My 14-year old announced this week that she wanted to read The Girl on the Train.
I was excited for her to declare that she wanted to read anything. She doesn’t enjoy reading. I have bought many books on many subjects and ones she has chose that she thinks she might be interested to read but the cover is never cracked or she can’t make it past the first chapter.
She went on to tell me that her teacher has the book in their Grade 9 classroom but that she needs parental consent before being able to sign it out as the teacher described the content as “edgy”.
I loved reading the same books as my older daughter. That started when she was 10. She is a voracious reader and it gave us a bond we share today recommending and discussing literature with each other. So I suggested to my 14-year old that we go to Costco and buy the book so that I can read it first. Then if I think the subject matter appropriate she can read it next.
When she found the book at Costco the first thing she did was exactly what her dad does–flip to the back to see how many pages. My ex wasn’t a reader before meeting me. When he finally joined me reading in bed before we turned out the lights, if a book had more than 180 pages, regardless of how great the story was supposed to be, he refused to read it.
My daughter moaned about it’s thickness and small print. I admonished her to put the book in the cart before she saw the 395 pages.
As I start to read the book tonight, one theme is clear: infidelity.
When the main character finds out that the wife of a couple she admires is having an affair she reacts: “I can’t believe it. I snatch air into my lungs and realize that I’ve been holding my breath. Why would she do that?…I can’t believe she would do that to him, he doesn’t deserve that. I feel a real sense of disappointment. I feel as though I have been cheated on. A familiar ache fills my chest. I have felt this way before. On a larger scale, to a more intense degree, of course, but I remember the quality of the pain. You don’t forget it.”
“I found out the same way everyone seems to find out these days: an electronic slip. Sometimes its a text or a voice mail message: in my case it was an email, the modern-day lipstick on the collar….Once, I answered his phone when he was in the shower and he got quite upset and accused me of not trusting him. I felt awful because he seemed so hurt…There was a message at the top….I clicked. XXXXX. That was it, just a line of X’s. I thought it was spam at first, until I realized that they were kisses…It was a reply to a message he’d sent a few hours before, just after seven, when I was still slumbering in our bed.”
Her husband’s message to the other woman was in a folder marked ‘Admin.’ and it read: “I fell asleep last night thinking of you. I was dreaming about kissing your mouth, your breasts, the inside of your thighs. I woke this morning with my head full of you, desperate to touch you. Don’t expect me to be sane. I can’t be, not with you.”
The main character discovered “that my husband was in love with her. He told her so, often. He told her that he’d never felt like this before, that he couldn’t wait to be with her, that it wouldn’t be long until they could be together.”
Witnessing the wife she admires with another man evoked these feelings in her: ” I don’t have words to describe what I felt that day (the discovery of her own husband’s betrayal), but now, sitting on the train I am furious, nails digging into my palms, tears stinging my eyes. I feel a flash of intense anger. I feel as though something has been taken away from me. How could she? How could Jess do this? What is wrong with her ? Look at the life they have, look at how beautiful it is! I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it who said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all. Hatred floods me. If I saw that woman now, if I saw Jess, I would spit in her face. I would scratch her eyes out.”
Her response when the Other Woman contacts her complaining that it is an inconvenience when she calls her ex is this: “Fucking bitch. She is a cuckoo laying her egg in my nest. She has taken everything from me. She has taken everything and now she calls me to tell me that my distress is inconvenient for her?…I am going to tell her that I don’t care about her…I’m going to tell her that the line he used with her–don’t expect me to be sane–he used it with me, too, when we were first together; he wrote it in a letter to me, declaring his undying passion. It’s not even his line: he stole it from Henry Miller. Everything she has is second hand.”
My daughter was just 11 when I found out about her dad’s affair. She has her own strong opinions about her dad and the other woman which I tend to learn about indirectly. It is usually when she talks to her sister about them in my presence or when she talks to me about her best friend’s cheating dad and that other woman.
This is just the first 43 pages and I’ve read 60. The plot is thickening and the characters are developing. I promise not to reveal any spoilers.