Reading this book makes me feel a little dirty. Like it’s impossible to expose yourself to this kind of family without them rubbing off on you. I’m a big fan of Flynn’s writing and the way she wraps these dysfunctional people seamlessly into the fabric of their communities. In Sharp Objects, we get the most messed up family of any of the three books – and if you’ve read Gone Girl or Dark Places, you know what that statement means. There’s something about how damaged all these people are that drags you in. I would recommend listening to the audiobook version of this novel. The reader has this tone to her voice that is both ethereal and creepy. She pulls you right into Camille’s f’ed up mind.
Camille’s a second rate journalist who gets sent home to work on a story about the small town where she was raised. She’s recently come out of rehab for something she started in order to survive her life with her mother – cutting. But she doesn’t cut normally. These aren’t lines sliced into hidden spaces. These are words carved into her skin from her neck, down her arms, to her feet. Words that pulse with meaning whenever she’s uncertain or scared or anxious. Camille was never the daughter her mother wanted, and after the death of Marian – the younger daughter – their relationship never improves. It has now deteriorated to such a point that Camille doesn’t even recognize her much, much, much younger sister when she finally returns home. This house is the worst possible place someone in her fragile mental state should be.
So, along with the screwed up family, there are little girls being abducted. Two of them so far, about a year apart. The first girl’s body was found in a shallow river missing all her teeth. Camille is among the people that find the second girl, also missing her teeth, but this time she’s propped up on display on the town’s main street. So, now the story is both who did it and will they do it again. An out of town detective is also trying to figure out why. There are a couple red herring suspects – like one of the girl’s brothers – but they never really feel like they could be an option. You have to know that Camille’s family is somehow involved in what’s happening.
The two major suspects are Camille’s mother, Adora, and the previously mentioned younger sister, Amma. Adora is a martyr. She’s the richest woman in town and responsible for the factory that keeps almost everyone else employed. Camille has never liked her mother, but over the course of the book, she comes to realize that her mother is actually dangerous. She suffers from Munchausen’s By Proxy. She started by making Camille sick, but when Camille didn’t want to be babied, she moved on to Marian – who acted exactly the way Adora wanted. Eventually, she went far enough to kill Marian. She’s picked up again with Amma, and ingrained a detrimental sense of righteousness in the young girl.
Amma has developed a stranglehold relationship with everyone in her life. She’s barely into her teens and she controls her friends, her mother, boys, and eventually, even Camille. She uses her early development to appeal to boys, her childishness to appeal to women, and her mean girl skills to get her friends to give in to her whims. Even the whim to murder. Like Flynn’s other book we get a little twist in the ending, but it feels right. I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s read this far before finishing the book, but when they find the teeth…
This is not an easy read. It’s not for everyone. It is disturbing as hell. There are lots of scenes that will make you thank your deity of choice for your family. This book is dangerous, but in the best possible way. It is not for the faint of heart or the easily squeamed. But if you don’t mind people who are totally effed up, you should give this one a read.