Monday, September 1, 2014

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I slightly dreaded picking this one up, and not because I was told that it's the scariest of the Flynns; how disappointed would I be if the narration style was exactly the same as the two previous ones I'd read?

No fear! Except, well. Plenty of fear. 

Sharp Objects follows a more traditional, linear storytelling compared to the changing narrators and points in time of both Gone Girl and Dark Places. It is also creepy and unsettling. I'm reading these stories, thinking, man, when was the last time I read a horror story that would make me worry about nightmares? You know, not the hack and slash type, but a story that leaves a feeling of ever present dread under your skin. Here it is!

Sharp Objects proves that Flynn is at home with horror along with the suspense she craftily weaves in Gone Girl and Dark Places. Our one and only narrator is a reporter and a cutter Camille, who arrives at the small town she grew up in to cover a potential serial killer incident before it hits national news. This is her big career break! One girl is already murdered, and now another is missing. While Camille attempts to create a hard-hitting story about a small town that doesn't have the resources to resolve a case, or even worse, a small town that may be hiding something, she becomes involuntarily involved in solving the murders. 

The atmosphere in this story is truly unsettling: even when nothing terrifying is happening, evil just oozes off the pages. I was waiting for something bad to happen at any moment, and when Camille herself begins to tell the readers she feels the same way, the overhanging feeling of inevitable horrors becomes oppressive. Even a small word at the dinner table carries unbearable weight, just as you're ready to scoff at the elements reminiscent of Psycho's mother issues

There is the identifiable threat--the serial killer loose in the town. But there is also an evil lurking in the everyday life of the housewives, the high school girls, the football players, the outsiders. It's been in the making for generations: evils are accepted as just hazing and having a good time. When the local police grew up in this environment, how can they intervene or even recognize where evil brews? Camille remembers being a victim of disturbing events back in high school, but she never thought it was actually wrong--not even when an outsider confronts her about it. She still seems to insist that her experiences were nothing out of the ordinary. 

That's where Sharp Objects gets smart. How do you break out of a vicious cycle of any behavior when what you are engaging in is considered the norm by people in your close, physical proximity? (Because Camille certainly does not mentally relate to any of the people she left behind.) Although Camille provides us with the chronology of her cutting experiences, the further we read the clearer it becomes: there is no one major, defining event in a disturbed individual's life that makes her what she is; it's the everyday events, just disturbing enough to cause ripples that eventually build up to a large wave, forming an unrecognizable mass of burden that becomes too much for an individual to handle.