It wasn’t hard for me to determine that Sharp Objects (2006) is the creepiest and most disturbing of Gillian Flynn’s novels to date. And that’s saying a lot. Although I believe Flynn’s writing improves in her future books, I was impressed and disturbed by her ability to create a setting so dark and haunting. Camille Preaker, is a 30-something, struggling reporter in Chicago when her editor sends her back to her tiny hometown to cover the potentially sensational disappearance of an adolescent girl–shortly after another girl was found murdered. Camille reluctantly heads back to her childhood home to stay with her mother, step-father, and her 13-year-old half-sister while she reports on the investigation
It is clear from the start that Camille comes from a dysfunctional family and struggles with detrimental, addictive behavior. However, Flynn takes her time in giving us the details, so it is well into the book before we really understand her situation. This could get a little frustrating and confusing in the beginning of the book, and the writing sometimes felt jerky–especially compared to Flynn’s other novels. However, I quickly became so immersed in all of these horrible characters peopling this small town, that it didn’t bother me for long.
And that’s what I remember most about this novel. There was not one character that I really liked. I sympathized with Camille, and I couldn’t imagine living in her situation, but it stressed me out to spend most of the book cringing at her decisions. My inner monologue was a looping stream of, “Oh God, don’t do that. Please stop. Don’t do that. Ugh.” The entire town was a cesspool of humanity that had forgotten basic kindness and normal social interactions. And the area was so small and isolated that a healthy outside influence was impossible. “It was a town that bred complacency through cable TV and a convenience store.” The way people treated each other was horrifying. There were strict judgments about money, class, and sex, yet nasty bullying and psychopathic behavior were simply accepted.
Yet, even though this novel gave me nightmares for about a week, Flynn is an intense, unique writer and I’d recommend Sharp Ojbects to anyone who doesn’t mind the darkness and dysfunction.
As the title implies, Camille dealt with her early childhood trauma by cutting herself. She cut words that were haunting her into every inch of her skin except for one perfect circle in the middle of her back that she could never reach. Fresh out of rehab, and free from cutting–if not the impulse–for the first time since she was a teenager, Camille has to face the reasons she began cutting in the first place as well as trying to live with the literal scars of her past.
When Camille begins to date a big-city detective brought in to help with the investigation, she hides her scars from him. As much as it disturbs me to say I relate to Camille, I understand the feeling of fearing intimacy with someone because there are things you don’t like about yourself that will be shared as you get closer. Camille’s situation is similar but brought to an incredible extreme. And I felt so bad for her because she can’t outgrow her past. She will always be hiding her scars. As long as she dresses carefully, Camille is a remarkably attractive woman, but you look a little closer and she’s turned herself into something of a disfigured monster.
And that brings me to the one point of the book I found hard to accept. I couldn’t figure out how Richard, a smart and intuitive detective, could date and have sex with Camille without observing or figuring out that she was a cutter. Her entire body is covered in scars, which often creep up near her sleeves and neckline. Did he never wonder why Camille always wore so much clothing in the heat of summer? Why she never let him touch her? How do you even have sex with that much clothing and that little touching? Even if he wasn’t much interested in her, she is the key to his murder suspect and you’d think he’d want to understand her better.
Please find the rest of my reviews here.