Tag Archives: Gillian Flynn

Book Review: The Trajectory of Dreams by Nicole Wolverton

The Trajectory of Dreams by Nicole Wolverton (Bitingduck Press; 260 pages; $14.99).

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“Four-three-two-one-in.”

If you thought Amy Dunne was psychotic in Gillian Flynn’s bestselling nail-biter Gone Girl, then you haven’t met Lela White, the main character in Nicole Wolverton’s exquisitely twisted debut The Trajectory of Dreams.  I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning because I could not put down Wolverton’s electrifying thriller.  When I finished, I just had to read it again with different and knowing eyes.

Lela, a sleep lab technician in Houston, is a seriously flawed and completely unreliable narrator, which makes her all the more intriguing.  She is also mental, in every sense of the word.  Lela works in the sleep lab by day, side-by-side her annoying co-worker Trina, and endures the somewhat-unwanted advances of Max, the janitor. At night, however, Lela engages in activities of the clandestine variety.

Convinced the fate of the NASA space program is in her hands, Lela breaks into the homes of astronauts to ensure they experience normal sleep patterns.  If she makes a mistake monitoring just one astronaut, then Lela is sure disaster will result.

When Lela was ten, her mother confessed she had caused the space shuttle to explode.  Lela believes only she has the power to keep NASA astronauts safe from harm now.  If and when one of the space travelers fails her test, Lela is prepared to kill him for the greater good.  She is very Machiavellian in her belief that the end justifies the means.

Lela’s well-ordered world soon spins out of control, and so does she.  When she meets Russian cosmonaut Zory Korchagin, the attraction is strong between the two.  Could she kill Zory if he failed her test?  Zory puts Lela at risk, but she cannot resist him.  For Lela, Zory’s magnetic hold over her may very well be explosive.

If that’s not enough to send Lela over the edge, it only gets worse.  Trina moves in with Lela after a storm damages the co-worker’s apartment.  Lela grows increasingly indignant when Trina begins asking questions and snooping around Lela’s home, her sanctuary.

It’s not long before Lela grows more and more paranoid, ultimately leading to a psychotic breakdown.  And what a collapse it is when Lela’s cat communicates with his owner.  The Trajectory of Dreams is intense and fast-paced, especially since Wolverton writes her story using the first-person perspective.  This allows us to get inside Lela’s warped mind and is wholly and tantalizingly discomfiting.  Perhaps most gripping of all is having a front-row seat to watch Lela’s fascinating and final descent into madness.

I know my heart stopped several times while reading The Trajectory of Dreams and feel confident yours will, too.  Incredibly bold and extremely unique, The Trajectory of Dreams lingers well after you read the last page.  I guarantee, just like me, you’ll want to re-read it.

“Four-three-two-one-out.”

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Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown; 432 pages; $25).

 

            “Let me set the scene,” to borrow a phrase from a character in Gillian Flynn’s third novel Gone Girl.  I normally do not read mysteries or thrillers; my exceptions are usually James Rollins and Steve Berry.  Most mysteries are not well-written, and I roll my eyes over what someone says or does.  I would rather read literature and fiction any day.  Another reason I stay away from mysteries is that I can usually guess the plot in the first few chapters.  Knowing what is coming simply takes the fun out of reading a so-called mystery.

I was reluctant to read Gone Girl, although I genuinely liked Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects.  When I saw Gone Girl was about a wife who disappeared, my first thought was, “Hello, Scott Peterson.”  Been there, done that.  I was forgetting one crucial factor, however.  I had forgotten what a page-turner Flynn could produce and how nothing is simple in her world.

Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for exactly five years when Gone Girl begins.  In fact, the very day the book begins is their anniversary.  There will be no romantic candlelit dinners followed by an evening of dancing.  Amy disappears.  Not surprisingly, the police focus on Nick.

And Nick is all too aware of this fact: “Everyone knows it’s always the husband, so why can’t they just say it: We suspect you because you are the husband, and it’s always the husband.  Just watch Dateline.”

