Man, I’d love to know what Gillian Flynn thinks about right before she falls asleep.
Sharp Objects was her debut novel and my favorite of the three (the others being Gone Girl and Dark Places). The story unfolds over a couples of weeks from the first person point of view of Camille Preaker. She is a journalist in Chicago and a recovering cutter who is sent back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on the murders of two young girls. The incidents happened nine months apart, but based on the fact that both girls were strangled and their teeth were removed post-mortem, police think the crimes are connected.
Camille is anything but prepared to go home. She grew up unloved and promiscuous, living in the shadow of her middle sister’s early death, counting the minutes until she could leave for college and a life far, far away. Wind Gap is the kind of small town that cannot keep its people in check. Gossip, secrets, fraught with the kind of boredom that breeds drugs, alcohol, and abuse of all kinds. Camille faces everyone and everything with hesitation – former friends who feign interest, locations that hold ferocious memories, and the ever-present cold rejection from her mother. There’s also the bewildering behavior of her youngest sister, a half-sister, who behaves one way at home and another way when she’s out. It’s Crazytown.
There’s very little I can say without getting deep into the plot. At 250 pages, it’s a quick read and the pace is stellar. The characters are ripe, a few being the epitome of a psychopath by possessing a trio of perverse behaviors: sexual deviance, cruelty to animals, lack of empathy. Sharp Objects is vulgar in every way. It exposes the way we hurt ourselves to gain sympathy, the way we hurt others to relieve our own pain, and the way we rationalize warped behavior because we’re desperate.
A quick note: By page 48, I knew the guilty ones. On page 195, Camille had figured it partially. Neither Camille nor I knew exactly how the crimes played out until the very end.
Flynn writes in a way that leaves nothing out, nor does she add what’s unnecessary. We are brought to the point on every page and strung along with her garish and graphic language. In Sharp Objects, I’m reminded of Chuck Palahniuk. It’s not full-on Chuck Palahniuk, but it’s a whiff. There is plucking, gouging, scraping, and, of course, cutting.
For those who want a peek into that world, I highly recommend this book.