Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn makes you question all the things your mother did while you were growing up. Were her deeds in the name of love? Did she nurture your best character, or was her love designed to feed her selfish needs using you as social currency? Sharp Objects takes a look at a kind of love that turns life into a currency used for one’s own superficial survival.
Camille, a journalist, uses people to get to the story that her readers feed on, since she reports on crime, her stories feed her audience’s vicarious need to see a world no one wants to be a part of, but still desire a glimpse. Through reporting she carves vicious images into her readers through her words just as she literally cuts words into her own skin. Right as she is ready to heal from her troubled past, a crime develops in her Missouri hometown. Flynn tells the story from Camille’s point of view, and Camille is constantly fighting between her desire to leave people alone and her job where she must invade the personal space of families, witnesses, and suspects in order to tell the story. Camille chooses to disconnect people from their humanity and dissolve them into an element of her story. Even as she means well, her devotion to the story ends up victimizing people already in a state of grief and fear over a very real murder.
Camille’s mother, aptly named Adora, is hard to pin down from the start, but her motives become clear through well-timed discoveries on Camille’s part that unveil the crime she’s reporting on and also her own past. Is her mother trying to hide knowledge of the crime? Or is she merely cold towards Camille because she is the black sheep of the family. Adora’s love is closely guarded and is paid out with a miser’s view of what she’s getting in return. Through Adora you begin to understand where Camille got her manipulative skills for journalism and her fight to hold herself to a higher degree of moral behavior begins to take its toll in alcohol, flesh that begs to be cut, and a past that has more and more to do with the present as Camille digs deeper.
Flynn’s pacing and timing for character reveals is just as thrilling as in Gone Girl. The mechanics of Sharp Objects run smoothly. From Camille’s festering word-scars interjecting into her thoughts, to twists in the plot that I never saw coming but in retrospect were hidden within character actions, Sharp Objects tells a solid thriller in a familiar detective story frame work. What makes Flynn’s story fresh is her calculated deconstruction of love and the social bonds we hold so dear in our everyday lives. After reading Sharp Objects you might feel better being alone because we are only condemned for our good deeds and our victims remain mute witnesses, unconscious or dead.
Grab some bandages and rubbing alcohol. You will get paper cuts on this fast, disturbing read.