Gillian Flynn’s debut, “Sharp Objects,” is the first novel in a long, long time to suck me in sufficiently to keep reading ’til the last page. In fact, the last quarter of the book had me turning the pages as if my life depended on it.
The story follows cubby reporter Camille Preaker as she returns to her small Missouri town to investigate the murder of a young girl. The town is on edge, because another young girl is missing. A curfew is in effect, everyone is pointing fingers at two unfortunate men, and the town’s police chief doesn’t have much use the Kansas City detective who was brought in to help or Camille.
Camille is a messed-up young woman. She drinks too much vodka and whiskey, makes some very poor choices while she’s in her home town of Wind Gap, and she’s a recovering cutter. You get the sense she came to town to try to connect with her strange, distant mother, to find some closure and comfort. That, of course, works out very poorly for her.
Camille’s mother, Adora, is a character straight out of “Streetcar Named Desire,” a woman living–in many ways–in a different time. She’s always “dressed,” prone to dramatics, prissily, performatively feminine, and like nearly everyone else in Wind Gap self medicates with her drug of choice–elegant mixed drinks. Her bedroom floor–which Camille was never allowed to step on and was featured in a magazine–is made of ivory. Everyone in Wind Gap is on something–the kids are taking Oxycontin and meth, Adora’s friend Jackie is on about 10 different OTC drugs, and there are many, many drinking establishments in a town of barely over 2,000.
The fictional town of Wind Gap is not a happy place. It’s stifling and not just because it’s hot and nobody has air conditioning (!!!!!!!). The kids are bored and growing up way too fast. The adults are either wasting away in their remodeled Victorian homes or working themselves to an early grave in Adora’s pork plant. Everybody’s bored and gossipy and mean.
I would not recommend “Sharp Objects” to people with severe depression or anxiety. To put it succinctly, the novel is heavy. It’s really sad and weird and scary and gross and it weighs on you. It hangs on you, like the heat of Wind Gap.
It does have a very satisfying ending, and one you might not see coming, but there is no way I’m going to share that here! Read the book, if you think you have the stomach for it. It’s fantastic.
I wish I could gush about the limited run series HBO adaptation of the novel. I am six episodes in and I have tried and tried and tried to like it, but I’ve finally had to reckon with the fact that it just fucking SUCKS.
The series manages to suck about 75% of the intensity out of the book, bafflingly creates scenes that have no business being in the story and still more incredibly leaving out key scenes that offer more insight into the characters.
I’m fairly certain someone on HBO’s payroll thought that they’d convey the idea of sharpness with the billions of jump cuts that litter each episode. Oh, you like this dialogue between these two characters? Well, too fucking bad, because mid-convo we are cutting to the image of Adora’s fan for the 50th fucking time so we can show you that THE TOWN IS HOT. Here’s another 1/2 second shot of Camille sitting by the toilet for some reason. Here’s 5 more minutes of Camille driving around Wind Gap, swigging vodka out of a water bottle, also she is is sweaty BECAUSE THE TOWN IS HOT, SEE?
I’m almost scared to watch the final two episodes, because the previous have been so monumentally disappointing. One thing that will always leave me baffled is how the show managed to take such rich, heavy, edgy material and make it SO. FUCKING. BORING.