February 2007

Brian M. Dunn

fiction

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

You’re Camille Preaker. Six months out of an institution for cutting yourself. Started when you were 13-years-old and your sister died. You couldn’t express your pain so you had to whittle it out of your own hide with a steak knife. Now you’re on the downhill side of thirty, working as a staff reporter for the fourth-best newspaper in Chicago. Your editor asks you about your home town, Wind Gap, Missouri. You give him the basics, neglecting to mention it’s a viper’s nest you barely survived with your sanity intact. Your body’s covered in the scar tissue to prove it.

There’s a little girl missing in Wind Gap, the second in two years, he tells you. A year earlier a girl was found strangled in a creek bed, blue and bloated and every tooth ripped out of her head. Might be a serial killer; might make a good story. Go home, he tells you; sniff around. Get a feel for your home town again. Stay with family.

Family. Adora, Alan, Amma. Don’t feel like you fit in there, do you, Camille? Mother Adora, “like a girl’s very best doll, the kind you don’t play with.” You were her one true mistake at age seventeen, a fact you’ve never been allowed to forget. Wants to know how soon you’ll be leaving. Stepfather Alan, “the opposite of moist,” a cipher who couldn’t be bothered to give you his last name. Half-sister Amma, born when you were away at college. Thirteen years old and perfect, without the map of scar tissue lining her body, prettiest girl in junior high school. She sets the beat that the other girls dance to. Translation: she couldn’t be more despicable if she were hanging from the ceiling by her toes.

Your neighbors resent your prying into their business, the missing girl’s family hates your guts; your old ‘friends’ have been waiting for a crack at you for twenty years and here you are, covered in fresh scabs to peel. And whom do you hate?

How about that evil wench on the inside cover? Yeah, her. Good looking, smart, cushy job lying on a couch in a bathrobe sucking the cream filling out of bon bons while watching television for Entertainment Weekly, for god’s sake. And there's that little note in the afterword that says, “Oh, those people aren’t based on my family.” Bitch.

Even worse, she has the chops, doesn’t she, Camille? Oh, the detective/love interest is a bit of a clunker out of central casting, one can hear the occasional wheezy ka-chunk of the plot machinery grinding forward and the first time one of the words you’d carved on your body heated up, the word “contrived” simmered on my poor pale arse. But she dragged you by the hair through this mess like a seasoned pro, never once letting you slip clear of the demons that haunt you outside or in, and she even nailed the ending, you poor dear, with a fast, brutal one-two combination that any welterweight would be proud of. It’s a steady walk through a customized version of hell: yours.

You should have run the moment the editor of the fourth best editor paper in Chicago mentioned Wind Gap. Me? I’m glad I tagged along. Had a fine time. It sucks to be you.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Shaye Areheart Books
ISBN: 0307341542
272 Pages