If anyone were looking for a pattern in my reading, it would be that I alternate between non-fiction and fiction with a focus on true crime and psychological thrillers. Having just finished Full Body Burden, it was time to move onto another thriller in The Good Girl.
I first added this book to my to-read list after I read one of the many articles on Pinterest about what books to read if you liked Gone Girl (which I took to mean: books to read if you like anything at all by Gillian Flynn). This is also how I decided to read The Girl on the Train, which you can find my review of here.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is the story of a ransom kidnapping gone wrong, or so it would seem. The book begins with the news that Mia Dennett, the rebel daughter of a prominent judge, has gone missing. We soon learn that Mia was kidnapped by a man she met in a bar. However, the book jumps between times before the kidnapping and after, when Mia has been found, although she is not the same person she was. She has no memory of what happened while she was missing.
As the book goes on, we learn that Colin, the one who initially kidnapped Mia under orders from a mysterious figure (hit man?) named Dalmar, decided not to turn her over to his boss and instead squirrels her away in a secluded cabin in Minnesota. Throughout the book, we learn of Mia’s complicated relationship with her parents (and their complicated relationship with each other,) we learn of Colin’s complicated past and the motivations behind committing crimes like this one. With time, things change between Mia and Colin while the opposite changes are happening between Eve and James, her mother and father.
At first, this book is a little hard to take because it jumps around so much. We essentially have three narrators telling us a different part of the story. Eve, Mia’s mother, relates her feelings before and after the kidnapping, relenting about the path her life has taken and regretting the ways she behaved toward Mia before this happened. We also have Gabe, the detective trying to find Mia and bring Colin to justice. At first, I thought Gabe was going to be a much rougher character, solely focused on the case and not bothering with emotions. But we also see him change over the course of the book as the case begins to take its toll. Finally, Colin narrates his time in the cabin with Mia, and the reason he took the job in the first place.
I was bothered by Colin’s narration for the first half of the book, because of the way it is written. In his narration, Colin uses terms like “she feels …” and “she thinks …” Maybe it’s just my journalism side, but I didn’t like the way Kubica had him telling us how she felt. I would have rather him say “she looks like she feels …” or “maybe she thinks …” I was really annoyed that Mia wasn’t a narrator in the beginning. But it did all make sense in the end (no spoilers on this). I was also never totally clear (in the moment) of why he decided to take Mia away himself rather than turn her over. I think this could have been developed a bit more earlier in the story.
Again, what I love about these kinds of books is, not only their dark and foreboding tone, but also the way in which people’s flaws and redeeming qualities are showcased in their connections with the other characters. We see this primarily in Colin’s character as he slowly relinquishes control over Mia, and in it finds a companion who is just as flawed and searching for understanding as he is.
The scenes in the cabin are so visceral that I could almost feel the cold and I almost wanted to run away to a secluded cabin myself (although I would want one with working heat and better food). And I love Canoe. His presence lent so much more humanity to the story and left Mia with an everlasting companion through all of the awfulness. I guess he must have been the tiny ray of hope in the story.
I really loved Eve’s transformation throughout the novel. Not only does she realize she deserves more compassion and respect than her husband gives, but she also realizes how important her daughter is to her and how she begins to take care of her when Mia truly needs it, as if making up for all the years she let James run the show. This part was truly empowering to read, and is especially important given Eve’s age and past.
But oh my god, the ending. This was probably not the best thing to read after getting married. I get anxiety about losing my now-husband all the time. I can’t imagine I would react any differently than Mia does to losing Colin. It would kill me. While the major twist is revealed in the Epilogue, I would’ve liked another closing chapter about Mia years later — I want to see how she gets through it. I don’t think it would have hurt the story to have a little bit more hope at the end.
All in all, I gave this book three and a half stars. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and the thrill of the plot line. However, I think the organization of the different narrators could have been done a bit better to minimize confusion without losing the mystery of it all.
What did you think of The Good Girl? What did you think of Kubica’s treatment of Mia and Colin’s relationship? What are your favorite psychological thrillers? Let’s talk.