Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

sharpMy son Connor recently purchased Sharp Objects and zipped through it in a couple days. I had the same reading experience and now I’ve read all three of Flynn’s novels. Of the three I liked Dark Places the best, though I know Flynn is most well-known known for Gone Girl. One thing I can say for sure, she sure does like damaged female protagonists.

Camille Preaker is a reporter for a third-rate Chicago paper, the Daily Post. Mostly she covers “slice-of-life” pieces, stuff her curmudgeonly editor Frank Curry hates. Then, when a young girl goes missing in Camille’s home town, Wind Gap, Missouri, Curry suggests Camille head home and see what’s the what. Camille isn’t all that fussy about going back to Wind Gap, a town she describes as “one of those crummy little towns prone to misery,” but she can’t say no to Curry, a man whose always looked out for and believed in her.

Wind Gap truly is a backwater, though, and it’s been eight years since Camille has visited. Her mother, Adora, and step-father, Alan, still live there. So does, Amma, her half-sister who is just thirteen. Then there’s the ghost of Marian, Camille’s baby sister who died many years ago.  Camille’s arrival back at the family home, “an elaborate Victorian replete with a widow’s walk, a wraparound veranda, a summer porch jutting toward the back, and a cupola arrowing out of the top” is fraught with polite tension. When Camille rings the doorbell and her mother answers, Adora actually asks if everything okay and “didn’t offer a hug at all.”

Small towns don’t change and secrets are hard to keep, but as Camille works the few connections she has in Wind Gap, another girl goes missing and Camille struggles to keep her equilibrium. Wind Gap, it seems, is filled with old ghosts, ghosts she has worked extra hard (including a stint in a psychiatric hospital) to keep at bay.

Camille is not dissimilar to the main character in Dark Places, Libby. Both are women with troubled pasts. Both are prickly and anti-social. Both are smart and resilient.  I think, ultimately, I liked the mystery in Dark Places better than the one in Sharp Objects but if you are looking for a well-written psychological page-turner, Flynn won’t disappoint, no matter which book you read.

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