After a very long time, I read a book that I finished in less than 24 hours. That is how engaging The Girl on the Train was.
The characters are real and their shortcomings even more so. If the term "grey" had not been given book snob connotations, I would totally declare it the color of the book.
Rachel takes the 8:04 am train to London everyday and has made up stories in her head about a certain couple in a certain house that the train stops by on its way. She is close enough to know their silhouettes and feel the warmth of their relationship when they hug on the tearrce or share tea in the mornings, yet far enough to not know the blemishes and bruises they live with.
What she really does is look at them just so she wouldn't have to look four doors down the same street: her own house (from a broken marriage of two years past). As much as she warns herself against it, she can't help but notice the subtle changes: how soft baby pink is now the colour of the upstairs bedroom, like a joke on her barren womb. And she swigs to keep herself steady.
Rachel is an alcoholic, whose husband ended their marriage after an affair, and now lives in "their" house with a new life. She lost her job and shares an apartment with a college acquaintance. She often wakes up with no memory of what happened and where she's been, throwing up, feeling guilty (but never enough!) What I absolutely loved was the reality and honesty of her expression. She has learnt to be sorry for the nights of no memory, but she can rarely feel responsible or guilty for something she doesn't remember. She actually wants to "feel worse"; wishes she could feel worse as a punishment to the crimes of inebriation.
The other significant characters in the story are her ex-husband, his mistress-now-wife (Anna), the couple she christens 'Jason and Jess', a therapist, and a few more fleeting characters.
While Rachel believes that Jason and Jess live the perfect life of love, one day she sees 'Jess' kissing another man. She is furious, and wants to knock some sense into Jess' head for Jason's sake. The next morning, she wakes up with a feeling of something being amiss, but can't quite put a finger on what it is. The police show up at her door, investigating her involvement in Jess' disappearance (something she has no memory of, but has been told happened the same night that she was seen around Jess' house just before the disappearance).
The prime suspects in the case are now the husband, Rachel herself, and a lover perhaps only she knows of (having seen them one train journey ago.) However, being the alcoholic that she is, deems her an unfit source of information, and all her attempts to help solve the case seem futile. During all this are also nights of drunken dialing to the ex-husband, and a near-death experience in trying to sniff out what happened to Jess.
What made the book interesting for me is that it is written almost as a journal/ narrative from Anna, Megan, and Rachel's perspectives. Reading parallel occurences of an unearthed mystery has always excited me as I wait for the other characters to piece the jigsaw. You almost want to point to them what they're missing and you wish you could show them where they're faltering and how.
I had fun reading The Girl on the Train, and would love to discuss it with anyone who takes it up next :)