On the Cutting Edge

Author: Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects Cover

Sharp Objects Cover

You can’t go home again, right?  Or maybe you just don’t want to.  Camille Preaker falls into that second category.  Unfortunately for her, the murder of one little girl and the disappearance of another have her Chicago newspaper editor boss sending her back to Wind Gap, Missouri.  Camille escaped years ago and is about to discover, much to her dismay, that in some towns very little changes with the passage of time.  Sharp Objects tells the story of Camille’s return to the home in which she was raised by her mother and step-father, the cases of the murdered and missing girls and Camille’s struggle to deal with a painful past.

Author Gillian Flynn not only weaves a masterful (if slightly predictable) plot in Sharp Objects – you can definitely see hints of the brilliant plot twisting she more fully employs in the bestselling Gone Girl – she also gives us an amazingly full, complex and sympathetic heroine in Camille.  This was her first novel and it’s a home-run debut.

One of the most frequent criticisms I hear about Gone Girl is that it’s hard to like the characters.  Not so in Sharp Objects.  Camille is deeply, deeply flawed and damaged, but she’s fundamentally a good person.  She does a few stupid things, but they’re never of the “don’t go in that basement!” variety.  Instead, her mistakes are far more symptomatic of her internal struggles than any measure of stupidity.  She is a smart woman – she’s just being overwhelmed by an enormous past.

The secondary characters are not as well developed, of course, but both Camille’s mother Adora and her half sister Amma come to life in stunning small portraits of dysfunction.  Small town police and a visiting FBI agent thwart Camille’s attempts to get a story that she thinks will prove to her boss that she deserves her job – and will get her the hell out of town.  Old friends prove that Wind Gap is just as toxic as when she left.

Gillian Flynn writes intelligently – giving us a full picture of how badly Camille struggles with her demons when forced back to her troubled roots.  Past and present come together in ways that make twisted sense and leave the reader desperately hoping that this fragile, damaged woman can make it out of this poisonous town for a second time.  The thriller elements are tight, disturbing and pulled together with skill and elegance.

Overall, Sharp Objects is not as absolutely brilliantly plotted as Gone Girl, but the main character has so much depth and complexity that she’s utterly captivating.  An excellent debut novel from Gillian Flynn – 4 ½ stars out of 5 and highly recommended.

— S. Millinocket

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