During the height of the Gone Girl craze, I read its popular knock-off The Girl on the Train. When I read the book, two thoughts went through my head. One: Oh crap, I had this idea for an unreliable woman narrator; now it’s considered a cliched genre and overdone. Granted, the character—which I’d also named Rachel through an unlucky coincidence—was a police officer and not an alcoholic train passenger. Second, I knew I’d found a niche genre to enjoy. As I said in my recent review of The Missing Wife by Sheila O’Flanagan, I powered through The Girl on the Train, then The Widow, then The Missing Wife. Last month, after giving up on Gillian Flynn’s craze-starting novel, I caved in and watched the Gone Girl film, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This month, I decided on another book. It had a similar plot to The Missing Wife, and it was also recommended by my mother’s recent reads. This book, however, was The One who Got Away, by Australian journalist Caroline Overington. And now, finally, I think I’ve had enough of the sub-genre.
The One Who Got Away, by Caroline Overington, was released in May this year. Claiming from the get-go to be a knock-off of TGOTT and GG, even misspelling TGOTT‘s title on its back cover (calling it Girl on a Train instead), I knew what I was in for. The plot is this: a woman from the low-end side of the perfect Californian town of Bienveneda, Loren Franklin, meets the charming high-end Bienvenedian David Wynne-Estes while escaping from her hometown in New York. The story starts with Loren Wynne-Estes, now married to David, and living the classic high-society life with him and their twins Hannah and Peyton—having disappeared while on a cruise ship “celebrating” a second honeymoon with David. The story is told through first-person narratives of Molly Franklin (her stepsister), Loren’s counselling diary detailing how she met David, Fox TV reporter Liz Moss, Judge L. Samuel Pettit, and David’s own account of certain events with Loren. Now, I won’t lie. I found The One Who Got Away an interesting, albeit generic story. I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to know if David had killed Loren. Having recently watched Gone Girl, I had certain expectations for Loren to live up to. I was disappointed.
As a journalist and Walkley winner (the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer), I wasn’t too surprised Overington was all about telling instead of showing. You can’t be too surprised about a journalist using the inverted pyramid, etc, in her writing. However, this writing style left me kind of bored. I kept reading however, because I wanted to know what happened to Loren. The revelation between David and his secret life at his dodgy yuppie business wasn’t surprising, including obligatory affair, didn’t surprise me, but it did intrigue me. I read the last two parts—the Judge and Molly’s epilogue—in one night, which can’t be too bad. I felt for Loren’s poor dad Danny, but not as much for Molly, despite the book trying its hardest to make her likeable. There was absolutely no sympathy for David Wynne-Estes—all throughout, he’s portrayed as a sex-addicted, misogynist bastard. In his account of Loren discovering his affair, you begin to feel for him, but you’re never sure if you should.
Despite being Australian, it didn’t really bother me that the Australian Overington didn’t set her novel here in ‘Straya. I’ve never read her previous novels, like many of the disparaging Goodreads reviewers had, so her distinct style didn’t mean much. However, the Australian thing that did bother me were the similarities between David and Loren Wynne-Estes and the real-life, much-publicised Allison Baden-Clay murder in Brisbane. The parallels were uncanny, but also easily overlooked, because this stuff happens all the time. Spoiler Alert: Rich woman disappeared, rich husband acting suspicious, husband manipulating children about what happened to mother, husband eventually jailed. The difference is, Spoiler Alert Again!,one’s body is found, the other’s isn’t. That’s the thing that surprised me about this: the ending. I wasn’t sure what to think. It left two open possibilities, both making my lack of trust towards Molly completely understandable, but her revelation is out of the blue. I’ll just say that it doesn’t give you a proper resolution. Sure, a shocking revelation, but not more…
I did enjoy the different points of view, and how it wasn’t just Loren’s immediate family dealing with her disappearance, like the previous books I’ve read. At the beginning, in Loren’s diary entry, I thought it read like Fifty Shades of Grey fanfiction if Fifty Shades was a thriller like it should have been. Maybe I just think Christian Grey reads like a serial killer and Anesthesia Steele would easily fall victim to him. Loren’s naivete when she meets David in New York reads just like Christian and Anesthesia’s meeting in Seattle, and it made me disappointed Fifty Shades wasn’t at least competently written like The One Who Got Away.
Overall, The One Who Got Away is a good book if you want a quick, light read. While the ending was disappointing, I can’t deny it wasn’t a page-turner, and you just want to keep reading to see if David killed Loren or if something else happened entirely. The ending is a shock and unexpected, which made it all the better. The main problem is I’ve read too much of these Gone Girl knock-offs. You don’t need to ride off another author’s coattails to become famous. From what I’ve read, this author has other good novels. Maybe I’ll read some of them in the future. But, for the most part, The One Who Got Away is a lazy Sunday read that doesn’t really add much to the mix.