacrifices and expect our significant other to notice the “suffering” we put ourselves through? Don’t we, at some point, RESENT that we turn into the very best versions of ourselves for them and are thus not truly loved for who we feel we really are–flawed?
Don’t we all, metaphorically, destroy each other (if not ourselves) in relationships like this? And isn’t it true that the only way to make it work is to manipulate each other, if not occasionally lie to ourselves?