I just finished reading The Girl On the Train. If you haven’t read it yet, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will give you a brief idea of the story: Rachel is our main narrator, and she’s a divorced alcoholic who we soon realize we can’t trust. She rides the train to and from work every day, and when the train stops at this one signal every day, she watches this young couple at their home. She’s built up a life for this couple in her mind, giving them names, jobs, qualities and a relationship that she thinks they have based on this brief glimpse of them. Soon, something happens to shatter her fantasy about them. The rest of the book is spent hearing Rachel, Megan, and Anna tell us little bits and pieces of their stories, how they all connect and what’s really happened.
I’ve also been watching the new show on ABC, Secrets and Lies. This one is the tale of a father and husband who goes for a jog one morning and comes across the body of a young boy – a young boy who lived across the street, who his oldest daughter babysat. The detective investigating decides that he’s guilty and is determined to prove it. As the show continues with each episode, we learn a little more about the secrets and lies between the various characters on the show.
I love these kinds of books and shows. I love trying to figure out who’s guilty, who’s not, what happened, why it happened, and why people who didn’t commit the main crime are hiding things and feeling guilty.
But as I tried to sleep after finishing the book, I started thinking. Most of us aren’t dealing with being accused of killing a young boy that we watched grow up, or trying to figure out the secrets of a young, married couple we see every day on our way to work. But we do all keep our own secrets. Maybe the secret is just that you’re terrified your child will be kidnapped from their bedroom in the night, or that you’re afraid of the dark. Or maybe it’s a bigger secret, like the child you fathered when you cheated on your wife or the bump you felt one night driving home but never stopped to check out. Some people even try to reinvent themselves – moving from one town or state to another and attempting to change their entire personality, their thoughts, opinions and values.
No matter how honest we might be, or claim to be, we all keep secrets. And I think that might be part of the appeal of books like The Girl On the Train and shows like Secrets and Lies. They allow us to see what happens when those secrets and lies get out of control – yet we’re still safe and out of harm’s way. They also allow us to feel better about our own secrets and lies – we’re not the one being accused of the horrific crime in the show or the book, so obviously we can’t be that bad, right?
Of course, there’s also that “I’m so much better than him/her”, too. We watch the show, or read the book, and the character is doing something really, incredibly, unbelievably stupid. In our heads, we scream, “Oh my god, you moron! Do you not realize how stupid you’re being?! You’re making things worse!” We tell ourselves that if we were in that situation, we would be so much smarter, and we wouldn’t make things worse like the character is doing.
What do you think?