The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
When riding the New York City subway as a small child, my mother would have us play a game to help pass the time. We would pick out a person somewhere in our subway car and each tell what we think that person’s life is like. Rachel in our story plays that very same game.
Rachel rides the train into London every weekday morning and back home each evening. The faces she sees and the places she passes all conjure up thoughts and images and her mind clamors to tell their stories from the little that she sees.
One street of houses is particularly well known to Rachel. It was there that Rachel spent some happy times – before her troubles began, before her drinking began. Each trip provides another glimpse into the lives she passes, and she longs for each sneak peek.
Rachel’s vision of the world is often a blur, altered by her frequent cans of gin and tonic and her bottles of wine. When the young woman four houses down from the home she used to call hers goes missing, Rachel immerses herself in the mystery. She even goes to the police to tell what she saw, what she knows, what she thinks she understands.
The story is told from three perspectives. From the eyes and mind and lips of Rachel, a sad and lonely alcoholic, the mystery of Megan’s disappearance is explored and explained. Anna, the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband recounts her problems, her anguish, her despair, all wrapped up neatly under cover of the blissful suburban housewife. Megan reveals her own tale of wedded instability, discontent, and betrayal, a tale that differs from what everybody sees.
Paula Hawkins plays the game my mother taught me so many years ago, and plays it beautifully.