Short Take: Mary Kubica should have quit while she was ahead.
So, I saw that The Good Girl was getting a lot of buzz, and a lot of comparisons to Gone Girl, so I figured I’d give it a try. I kind of wish I hadn’t.
The Good Girl is the story of Mia Dennett, (daughter of prominent judge James Dennett), who is kidnapped by Colin Thatcher. The story is told through the eyes of Mia’s mother (Eve), Colin, and the detective who can’t rest until he finds her, Gabe Hoffman. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, taking place both before and after Mia’s rescue.
Colin’s job was simple. He was to snatch Mia and deliver her to underworld boss Dalmar, for which he would be paid five thousand dollars. However, once he meets Mia, and she drunkenly agrees to go home with him, he finds that he can’t just turn her over to the hardcore criminal who will likely kill her. Instead, he goes on the run with her. They hole up in a secluded cabin in Minnesota, where they have to fight for survival in the freezing cold.
Mia is eventually rescued, but it’s not exactly a happy ending. The Mia who is returned to her mother is not the Mia who was taken. She insists that her name is Chloe, and she has no memory of anything that took place during her captivity. She’s nearly mute, and terrified of everything. We gradually learn what took place during the long, cold weeks in the cabin, how it ended, and how it all came about.
Sometimes, I’ll read a story, and immediately dislike it, but as I think about it, it makes more sense, and grows on me. The Good Girl is the opposite – the more I think about it, the worse it gets.
The last few pages ruin the whole story. For one thing, a shocker-twist ending really only works if there are some hints along the way (even if they are subtle ones) as to what really happened. The Good Girl’s final reveal felt tacked-on, and made absolutely no sense in light of all that had come before. In fact, it was an insult. It was like “Hey? You know alllllll those chapters that take place in the freezing cabin, where Mia and Colin were hiding from the boogeyman? Yeah, just ignore all that, ok?”
Oh, there’s a brief mention of Stockholm Syndrome, but rather than explain everything, it just highlights how far you have to strain to make this story at all credible. There are other “are you serious?” moments as well. I mean, how many career criminal mastermind types leave voice mails for their accomplices directly referencing the crime they are committing? How many upper-class, highly-connected people who commit crimes go immediately to jail, without dragging it out for months or years? Don’t get me started on Gabe’s love interest at the end and how very little sense it made.
And the characters. Eve’s a martyr, Gabe’s a saint, Colin is the Bad Boy With A Heart of Gold, James is a heartless power-hungry jerk, and Mia is the poor little rich girl who has everything but love. They are all one-dimensional. There’s even a bit of casual racism thrown in.
Mary Kubica had a lot of potential with this one, and I think that’s what frosts my buns the most. The setup was good, the weird way the first three-quarters played out was almost a brand-new take on the hostage thriller, and I liked the Chevy Stevens-ish way the author mixed up the timeline. But it was like someone told her that a book wouldn’t sell without a twist ending, so she went “Ok, FINE, here’s a twist ending” and added it without ever editing any of the rest of the book. What a letdown.
The Nerd’s Rating: ONE HAPPY NEURON