The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train Summary and Analysis of Pages 245 - 323


Things are looking up for Rachel on August 15. She prepares for an interview set up for her by Cathy; however, Scott calls in the morning to ask to meet in person to talk. After agreeing, Rachel thinks about the most recent news in Megan's case - Craig McKenzie, the father of her first child, died of a heroin overdose in Spain four years prior to her disappearance, ruling him out as a suspect. When Rachel arrives at Scott’s house, she smells sweat, beer, and something rotting. Scott summons her inside and offers her a drink, scaring and offending her with his demeanor. He reveals that DNA testing on Megan’s fetus reveals that neither Scott nor Kamal was the father of her unborn child. Scott begins to yell at and threaten Rachel, accusing her of never knowing Megan. Despairing about his lack of knowledge about his own life, Scott continues to emotionally attack Rachel, telling her that Detective Riley asked if they were in a relationship but that he responded, “standards haven’t fallen that fast” (248). When her phone beeps, both Rachel and Scott reach for her bag, spilling the contents and revealing a text on Rachel’s phone from Dr. Abdic’s practice. Scott approaches Rachel with balled fists and she ducks, feeling a familiarity in that action. Instead of hitting her though, he grips her tightly by the shoulders, accusing her of working with the police against him. He grabs her by the hair, dragging her past the front door, up the stairs, and locking her in a spare room. Rachel tries to scream but cannot and, crying, she throws up once in the room. Panicking, Rachel thinks of Megan’s injured body being pulled from the mud as she searches through the boxes in the room for something to work with. She cuts her finger and, after stemming the blood flow with her shirt, realizes that she has scraped against the broken glass of a photo of Scott and Megan. Rachel hears Scott laughing downstairs and calls out the window for help from anyone, especially Tom, and then calls for Scott. Finally, he comes back, mocking the note he has found on which Rachel wrote out potential explanations for Megan’s disappearance. He tells her, “I should break your fucking neck, but you know what, you’re just not worth the hassle” (251). He lets her leave the house, though not before once more pretending he’s going to hit her, laughing at the terror in her eyes when he does so.

Rachel barely sleeps that night, trying to quiet her mind with a bottle and a half of wine, but still awakening in terror every time she drops off to sleep. After leaving Scott, she ran to Tom’s house and left a note for him. She also called the police, getting Detective Riley who questioned her on her imprisonment in Scott’s home and her injuries before telling her that she shouldn’t have been there in the first place and inviting her to make a formal statement at the police station. Even with this stress, Rachel must prepare for her interview, so she washes her hair and gets dressed early in the morning, planning to stop by the police station first. At the police station, she gives her statement to another policeman. She takes a taxi from the police station to the interview so as not to bump into anyone she knows, especially Scott, in London, but she runs into the red-haired man and ends up joining him for a gin and tonic. As they drink, she asks him what he remembers from the night of Megan’s disappearance, admitting to him finally that she blacked out during the whole thing. He smilingly tells her, “It’s all right, you didn’t do anything bad” (256), before going into a bit more detail. They had chatted on the train and he had invited her to the pub, but she said she had to meet her husband. Half an hour later, he had walked through the underpass and saw her fallen over and bleeding, possibly having cut herself on something. He had watched with her as Tom walked away toward another woman, getting in a car with her. Back at home, Rachel thinks about this conversation, telling herself that nothing new has been revealed, but still wondering how, if neither she nor the red-haired man remember the woman carrying a baby, it could have been Anna.

The next evening, Rachel calls Tom. He tells her that he didn’t get a note and then gets upset when she brings up the night that Megan disappeared again. However, he answers her questions, telling her that Anna was at home with the baby, not in the car with him. She asks about the cut on her head and he taunts her about being drunk, ending the conversation by telling her not to call anymore. Rachel sits in the living room watching TV all night, alternately feeling fear and strength. Again she is startled awake every time she tries to sleep, this time hearing Tom’s taunts in her head, thinking about other times she has blacked out and been told what happened by Tom. Then, suddenly, as she drifts off to sleep, she has a vivid memory: “I was in the underpass and he was coming towards me, one slap across the mouth and then his fist raised, keys in hand, searing pain as the serrated metal smashed down against my skull” (262).

