The word “marriage” occurs about a hundred times in Gillian Flynn’s novel “Gone Girl”; there are sixty instances of “husband.” “Wife” maxes out the Kindle search feature at a hundred instances in the first hundred and forty-seven pages—that’s just thirty-seven per cent of the book. If there is some way of searching the remaining sixty-three per cent, I haven’t figured it out. I feel certain that she’s there, this “wife,” many more times—but I can’t find her. As sometimes happens, the limitations of the medium amplify the message: wives are people who disappear.
“Gone Girl” has sold over eight and a half million copies—a number sure to rise in the wake of the film adaptation, which topped the box office last weekend. The plot centers on the failed marriage of the beautiful, accomplished magazine writer Amy Elliott (whose childhood was immortalized by her parents in a creepy children’s book series, “Amazing Amy”) and Nick Dunne, a handsome aspiring novelist from Missouri. Their conjugal happiness is first interrupted by the financial crisis: Nick and Amy lose their magazine jobs, sell their brownstone, and buy a house in Missouri, where Nick can attend to his dying mother. The mother duly dies. The couple is haunted by Nick’s foul-mouthed, demented father, who periodically escapes from his care facility and runs around town shouting vile things at women. Nick uses the last of Amy’s trust fund to open a bar. He may or may not be having an affair. They may or may not be trying to have a baby. On the morning of the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears in what looks like an abduction, and a nationwide manhunt begins.