Sharp Objects: A Novel

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn I love a good psychological thriller with disturbingly flawed characters and this book did not disappoint. The main character is a woman struggling to make a life for herself, fleeing her childhood and really, fleeing her mother when she is sent back to her home town as an investigative reporter. She is tasked to report on the gruesome murders of two pre-teen girls, but in the process she gets put right back in the middle of her messed up family dynamics, her small town’s social structure, and a potential romance. Ms. Flynn nails perfectly small Midwest town life. A quote in her description of small town life, “Like all rural towns, Wind Gap has an obsession with machinery. Most homes own a car and a half for every occupant, plus boats, Jet Skis, scooters, tractors, and among the elite of Wind Gap, golf cars, which younger kids without licenses use to whip around town.”Ms. Flynn makes some disturbing observations about parenting and family life – and ties them in to premature death:As to the death of a young girl, “it’s the only way to truly keep your child. Kids grow up, they forge more potent allegiances. They find a spouse or a lover. They will not be buried with you. The Keenes, however will remain the purest form of family. Underground.”The situations described in this book are exceptional, but she breaks the image of small rural life as being ideal. Terrifying violence and dysfunction lurks beneath the surface and I have to say, she nailed it in terms of describing my small rural home town. As Flynn writes, the idealic quality of small towns is false. A question is – should people go home once they have fled extreme unhappiness? Can they go home and survive it emotionally? Going home almost undoes Camille and as the story is told the readers see from a disturbing first person angle, Camille’s personal psychological problems and the extent of her damage. It was terrifying to read about, but I could not put the book down.A truly horrifying image of the protagonist’s mother: “I remember my mother, alone in the living room, staring at the child almost lasciviously. She pressed her lips hard against the baby’s apple slice of a cheek. Then she opened her mouth just slightly, took a tiny bit of flesh between her teeth, and gave it a little bite.” A question I had was, what was Ms. Flynn’s message in this? Small rural towns are messed up? Family dynamics can really screw people up? Old school social hierarchies breed disturbing people? I did find it interesting that the men in this story, save one, are thoroughly disappointing and that the evil, cruel and shallow women are images of beauty and physically were ultra feminine in terms of how our society defines such things. The violence that happens to women and girls happens on the brink of girls becoming women, and the things done to them shaving the girls legs, fixing their hair, painting their nails are superficial ways femininity have has been defined in our modern culture. And finally, the evil doers are the ultra beautiful, the ultra coiffed, and the ultra physical female ideals . What comment is Flynn making on images of women, female sexuality and femininity in modern US culture? I am asking because I have not yet decided what the answer is.I recommend this book for people who enjoy dark psychological thrillers, where the mystery and murder are just set ups for authors to portray dark disturbing characters and fully fleshed but damaging relationships. I would say fans of Tana French, Donna Tartt, and Laura Kasischke would enjoy this book, but beware, it is not for the faint hearted – the decryptions of physical violence can be upsetting.