Gone Girl was #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list for eight weeks. It was also twenty-six weeks on National Public Radio's hardcover fiction bestseller list. Culture writer Dave Itzkoff wrote that the novel was, excepting books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, the biggest literary phenomenon of 2012. By the end of its first year in publication, Gone Girl had sold over two million copies in print and digital editions, according to the book's publisher.
Gone Girl has been widely praised in numerous publications including the New Yorker, New York Times, Time, Publishers Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Chatelaine, People Magazine, and USA Today. Reviewers express admiration for the novel's suspense, a plot twist involving an unreliable narrator, its psychological dimension, and its examination of a marriage that has become corrosive. Entertainment Weekly describes it as "an ingenious and viperish thriller". The New Yorker describes it as a "mostly well-crafted novel", praising its depiction of an "unraveling" marriage and a "recession-hit Midwest" while finding its conclusion somewhat "outlandish".
The New York Times likens Gillian Flynn to acclaimed suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith. Gone Girl, the Times goes on to say, is Flynn's "dazzling breakthrough", adding that the novel is "wily, mercurial, subtly layered and populated by characters so well imagined that they’re hard to part with." A USA Today review focuses on bookseller enthusiasm for the book, quoting a Jackson, Mississippi store manager saying "It will make your head spin off." People Magazine's review found the novel "a delectable summer read" that burrows "deep into the murkiest corners of the human psyche". A Chatelaine review commends the novel's suspense, its intricately detailed plot and the way it keeps the reader "unnervingly off balance".
Many reviewers have noted the difficulty of writing about Gone Girl, because so little in the first half of the novel is what it seems to be. In his Time review, Lev Grossman describes the novel as a "house of mirrors". He also writes "Its content may be postmodern, but it takes the form of a thoroughbred thriller about the nature of identity and the terrible secrets that can survive and thrive in even the most intimate relationships."
In an article in Salon.com, Laura Miller laments that Gone Girl was conspicuously absent from the winning ranks of prestigious literary awards like the National Book Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize. The same article argues that Gone Girl was snubbed because it belongs to the mystery genre. Judges awarding top literary prizes "have all refrained from honoring any title published within the major genres". Gone Girl was chosen for the inaugural Salon What To Read Awards (2012). The novel has also been short-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Natasha Walter, one of the Women's Prize judges in 2013, told the Independent that there was considerable debate amongst the judges about the inclusion of Gone Girl in the finalists' circle. Walter indicated that crime fiction is often "overlooked" by those in a position to make literary commendations.