Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Secrets and Lies in The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

On a humid, hot summer day at church camp, I overheard some older girls whispering about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and began to shiver. The words blood, daggers, corpses, and shower haunted my dreams long before I’d ever seen the movie. Once I did--years later--my budding fears blossomed.

What I found terrifying then was the madman’s face, unrecognizable as evil, his the face of a boy, smooth and untroubled. I still find that truth terrifying. Our neighbors may be monsters wearing the masks of men and women we might meet and even marry.

Mardi Gras Mask in Stained Glass
by Ruth Hillers, Stover, MO
Light and Grace and All Things Creative
The wife of Dennis Rader, the Kansas BTK killer, married such a monster. So did the wife of Ted Bundy, and all those women who vowed to love, honor and obey, but one day, disappeared.

Rachel, Megan, and Anna, characters and narrators in Paula Hawkins’ novel, The Girl on the Train, are damaged women drawn to monstrous men.

Each woman has secrets that she tries not to tell herself, leading to alcohol addiction, insomnia, or complicity in dark deeds. Two women reveal their secrets to a therapist who functions in the novel as a voice of understanding and compassion. He gives both women permission not to carry the burden of guilt or shame, but anyone who carries that weight knows that permission is not enough to liberate. We must forgive ourselves.

All characters in Hawkins’ novel are liars on some level. Most lies told are lies of omission. Others are lies of convenience because the liar needs to be trusted, to be viewed as credible. The worst lies are layered, architectural structures as complex and labyrinthine as M. C. Escher’s prints, and from these springs misogyny, a deep, well-disguised contempt for women, perhaps because the architect of these lies finds women so vulnerable, so easily manipulated, so culpable in their own destruction.

The novel explores the enigma that is marriage, the mystery that is attraction, the veil that falls between the face we present to our neighbors and the one we reveal to our spouses and lovers. Hawkins’ story is about the raw need to be loved and cherished. It is also about the raw, open wounds of betrayal and neglect.

Reading Challenge:

Read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Writing Challenge:

Narrate a tale exposing the jarring realization that comes when we know that all we thought we knew about ourselves is a lie.

Connye Griffin writes My Writing and Editing Coach
Photo Courtesy of Al Griffin Photography