Admittedly late to the phenomenon that is Gillian Flynn, I decided to start with her first novel, Sharp Objects. Her debut novel is no slacker in the thriller genre and she tackles not one, but two tough mental health issues in a sensitive manner, allowing the reader to sympathize with the main character.
Flynn has created a flawed, often unlikable narrator that one can empathize with even as the reader shudders at the life she returns to and teeters on the edge of falling into her own past. Camille, a Chicago reporter fresh off a stint in a mental health facility, is asked to return to her hometown to report on a murder of a young girl. Her relationship with her mother and the death of her own sister wear on her fragile stability as she pries open the small town silence that as a young girl and teen left her seeking a way out from its oppression.
The world of Sharp Objects is rich in details and nails a certain small-town, ‘mean-girl’ existence. Camille isn’t welcomed with open arms and the deeper into her own past she goes as she interviews and questions people about not one, but two recent murders — including her mother’s connections to the victims, the more she teeters on the edge of personal disaster.
Flynn goes where some authors won’t, looking at the dark side of everyday people struggling with the burdens of family and place. This is not a book for those who don’t want to observe pain closely. Camille confronts her own demons in graphic, raw, unflinching language. Her relationship with the mother is a study in everything that can be wrong with parents. Whether we dislike the mother because of Camille’s portrait of her, or because there may be something darker lurking beneath the surface is one of the key questions of the novel.
Sharp Objects maintained a dark, creepy mood throughout and doled out the action, reactions, and clues at a good pace, but, the flaw in the book: Flynn’s telegraphed ending, which weakened the suspense. The foreshadowing and hints Flynn gave were a bit too clear to keep me guessing; her red-herring, not red enough to make me second guess myself. Instead of suspense, had Flynn fleshed out these same details dramatic irony could have replaced the intended suspense. Either way, it didn’t challenge enough.
Despite that flaw, it was a better than average read — strong, well-drawn characters, multi-sensory imagery, and the blunt, unflinching language. Based on Sharp Objects, I’m looking forward to reading her other novels.
Check out my reading stats for this novel: Reading Stats: Sharp Objects