What I'm Reading: The Good Girl

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica came so close to being a really great read for me.  It's frequently been compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but I don't think the comparison is very apt.  The Good Girl feels a lot slower, less mysterious, and it doesn't have much of the same heart-pumping elements that make Gone Girl such an intense and hard-to-put-down thrill ride.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  I just think that fans of Gone Girl who are expecting much of the same from Kubica will be disappointed.

Here's the synopsis of The Good Girl from Goodreads:

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller,
The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

To me, The Good Girl is less of a mystery and thriller than a slow boil exploration of a kidnapping gone wrong.  Through three different narrators - Mia's mother Eve, the detective investigating her disappearance, and her kidnapper Colin - Kubica is able to examine different facets of this situation.  She looks at the sorrow and guilt that Eve feels, as well as how Mia's disappearance affects and strains the relationship between her parents.  I think Eve's narrations are some of the most beautiful and sorrowful parts of the novel, artfully revealing the pain of being a mother whose child has disappeared and not knowing where they are or if they are even alive.  

I also thought Colin's sections were really interesting, offering an intense and intimate portrayal of the complicated relationship that develops between him and Mia.  And this is where I think The Good Girl really succeeds and what it's really about.  It's less interested in uncovering the mystery behind Mia's kidnapping than exploring the nuances of the captor and captive relationship.  Kubica moves far beyond the simplistic good guy/bad guy dichotomy, and in doing so, she is able to delve into the complex relationships and interactions between humans in horrific situations.  Colin is always Mia's kidnapper, but they live together for weeks, completely isolated in rural Minnesota, and it's almost impossible that some sort of relationship wouldn't develop out of that situation.  Kubica explores this with care and finesse, and I think that this is her book's most interesting offering. 

I had some issues with character development and tone throughout The Good Girl, particularly in regard to Detective Gabe Hoffman.  He comes off as such a misogynist, arrogant jerk at first, a man who is always looking to make a petty dig at anyone who seems to undercut his authority in any way.  He felt like such a simplistic character, and I didn't get much from his sections early on.  But then, he suddenly changes and stops being such a jerk, and he and Eve develop an intimate relationship as they work together to find Mia.  This felt so unexpected and undeveloped, and I couldn't believe that Detective Hoffman would change so much without any real explanation.  It made him feel like such a weak character, and it was difficult for me to get much out of his sections in the book. 

Finally, The Good Girl offers a very last minute twist ending, which I felt was wholly unsatisfying.  Since this book had been compared to Gone Girl and is categorized as a mystery/thriller, I was looking for twists and mysteries throughout, trying to figure out what really happened.  I had all but given this up until the very end when we get a sort of after-thought explanation that doesn't really make sense and seems to run counter to what the book originally sets out to do.  A good mystery should give readers all of the pieces so that they can put them together on their own.  It shouldn't be straightforward or easy, but the answer shouldn't feel out-of-the-blue, reliant on information that readers only get when the mystery is finally solved.  But this is what The Good Girl does, and the answer really doesn't make sense.  The pieces don't fit into place, and it makes the whole kidnapping plot feel completely superfluous.   

The Good Girl is a solid effort with some flaws.  Three and a half out of five stars.            


  1. This is disapointing. I have been looking for a good mystery since Gone Girl. I know some people have not been huge fans of Gone Girl, but for me it was a very tense and engaging ride. The book sounds interesting, and like it may be worth a read. But it also sounds like it isn't going to scratch the mystery itch I have had since Gone Girl. ... having just written "myster itch" I realize that's probably not the best phrasing. This is why I am a reader and not a writer.

    1. Yeah, this book definitely won't satisfy if you're looking for something closer to Gone Girl, especially in terms of taut mystery. But I still think it's good and worth reading - I just think it's a different beast.

  2. I really enjoyed this one. I loved the idea of exploring Stockholm Syndrome - was it or wasn't it? - and the twist that changes everything a reader knew about the characters. I didn't feel like it was out of the blue; after all, isn't that what a plot twist is?

    I also feel that too many books are being compared to Gone Girl, which is unfair to all of them. Nothing is going to compare to that one.

    1. Yes, I agree! The Stockholm Syndrome aspect of this book was so great - I thought it was a rich and complex exploration, and I think Kubica really soared in this regard. And Gone Girl is held up as a comparison far too often. I think it just hurts books like this, which I are very different from Gone Girl but strong and unique in their own right.


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