by: Gillian Flynn
Camille Preaker is a journalist who goes back to her small hometown to investigate the murders of two pre-teen girls. When she does, memories she’d rather keep at bay keep resurfacing.
My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly. It was May 12 but the temperature had dipped to the forties, and after four days shivering in my shirtsleeves, I grabbed cover at a tag sale rather than dig through my boxed-up winter clothes. Spring in Chicago.
In my gunny-covered cubicle I sat staring at the computer screen. My story for the day was a limp sort of evil. Four kids, ages two through six, were found locked in a room on the South Side with a couple of tuna sandwiches and a quart of milk. They’d been left three days, flurrying like chickens over the food and feces on the carpet. Their mother had wandered off for a suck on the pipe and just forgotten. Sometimes that’s what happens. No cigarette burns, no bone snaps. Just an irretrievable slipping. I’d seen the mother after the arrest: twenty-two-year-old Tammy Davis, blonde and fat, with pink rouge on her cheeks in two perfect circles the size of shot glasses. I could imagine her sitting on a shambled-down sofa, her lips on that metal, a sharp burst of smoke. Then all was fast floating, her kids way behind, as she shot back to junior high, when the boys still cared and she was the prettiest, a glossy-lipped thirteen-year-old who mouthed cinnamon sticks before she kissed.
A belly. A smell. Cigarettes and old coffee. My editor, esteemed, weary Frank Curry, rocking back in his cracked Hush Puppies. His teeth soaked in brown tobacco saliva.
This novel is dark. If it was a person, I’d imagine it sitting on one of the local cafe’s chairs, one shaky hand holding a cigarette as the person looks away, eyes shuttered and the facial expression brooding.
This was my first Gillian Flynn novel and when I read it, I wasn’t prepared for the heavy, dark feel that seemed to emanate from each page. As I reached the end of the book, I remember feeling confused and sad. I’m not going to lie: I’m used to reading books with happy endings, triumphant endings. “Sharp Objects” ending is neither triumphant nor happy. All the more it fascinated me, drew me in for a second re-reading.
The main character, Camille Preaker, is a journalist residing in Chicago. When her boss assigns her to investigate and write an article about the Wind Gap murders, she is hesitant. She knows Wind Gap. She grew up there. Not entirely thrilled, Camille goes back to her small hometown in Missouri and immediately starts looking around for materials for her article. She talks to the locals, gets acquainted with the non-Wind Gapian detective and re-acquaints with both old high school classmates and a family friend. She finds that her mother, Adora, still maintains her pedestal in the Wind Gap community. She comes face-to-face with her estranged thirteen year-old half-sister, Amma. Beautiful, odd Amma whose relationship with Adora reduces her to becoming both fierce and vulnerable.
The longer Camille stays in Wind Gap to find out more about the murders of two pre-teen girls, the more that things from her past begin to slowly unravel. Pretty soon, all loose threads begin to weave together a picture so horrifying that Camille finds herself uncovering a secret that will shock all of Wind Gap, including herself.
There is nothing for this novel but love and awe from me. It’s dark in a way that is hushed and eerie. Sort of like when you enter an abandoned mansion and you look around and jump at the slightest sound that does not belong to you. Camille is a believable main character: flawed, lost and jaded but with a good heart. I find Adora just plain weird and disturbing. Amma comes off as strange and bitchy — a petulant child in the body of a girl well on her way to adolescence.
If you want something unusual and mysterious, haunting and dark, then I think you’d find “Sharp Objects” a good book to read. To cap it all off, here is what Stephen King has to say about it:
To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild. I haven’t read such a relentlessly creepy family saga since John Farris’s All Heads Turn as the Hunt Goes By, and that was thirty years ago, give or take. Sharp Objects isn’t one of those scare-and-retreat books; its effect is cumulative. I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then, after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights. — Stephen King