Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Sharp Objects--I'm still creeped out

Sharp Objects
Gillian Flynn
Shaye Areheart Books
Source: bought
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Camille is fresh out of a psychiatric hospital when her editor wants to send her back to her hometown to cover the disappearance of a little girl and the death of another one.  Despite her misgivings and reluctance to return, she does it, knowing this could be her big break.  Camille quickly finds herself pulled back into the crazy that is her family and the town in which she grew up. In order to get the story, she allows herself to sink into this unsolved mystery, and the further she’s pulled along in the search for the murderer, the more Camille learns about her town, her family, and herself.  The question is, will she be able to do this and keep herself together.

Warning:  There are some spoilers here, but I do not give away any major twists or the ending.  

Camille’s character is interesting, but not as intelligent as Flynn's Nick and Amy from Gone Girl. So don't go in expecting the same type of characters as before, or even the same level of writing.  I found it important to remember that this was her first novel and she has grown from here to what we saw in Gone Girl. So if you’re reading Sharp Objects after Gone Girl, like I did, just remind yourself of this.

From the beginning you can tell Camille is anxious about seeing her mother, especially since her boss expects her to stay there instead of getting her a place to stay.  She drives around town when she first gets there, talking to the victim’s family, having a few drinks, checking with the local police, and having a few more drinks before she arrives at her mother’s door.  The way she worries, leads me to think she’s young, just out of college, anxious about displeasing her mother.  But she's in her thirties and whenever her mother is around she seems to be high school again.  They go shopping in one scene and Camille turns into a whiny, stressed out little girl who is trying to keep her excitement over spending time with her mother at bay.  Her mother, Adora, however revels in Camille’s anxiety and stress.  This is how she feels power.  I wish I could have seen more of how Camille acted and spoke before she went back to her hometown to see if this was just her normal.

Another thing that intrigued me was Camille’s obsession with skin. She is particularly focused on her 13 year-old half-sister’s skin and youth.  Amma’s skin is young, and “so smooth and tawny, like warm ice cream (136).”  She notices how “her face so perfect” seems “unfinished (114).”   And when she’s around Amma and her friends, she feels “confronted with that smooth flesh (151).”  This makes sense when we learn that Camille has been cutting herself since she was a teenager, and this is why she was in a psychiatric hospital recently.  Her own skin is covered with the scars of words she has carved all over her body. Flynn lets us feel the pain that Camille associates with all her scars when she says that the words on her skin are screaming (150) and that her skin buzzes.  It’s as if her scars are speaking, whispering their secrets--not just to us, but Camille.  And there are so many secrets!  Camille deals with those secrets not by cutting, she has promised herself not again, but by drinking herself into a daze that numbs her world a little bit, but not quite enough.

Although I guessed the killer pretty much from the beginning, there were a number of twists and turns that gave me a run for my money.  I was intrigued by the mystery and how things kept building and building to this dark, ugly, arrow that pointed to the truth.  Be prepared to be creeped out by all the characters in this book, even the minor characters who have a kind of Stepford feel to them.  The whole town has an eerie covering of sugary sweetness that you’ll find yourself cringing more than you’d like.  

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