If You Like Girl on the Train

First there was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Then came Paula Hawkins’s Girl on the Train, which many readers will be re-experiencing in theaters this month. There are many factors that contribute to the gripping success of stories like these - an intriguing plot, beautifully crafted sentences, good marketing. One of the factors that make these particular titles successful is their author’s narrative choices in writing them. They are suspenseful stories made even more suspenseful by an unreliable narrator. Readers don’t know who or what to believe about what has happened – or even what is happening – at any given point in the story. Many of the novels listed below tell stories that are driven by that same narrative decision and will have you attempting to piece together a story that eludes you with each page turn, as you hope to discover what is true before you reach that last, blank page.

The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford - The Pocket Wife is probably the most similar book to Girl on the Train on this list. Dana was drinking the day her neighbor was murdered – and she was probably the last person to have seen her. Add to this uncertainty, her mental instability as she struggles with bipolar disorder and lacks trust in the choices she may have made that day. It doesn’t help that she suspects her husband may be cheating on her, nor do the questions of the detective who has voluntarily taken on her case, for reasons of his own…

Before I Go to Sleep – S.J. Watson - At age 57, Christine has experienced much in her life; the only problem is that she can’t remember most of it, after a tragic accident leaves her long-term memories largely inaccessible, and her short-term memories in existence for only as long as she is awake. Luckily, she has a husband, Ben, of over 20 years, taking care of her day after day in spite of the difficulties her memory loss presents. But why is she seeing a doctor who has counseled her to keep her visits a secret from that same husband? And why has she written not to trust Ben in the journal that she keeps as part of her treatment?

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey - “Elizabeth is missing,” Maude will tell anyone who will listen - she is sure of it. The problem in this novel is that Maude is an elderly woman with dementia, frustrated because no one believes her though she knows that her friend has mysteriously disappeared, just as her sister, Sukie, did years ago when she was young. Throughout the book, her sister’s unsolved disappearance weighs heavily on her mind as she investigates the disappearance of Elizabeth. If only she could hold on to snatches of memories long enough to fit all of the pieces together or just get someone to believe her…

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart - If the title is to be believed, you should begin reading this novel with the understanding that you’re probably being lied to. It’s been a while since Cadence has joined her family on their private island over the summer, and she has a feeling that something terrible happened the last time she was here. But she doesn’t remember, though she is told that she has been told, and her family has stopped trying to tell her. Can she finally face the truth amid the island’s familiarity as it triggers her memories from that summer?

Ninth Life of Louis Drax – Liz Jensen - Young Louis Drax has not had a very easy life: he has had more accidents and near-misses with death than his mother cares to count. Most people believe him to be disturbed and he knows it – and sometimes embraces it. Then, one day, while on what was supposed to be a nice family picnic, Louis Drax has a particularly bad accident – one his mother doesn’t believe was really an accident. And the only two people who can tell what really happened that day are Louis, who miraculously survives but is comatose, and his father, who is missing. If either of them are able or willing to tell the truth by the last page…

Have other recommendations for others who love Girl on the Train? Don’t forget to leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

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