(Spoiler City ahead!)
Insanely brilliant and Exhibit A as to why reading is the funnest (sorry, I like this superlative adjective) thing in the world. The problem I have with most whodunnits is that my attitude very often is whogivesashit? Any hack can insert a bunch of plot twists in a story but a story full of twists does not a good story make. While I sped through the book (thoroughly loving every word) in the back of my mind I was terrified that the author was going to mess it up by insulting my intelligence (and anyone who knows me knows that’s hard to do) by throwing in some clumsy bit that just didn’t make a lick of sense simply to throw the reader off the scent.
My girlfriend and I read this together, sort of. She started first and was 190 pages ahead of me before I began. Over the course of a couple of days we practically got into fistfights over possession of the damn book. I would talk her into taking a nap, telling her how tired she must be from the morning’s activities, whatever the hell they might have been and it’s really none of your business. The split second her eyelids slammed shut I’d yank the book out of her hands and bookmark her page which was still well ahead of mine despite my sometimes deceitful efforts to manipulate the book into my custody, all part of my game to play catch-up
When I didn’t have the book in my hot little hands I sneaked a peak at the goodreads ratings for the book, being as careful as a soldier in a minefield not to let my eyes glance upon a review that would reveal even the slightest secret in the tale that I had yet to uncover in my own reading. If you are reading this and you haven’t read the book yet I have only one question for you? What the fuck is wrong with you? Read the damn thing already. It’s only about the most fun you will ever have. This book makes me pity (even more) people who don’t read.
It was fun discussing the story together although she was VERY careful not to let spill anything she had learned from her higher vantage point in the plot. Instead of wolfing the book down in a sitting or two the process was drawn out—almost in agony at times—over the course of several days. Our talks about the book were a bit one-sided because I could venture theories on what would happen but she couldn’t because she “knew too much.” The staggered nature of my reading allowed me the luxury of putting a lot more thought into the book as I went along. At one point I went back and reread the first couple of chapters just to see if I had missed some vital clue to the story that wouldn’t have made sense to me the first time around. The author is much too skillful for clumsy displays of foreshadowing and there were no lame red herrings as in most whodunnits (a genre I generally avoid like vampire novels).
What I loved about the book…scratch that, one of the many, many things I loved about the book was some of her penetrating insights that were often hilarious; not something you see much in this genre of literature. Like when Amy is watching TV in the cabin and she takes note of the commercials which target women and she thinks about women who “clean and bleed.” Or when she changes her appearance to look less hot, “I don’t miss men looking at me. It’s a relief to walk into a convenience store and walk right back out without some hangout in sleeveless flannel leering as I leave, some muttered bit of misogyny slipping from him like a nacho-cheese burp.” Brilliant, poignant, and very funny!
(Because I knew my girlfriend would sneak a peak at my review before I finished writing it I put in this bit below just for her. At this point in my review I was still 100 pages from the end. I had used my time away from the book (my forced exile) this morning to string up an old CD on my clothes line as people do here in Spain in an attempt to shy away pigeons.)
Why do I hate pigeons so much, you ask? Because when I was a kid pigeons killed my brother but replace “killed my brother” with “shit on my clean clothes.” That’s why.
One of my only criticisms of the book:
I didn't like the Desi character and wish he had been left out completely. It was way too much of a coincidence that he lived right up the road from Amy and his role at the end of the story was very contrived. I thought that Amy let the hillbillies off the hook rather easily considering what a vindictive bitch she had been all her life. They rip her off and ruin her plan and she lets them walk away scot free? She fucked over Hillary because she showed up late for her at school one day. The hicks probably didn’t have a high school diploma between them and she is going to allow them to keep breathing? Instead of framing Desi she could have killed the two hicks and hung all of it on them. I would have even liked to have seen the two hicks get some character development earlier in the story without the reader having the faintest clue as to what they were doing popping up in the narrative. Two menacing meth-head drifters would have been a lot creepier and cool than some twink who had a boyhood crush on her and lives with his mom.
How about this? The hicks are introduced earlier in the story as they make their way across the ravaged landscape of financially-wrecked America. They grift and at times resort to acts of violence to get what’s theirs until finally they intersect with Amy at the hillbilly Club Med. This would have added another layer of intrigue to the story and another couple of suspects in the disappearance. Finally Amy crushes the hicks in her own imperious manner and uses this to make her return to her husband. The whole thing with Desi was just too full of holes. What if Desi had an airtight alibi on July 5th?
In the movie version we could see a short scene of the two grifters at work, a home invasion where they rob some innocent old lady and slap her around a bit and perhaps one or two other episodes where the violence escalates, just enough to make the viewer include them in the list of possible suspects. This would also lend a bit of action to the beginning of the story. Then when Amy sees the girl for the first time the viewer knows her history (a very chilling introduction). They rob Amy but instead of Amy whimpering away she follows them and brings down her biblical wrath just as she has upon her husband and anyone else stupid enough to cross her. This works as a substitute for the Desi thing and chops one character out of the story for the economy needed for the screenplay.