The narration returns to Anna, crying on Saturday evening after a fight with Tom about Rachel. Anna had found Rachel’s note and threw it out, not mentioning it to Tom, and he yelled at her for going through his mail, accusing her of being like Rachel. Tom left, saying he was going to the gym. Anna drinks half a bottle of red wine and starts attempting to log into his computer again. She cracks the password, “Blenheim” (265), and finds only boring work emails to sift through. Deciding to make up with Tom, Anna plans to put on some lingerie and put new sheets on the bed, but as she strips off the old sheets she realizes that Tom’s gym bag is still at home. Worrying that he could be in bed with another woman, especially Rachel, she rifles through the gym bag and finds a mobile phone she has never seen before. She attempts to turn the phone on but it is dead; she tries to convince herself that this is good news, meaning the phone isn’t used or is potentially just an old relic. However, she goes downstairs and finds the charger that works for the phone, plugging it in and waiting for enough charge to turn it on. Once on, she finds about a dozen cryptic text messages, mostly dates and times. The texts reach back almost a year, to when Evie was six months old, and though Anna acknowledges that this was a time when she was tired and they were not having sex, she cannot imagine him cheating on her during such a meaningful time in their lives. She attempts to compare the dates of the texts to her log of times Rachel contacted them, finding no real correlation. Still fretting about whether he could have kept up the ruse of hating Rachel while secretly sleeping with her, Anna cleans up, putting the log and mobile phone in her bedside table. She drinks another glass of wine downstairs. Tom comes home drunk, sheepishly saying that he forgot his gym bag so he went to the pub. He says that she looks guilty, but before she can protest or ask him anything, he undresses her and turns her around, initiating sex that she doesn’t want to consent to. In the middle of the night, Anna has an idea and takes the secret phone downstairs with her and then outside. She calls the phone’s voice mail but it is empty, and then she thinks to listen to the voice mail greeting - what others would hear when they call to leave a message. “Hi, it’s me, leave a message” (269), the recorded message says, and Anna listens again and again because “it’s her voice” (269).

The narration returns to Rachel on early Sunday morning. She says that one memory has led to the next. Not only has she remembered Tom attacking her in the underpass, but she has come to recall many brief, vivid memories from times she was blackout drunk but had heretofore banished from her mind because they didn’t line up with the story Tom told her the next day. Confused about what to do but desiring action, Rachel gets dressed. She calls Tom and Anna’s house and then Detective Riley, getting no response from the first call and hanging up herself before the detective can pick up. Returning to the memory of Tom hitting her, another part of the memory suddenly becomes clear to Rachel - the woman she saw was never Anna in a blue dress, but Megan wearing jeans and a red T-shirt.

Anna takes over the narration, concurrent to Rachel’s most recent narration. Anna throws Megan’s mobile phone over the fence and nearly to the train tracks. Tom has woken up and come down to check on her, saying that the phone rang. He seems to believe her when she says she was simply woken up by hearing something outside, and he kisses her and tries to get her to come back to bed. However, when she says she’d rather just have some coffee, he grips her tightly, telling her, “I’m not taking no for an answer” (274).

The narration switches back to Rachel, who has come to Anna and Tom’s house. She rings the doorbell, feeling almost hysterical; when nobody comes to the door, she goes around to the back patio. Instead of being angry or shocked, Anna simply greets Rachel, pulling her child closer. She tells Rachel that Tom has gone out for an “army boys get-together” (276).

The narration switches again to Anna as she laughs at Rachel's proposal to leave together. Anna lets her mind wander, thinking about other times Tom may have lied to her about being at the gym, and Rachel pulls her back to reality by questioning whether Anna has ever met any of Tom's supposed army buddies. Anna makes Rachel coffee and then Rachel digs deeper, probing whether Anna has ever met Tom's parents and saying the disconnect couldn't be due to the divorce because she never met them either. Anna attempts to offend Rachel at every turn, but Rachel persists, telling Anna that they both know Tom was having an affair with Megan and probably murdered her. Rachel reveals to Anna that Megan was pregnant and she questions whether the child was his. Though Anna is upset, even letting Rachel comfort her as she cries, she says that she will not leave Tom and continues to say that they don't know anything for sure. Suddenly, Rachel sees Tom at the kitchen window, watching the two women together.

The narration switches to Megan on the morning before her disappearance. She anguishes about finding out she is pregnant again, both terrified and determined not to give up this child. She calls Kamal to talk things over and at this point the integral scene witnessed by Rachel through the train window is shown from the other side. Kamal brings Megan a cup of coffee outside and kisses her. After a sleepless night, Megan decides to tell Scott about the baby and her affair. However, when she tries to start with the bad news, Scott throws the photograph of them at her and chokes her against a wall. Thoughts of telling him about the baby leave her as she decides she can't stay the night there. She goes to a shoe box in her closet and gets out a mobile phone. She calls "his number" (291) and, after getting voice mail, sends him a text message saying that she needs to meet him urgently. She thinks briefly about the beginning of their affair: him popping by the gallery to flirt and then the two meeting up one day after running into each other on the street. At first it was casual for both, but when Megan started to have feelings for him, he began to pull away. She leaves another message for him, this time through voice mail, saying that she will come to his house if he does not respond to her. Megan storms out of the house, telling Scott not to follow her, and leaves another message saying to meet her in the park. Just past Witney station, Megan sees him, Tom, coming toward her, already enraged and beckoning her into the car. In the dark of the underpass, Megan can tell that someone is watching them go.

The narration returns to Rachel, Anna, and Tom's confrontation. When Rachel accuses Tom of killing Megan, saying that she saw them together, he tries his usual technique of breaking down her story and her confidence by pointing to her drunkenness. Anna wavers, not knowing what to believe, and she tells Tom that she found the phone and asks him not to lie to her. When Evie starts to cry, Tom takes her away, comforting her. He tries to explain the affair to Anna, speaking about his meetings with Megan in a way callous to both Anna and Rachel. Anna suddenly leaps up, demanding Tom give the baby to her, causing the baby to start to wail. Rachel takes Anna outside to calm her down and tells her to distract Tom while she calls the police. Anna goes inside and Rachel takes out her phone, but Tom kicks her in the back before she can fully dial the number. Taking her phone, Tom drags Rachel into the house and locks the door.

