June 2022 marked the tenth anniversary of Gillian Flynn’s mega blockbuster novel Gone Girl. This anniversary prompted many looks back at the novel’s significance; for example:
“A master class in marital manipulation, the influence of the novel continues to cascade through the category; to this day, every other thriller is pitched as “Gone Girl meets XYZ.” So many articles have been published to explain its enduring influence—on everything from domestic suspense as a subgenre, feminine rage storylines, and deranged plot twists—that we can lose sight of one important fact: the book holds up; it’s timeless, and as readable now as it was then.”— Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Editor
And all these discussions made me think back to my own initial reaction to Gone Girl: This novel underlay my recognition of Life Stories in Literature.
A bit of background is necessary here. In 2005 I went back to school because of a vague feeling that there were some things I needed to learn. I had been involved in life writing workshops with older adults, particularly women, and when I started working on my degree in psychology I discovered the emerging area that psychologists call narrative identity theory. As I learned more about this topic, I realized that I was studying life stories because I needed to understand my own. I wrote my dissertation on life stories and got my degree in 2011.
My first literary love has always been fiction. When I read Gone Girl soon after its publication in 2012, I was amazed to see various elements of life story writing working together to build the narrative of Nick and Amy Dunne’s married life.
In 2014, when I began writing about Life Stories in Literature, I explained how Gone Girl pulls together many of the themes that illustrate how narrative identity theory can aid in understanding fiction:
Life Stories in Literature
we are what we remember
inside vs. outside stories
hidden identities & secrets
creating/controlling one’s own narrative
alternate life options
turning points/life decisions
when/how lives intersect
multiple points of view
change your story, change your life
The more I’ve pursued this approach to literature, the more I’ve come to agree with Cronin’s assessment: “the book holds up; it’s timeless, and as readable now as it was then.”
© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown