I had a hard time when I first started reading Sharp Objects because it was very dark. Not only about what was going on in the little town, but also what you learned of the main characters life and how she coped in her troubled childhood. Once you get past, or get used to, that darkness, this book becomes a carwreck that you cannot peel your eyes away from. From the start, it plummets into a black hole and you hope you come out unscathed. Full of twists!
Content warnings: Self-harm, parental abuse, mentions of rape, underage sex and recreational drugs For this review, I thought it would be better to place the content warnings at the start since most of what will be discussed concerns those things. Sharp Objects is a murder mystery in genre, but it is also a complicated story about parental abuse. Camille, who is back in her hometown after a long time, is a reporter who is covering the latest murder with the possibility of being a serial. Her being back brings back a lot of uncomfortable memories and emotions, with her mother Adora being at the heart of it. From the start, it is evident that their relationship is strained and much of it being the death of Camille’s younger sister Marian, who died when she was in her teens. Now, there is another teenage daughter, Amma, who is good at being Adora’s little doll, and together this mother-daughter duo sets off all creep alarms. While Camille is investigating the crime, she is also trying to stop herself from going back to old habits. Through clues, it becomes quite evident even before it is revealed, that she used to cut herself. More specifically, words, and some of them relate to what situation she is in. Coming back to the place which birthed the compulsion itself is not a good idea for Camille, who is mostly self-medicating with alcohol in hopes of keeping her demons at bay. She doesn’t engage in relationships out of shame for her past and her scars, but the officer sent to investigate takes an interest in her. Over the course of the investigation, they get closer, but Camille’s fear is that he might not understand. Meanwhile, she is also developing a sort-of relationship with her estranged younger sister, who she hasn’t seen for years and is equally mean and clingy to her. Amma is thirteen, but girl, she has a list of sins a mile long, starting with bullying. What mostly stood out in the story for me is how often parental abuse can be much more insidious that just beating up the kid. There are parents who neglect, parents who hurt, and some that do both, but in different ways. Camille’s childhood was no picnic, with a mother who was more focused on the younger, sicker daughter, and a step-father who treated her cordially but without any love. Amma gets the attention that Camille was deprived, but the way it comes is enough to warp her, too. It also provides a commentary on how girls are expected to behave, and how they are not seen as capable of vicious things. It is overall, though, quite horrifying to read through, especially with the parts about self-harm. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted, or for people for whom the content could be triggering.
25 people found this review helpful
In Sharp Objects, the main character, Camille, is a reporter on assignment in her home town trying to put together a story for the murder of two little girls. Shielding herself with nonchalance and booze, she comes full circle to a town that hasn’t changed, an undeniable mirror that proves she hasn’t either. Gillian Flynn capitalizes on Camille’s coping skills which gives Sharp Objects an interesting tone. Readers aren’t made to feel a certain way, as dissonant music attempts to do in a movie. Gillian Flynn shocks readers with information, lays it out ambivalently, and in that way her story drives the turning of pages. Camille’s apathy in the face of utter dysfunction allows the audience to be morbid observers, freak doctor spectators, of her life. Along the way, Camille’s fussy mother must be dealt with, perhaps the source of Camille’s rebellious nonchalance, as well her stepfather and two sisters, one dead and one very much alive. These characters were developed well, a memory here, an odd acting out there, until the audience didn’t end up with a list of their attributes so much as a resultant feeling about them. Although the plot was non-linear it somehow read as linear. There were subplots, childhood recollections, and foreshadowing. However, Camille seemed to live on repeat: meet with the big city detective one day, explore body dump sites the next, interview locals another, then wake up and explore body dump sites again. It carries on this way until the last ninety or so pages and there was only one thing that kept me from putting the book down, and it’s something that Gillian Flynn is a master at. She absolutely nails human nature. Any plot issues, which were already slight, become insignificant from her brilliant portrayal of what unaddressed tragedy and trauma does to the mind and body. How it plays out in insidious ways, how social and familial dysfunction knows no class or demographic, and how inevitably, what we use to numb will eventually give way to our true feelings. There was denied love that surfaced as cruel acts, fleeting safety, and possibly a glimpse of healing. Sharp Objects impales its story right into the gut, drawing out emotion and sensations as if it were our own tragedy, our own home town. While the plot doesn’t carry the story, the rawness of it picks it up and then some, chucking the audience into what Camille has been turned into. Flynn is unapologetic, facing the grittiness of truth with squared shoulders and perhaps a wry smirk, showing the world what being authentic to the creative process, and nothing else, can really deliver.
12 people found this review helpful