The narration skips back to Megan and Tom in the park. At first he is bored, thinking she wants to have sex. However, when she brings up the child, he switches from making fun of her to telling her to "get rid of it" (304). She is steadfast about having the baby and begins to yell insults and scratch him because of his total dismissal. He attacks her with something in his hand. Reciting the same nursery rhyme in her head as earlier in the story, Megan's consciousness fades; the last thing she hears is "Now look what you made me do" (304).

Back in the living room of Anna and Tom's house, the three sit in the living room drinking tea. When Anna says that she needs to change Evie, Tom will not even let her go upstairs. When prompted, Tom starts to talk about why he killed Megan, blaming it on her and then on Rachel for getting in the way that night. He takes the baby from Anna again and goes to get a beer; when Rachel tries to make a run for the door, he hits her in the back of the head with the bottle and then pulls her by the hair back into the room, still holding his child. He tells Anna to go up into the bedroom with the baby and she does so as Tom drags Rachel further and she blacks out.

The narration switches to Anna, who comes downstairs and sees Tom drinking a beer at the kitchen table with Rachel lying nearby. Anna drinks a beer with him, talking and even kissing. Instead of going back upstairs, Anna takes the phone with her and waits nearby.

Half an hour later, Rachel wakes up and resumes her narration. Tom helps Rachel get up and presses himself against her; she tells him that she loves him and that she won't tell anyone, sobbing. He makes fun of her for thinking they had a chance together the day that they talked at the lake and then kisses her, pressing against her sexually this time. While they kiss, Rachel thinks about the organization of the kitchen. Slipping her hand into a drawer, Rachel finds what she is looking for. Choosing a moment when Tom is surprised, Rachel pushes him backwards, stomps on his foot, knees him in the face, and then, when he follows her as she runs out the back door, she raises the corkscrew she has grabbed and twists it into his neck. Looking up, Rachel sees the faces of people on the train going by.

Rachel finishes the story by resuming her narration a month later. Both house number fifteen and number twenty-three are now empty. On that night, Anna called the police and vouched for Rachel fighting in self-defense. Rachel decides to travel and visit the graves of Megan and Libby. She emails an apology to Scott and, though she craves a glass of wine, comments that she is on her longest dry spell in years - three weeks. Rachel walks on a strip of beach in Holkham, where she is staying, but gets scared by the feeling that something is coming for her and runs all the way back to the harbor. In the hotel room, she takes only water and nuts from the mini-bar and sits thinking about how Anna acted after Rachel drove the corkscrew into him; she had gone over to him and instead of helping him, seemed to twist the corkscrew even deeper while talking softly to him. Rachel gets into bed and tries to sleep, though she knows she will still have nightmares, saying that she'll have to get up early to catch the train.


As Rachel's memories begin to flood back, Hawkins must maintain the suspense of whether memories later recalled from a time of blackout or repression can be regarded as valid when action must be taken. This is done through the fragmentary nature of Rachel's memories as well as the significant misremembering of the color of the woman's clothes. While she remembers a blue dress and a black belt, even seeing this image in a dream, she later realizes that Megan was wearing a completely different outfit - a red shirt and jeans. Thus, while pieces fall into place for Tom as the murderer, the reader must still harbor doubts about Rachel's reliability as a narrator.

As the plot thickens toward the climax, Hawkins begins switching quickly between Rachel and Anna's views of the situation, no longer contrasting them so much as using the two women, both who have problems disentangling themselves from Tom's charms, to give the feeling of ensnaring and being ensnared by Tom.

With Hawkins's emphasis on motherhood throughout the book, an extended moment of particular terror at the end of the story is Tom's interactions with Evie. Perhaps even playing upon her own heavily female readership, Hawkins contrasts his sweet, soothing behavior with the little girl to his callous treatment of the other women in his life.

Rachel becomes something of a hero in her final fight with Tom, a scene that allows them to symbolically grapple with the problems in their marriage. While he attempts to pull her back under his spell, rubbing himself against her even while insulting her, Rachel's sober mind is able to deal with the painful fact of her home's reorganization and to use her wits against him, finding an implement with which to channel her vengeance. The corkscrew itself, her weapon of choice, is of course rife with symbolism. In attacking and killing Tom with a corkscrew, Rachel at once confronts and overcomes the two major forces holding her back in life: her attachment to her failed marriage and her drinking problem. This action, though taken in self-defense, sets her up to take control over her life by becoming sober and moving away.

The story ends on a hopeful yet realistic note, with Rachel narrating candidly, "Eventually, I suppose, the nightmares will stop and I'll stop replaying it over and over in my head, but right now I know that there's a long night ahead" (323). Hawkins treats mental health delicately throughout the book, recognizing the importance of past experience to one's present and future behavior, and ends on a strong note about the difficult but possible road to recovery for Rachel and Anna.