The reader has no choice but to suspect Nick, too.  He loved her once, deeply, but things have changed.  They both lost their jobs and relocated to Nick’s hometown from New York City when his mother became ill.  Money problems weigh heavily on them.  In short, they were having trouble and were far from being a happy couple.

When Nick thinks of his wife, oddly, he “always” thinks “of her head,” specifically the back of her head.  That does not bode well for Amy’s well-being, that’s for sure.

Yet Nick proclaims his innocence.  I was skeptical, especially when he reveals he has told the police five lies, all within the first few minutes of meeting with investigators.  His twin sister, Go (short for Margo), confirms that Nick would “lie, cheat, and steal” and even kill all “to convince people” he’s a good guy.  Nick, we soon learn, is an unreliable narrator.  Nothing he says can be trusted.  He has no qualms whatsoever about lying, and he’s good at it–so good it’s scary.

Flynn takes us on many twists and turns throughout this story that I literally could not put the book down nor could I catch my breath.  Gone Girl is a psychological thriller.  Just when you think Nick is the culprit, Flynn throws us a curve ball by introducing Diary Amy.  We meet Amy, but only through her diary entries.  Through her eyes, Nick becomes a deeply sinister figure.  But can we trust Diary Amy?

Amy loves “mind games” and creates a treasure hunt for Nick every year on their anniversary.  She gives him clues to follow.  Before Amy went missing, she wrote the clues for this year.  As Flynn shows us more and more of Amy’s diary entries, one cannot help but notice the different stories Nick and Amy are telling.  Amy may be unreliable, too; she may lie just as much as Nick does.  The dilemma is who to believe.  The trick is that both may be lying.

Amy is Flynn’s most intriguing character.  Her parents wrote a series of books for children which were quite popular in the 1980s called “Amazing Amy.”  The little girl in the books looked just like Amy; she was Amy, only better.  There was always a moral in each and usually taken from an actual instance in the real Amy’s life.  The real Amy did the opposite, though, of what “Amazing Amy” did.  Her parents, thought real Amy, did it to teach her a lesson.

Kids loved to read the stories.  So did a few freaks, like a girl Amy knew in school who began dressing and even acting like Amy.  She went so far as to push Amy down the stairs.  Then, there was the guy Amy dated who took their breakup so hard he tried to commit suicide.  Nick goes on the offensive and tracks them down, insisting he did not hurt her.  He criticizes the authorities for not going after the real culprit.  Nick swears, despite evidence to the contrary, that he is innocent.

Yet, despite his protestations, all signs point to Nick, especially after the police find blood (and a lot of it!) in the kitchen.    And why does Nick keep seeing Amy bleeding anyway?  As Flynn writes, “I saw my wife, blood clotting her blond hair, weeping and blind in pain, scraping herself along our kitchen floor.”  He hears her call his name: “Nick, Nick, Nick!”  Might he be playing back the crime in his mind?

Just when you think you have it all figured out, Flynn introduces something else into the mix.  This is a who-done-it that really keeps you guessing, right up until the last page.  That’s what makes Gone Girl worth reading and what makes it so darn good.  I do not remember ever reading a thriller with so many plot twists and revelations.  After I finished, I wanted to immediately read it again to see what I had missed.

Amy was once a writer of personality quizzes for magazines.  To end this review, I am going to borrow something from her yet again.  After finishing Gone Girl and loving it, you:

A)  Tweet about it to your followers—hey, it’s the least you can do.

B)  Rate the book on Goodreads and even recommend it to your friends there—hey, they would like it, too.

C)  Write a glowing critical review of the novel—hey, it’s just that good!

D)  All of the above.

I know which choice I would pick.  I have a hunch that, after you read it, you’d give the same answer as I.  Gone Girl is Flynn’s best work.  Everyone needs a good mystery, and I challenge you to find a better one.  I know from experience that it isn’t easy!

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