There's a darned good reason this book is on the New York Times Bestseller List: Simply put, it is totally, utterly one of the most engrossing books I've had the pleasure to read in a long while. It also was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for January 2015 - no surprise there, either - and add me to the list of those who will be happy to see this one get all the honors it deserves.
To describe it as a psychological thriller really doesn't do it justice given the inner- and outer-lapping lives of the six main characters. Where does one begin and another one start? Are any of them real, or are they just figments of one (or more) of the others' imaginations? After all, the book begins with Rachel on a commuter train - the same one she takes every day - stopping at one point at a row of houses in one of which she almost always sees a couple (she's named them Jess and Jason) doing "perfect couple" things on their perfect little deck.
Until one day they don't; Rachel witnesses a scene that shocks her into reality (her version of it, at least) and she's compelled to call the police. From the outset, the story is told through the eyes of three of the main characters: Rachel, who once lived in this same row of houses with what she thought was a loving husband but now is occupied by her ex-husband, his new wife and their baby; his current wife, Anna, and Megan - the "Jess" of Rachel's train-ride imagination.
Then Megan turns up missing, and Rachel - who's more often drunk beyond the point of oblivion, has lost her job and is and still in love with her ex-husband - desperately tries to retrieve long-forgotten memories (if in fact they ever happened at all). The daily train ride quickly turns into a train wreck that's totally unavoidable, with readers being dragged along every mile of the way. And what a heck of a ride it is!
Ever the grammar vigilante, I'm compelled to say that the substantial number of run-on sentences really bugged me, although I admit that once I got half a dozen chapters into this one I really didn't give a damn anymore. And I also noticed that a job interview Rachel's landlady had arranged with a friend was mentioned quickly and then - even though it was pretty clear Rachel got drunk again and didn't make it - never was heard of again. Given the landlady's disgust with her tenant's alcohol abuse, I'm pretty sure she'd have been livid when she found out Rachel had blown yet another opportunity to improve her life. But you know what? I'm still curious, but I really don't care about that, either.
I leave you with this advice: If you have only one book to read this year, make it this one. Wow!
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead, January 2015); 326 pp.