I picked this book up based upon a considerable amount of buzz in my community. I have to be honest, I nearly didn’t make it past the first chapter. Our main character is Rachel, and in the beginning, the story is told solely from her perspective. Because I found her so boring and, frankly, pathetic, I didn’t know for sure if I could continue. But then It became very clear by the end of the chapter that she is a drunk, unreliable, and possibly deranged. Though slow at first, once these characteristics arise, the book suddenly became very interesting and Rachel transformed into a figure I’ve never quite experienced in books.
In fact, I became so engrossed in the book I could hardly put it down. Rachel is seemingly stalking her ex-husband and his new wife, has constructed a fantasy world for the people she sees in their homes as she rides the train, and is generally falling apart as she makes one awful, drunken decision after another.
A mystery begins, though, concerning some injuries she suffered during a blackout. Plus, a very violent crime arrives, one tied to her ex-husband and a specific couple she fantasized about from the train.
The book is addictive in that it plays with timelines, revealing tidbits of information at different intervals and demands the reader put them together chronologically. As the book progresses, it also offers other perspectives, specifically from Megan, the woman Rachel fantasizes about, and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife. Through these various perspectives, you learn that none of these women are completely honest, and some of them are downright dangerous.
Near the end, however, the book completely lost me. I won’t spoil too much, but Rachel, one of the most unconventional and original female characters I’ve encountered in quite some time, becomes totally beholden to the men in the story. In fact, the entire story line hinges upon her ex-husband and the man Rachel fantasizes about from the train. The women suddenly serve only to propel the plot, to act as tools of the men, and that’s a real travesty considering the magnificent characterization unfolding up to that point.