Sharp Objects is Gillian Flynn’s debut novel. Gillian Flynn, of course, wrote Gone Girl, and, like when I read Gone Girl, my Harry Burns Tendencies reared their shaggy, bug-eyed head and yes, I read the end of the book first. Look, on the one hand, I feel it’s a testament to Ms. Flynn’s writing style that I become so intrigued with the plot and the suspense that I want to know the resolution so quickly that I am compelled to scan ahead for clues. On the other hand … I have got to stop doing that.
Before I even get into the plot, I do need to say this: this book? Is not a happy playtime of a book. The plot is well-written, and the resolution makes everything enjoyable, but dear Jesus – this is not a happy book.
This book contains the following triggers:
– Suicidal thoughts
– Münchausen syndrome by proxy (I don’t even care that that is a spoiler, y’all should be aware of that going in)
Firstly, the protagonist and our narrator, Camille Preaker, is a former cutter. She spent some time in an institution to overcome her addiction to cutting and depression, and she is still fighting those impulses when this story begins.
One of the things that not many people don’t know about me – mainly because it rarely comes up in conversation – is that I have a very active imagination. Meaning, when I read about something happening, I can sometimes even experience a phantom pain, almost. Or even watching a movie. One of my favorite movies is The Royal Tenenbaums. And the scene where Luke Wilson’s character shaves off his beard and then uses the same razor on his wrists – to this day, I cannot listen to “Needle in the Hay” without some phantom pain crawling around the inside of my own wrists. This paragraph I just wrote? I had to hold my wrists together a couple of times while I was writing it.
I can’t explain how or why this happens to me, but it does. So to hear detailed descriptions of how Camille would cut not just lines, but whole words onto her skin? Oh god — shivers, and not the good kind. There was one point where I had to put the book down and walk away, and then skip a couple of pages when I picked it up again.
I mean, kudos to Ms. Flynn for being able to create descriptions so visceral that they manifest themselves. But seriously, not a happy book.
Camille has flown to her home town of Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on the murders of two small girls in the town. Camille went to college and became a journalist in part to escape from her mother, Adora, who she felt never truly loved her. Part of that lack of love stemmed from the death of her younger sister, Marian, who died after a long illness. Camille doesn’t want to return to Wind Gap, but the idea of getting a jump on a national news story, as well as making her father-figure boss proud of her, compels her to make the drive.
It is just as awkward-awful as you’d think. Adora welcomes Camille into her house, but wants to know how long she’s staying. Camille spends every night drinking herself to sleep to stop the voices in her head. She cozies up to the police force and the special investigator sent by the Kansas City police force in an attempt to build her story; meanwhile, she keeps running into old high school friends who have all married and had children and resent their small-town life, whereas Camille resents the family they’ve been able to build.
Camille attempts to rebuild the relationship between herself and Adora and Amma, her preteen half-sister. Amma at first holds herself above and apart from Camille, but they bond eventually. Adora and Camille never really connect.
Aaaand I think that’s all I can say about this book without revealing some key points. (You can probably figure one out by one of the trigger warnings I posted above.)
Look, if you can get through this without wincing, good on you. While I appreciate that Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer – and admire her for being able to write in and on such dark subject matter – I don’t think I’ll reread this book. It was just too … not happy.
Grade for Sharp Objects: 3.5 stars