Sharp Objects

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Sharp Objects

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1beckylynn
Dec 6, 2008, 9:10am

I think we all agreed that we would read the book through then do conversations, right? So anyways, here is the new thread on Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I should remind you there are SPOILERS in this thread!

2beckylynn
Dec 6, 2008, 9:20am

I hope I'm not being too impatient by starting a thread already, so please if I am just let me know if you guys want to wait some more!
Camille's character fascinated me, at the begining of the book I thought she was a strong woman, just a little off because of the cutting. However, it was so easy for her to be coerced by children my mind changed pretty quick. The situation with her sister, Amma, was pretty wild, but I think she went way overboard when she 'had relations' with John.
The book isn't what I thought it was going to be (a crime/thriller), but I was nontheless enthralled with this book. The family dynamics were very strange.
Anyone here live in the boothill?

3jfetting
Dec 6, 2008, 11:43am

I think that Camille's character was fascinating, too. At the beginning, I had no idea she was so damaged, although I thought that all the bourbon in the middle of the day was a little off. The cutter thing was a surprise, although Flynn gave enough clues that I really should have picked up on it.

One thing that initially bothered me was the story she told Richard about the drunk 13yo girl and the 4 football players. Camille's argument that it wasn't rape, it was a bad decision on the part of the "woman" (her word, not mine) outraged me, and I was getting angry at Flynn before I remembered that, given Camille's past, OF COURSE she was going to think along those lines.

4Donna828
Dec 6, 2008, 9:15pm

>3 jfetting: And the most horrifying revelation about the gang rape is that she was actually the victim and STILL felt that it was not a crime. Camille was truly an enigma with her beautiful face and ravaged body, her (somewhat) successful career and tormented past. She was a complete psychological mess with her need to mutilate herself to compensate for her pain. I'll never understand the concept of cutting. I was fascinated by the words on her body from "wicked" to "vanish."

>2 beckylynn: I agree that she did some increibly stupid things, but oddly enough, I still found her likable and wouldn't mind her character to be continued back in Chicago with her wonderfully compassionate boss/friend.

I thought Flynn's characterization in this book was so good. Adora (what a perfectly chilling name for her) was a piece of work, wasn't she? I was soooo disappointed in Richard's abandonment of Camille. I guess it's true that a good man is hard to find -- and keep. :-)

I found it interesting as I've been doing a recap of my year of reading that the two books that were most out of character for me to read (this one and Finn) are probably going to be two of my most memorable books as well. However, I just hate the fact that Missouri is depicted in such a deranged manner in these two books. Aren't there any happy books that take place in MO?

5beckylynn
Dec 6, 2008, 11:58pm

Oh good point Donna, I laughed out loud at your last two lines, because it didn't strike me until you said it.
I agree whole heartedly about Camille being a likeable person, I would like to attribute it to the fact that she's really a victim the whole story, but that's just not it. I was a little surprised by Richard leaving her, especially because of the cutting and not the 'cheating'.

I do think the book was predictable however, the whole time I knew it was either Adora or Amma. But in the long rong I'm not disappointed about that because the rest of the storyline was just so dang good.

6sjmccreary
Dec 7, 2008, 4:09pm

#4 I also was disappointed at first that Richard abandoned Camille. But then I was glad that Flynn wrote it that way. It is probably a lot more realistic. Besides the "cheating" (which I thought was one of the strangest scenes in the whole book), anyone who is a cutter to the extent that Camille was is bound to have loads of emotional baggage. As a detective on the case, he would have become aware of her family history and the way her mother and sister were involved - another indication that Camille might be seriously damaged goods. Plus, I never got the feeling that he was especially connected to her - I always felt like he was interested only because she was available and willing, and he was such an outsider there and probably lonely. And he might be able to get more information from her by getting close. And speaking of Richard being an outsider - I wished I'd marked the place because I can't find it now - there is one speech of his when he refers to someone else as "y'all". I don't know how they talk in the bootheel, but in Kansas City, we DON'T say "y'all"!

Overall, I guess I felt a little bit of a let down when I finished the book. After the comments and reviews I'd read about how disturbing the book was - I was expecting something truly heinous. The whole concept of cutting - self-mutilation - is inconceivable to me. But I was able to accept it as a sympton of Camille's emotional instability. The rape was another indication - she was so seriously screwed up by her wacko mother, that being the victim of a gang rape at age 13 didn't seem any more abhorrant to her than self-mutilation. This book didn't haunt me for days the way Finn did.

I wanted Camille to be more recovered than she turned out to be. I wanted her to go back home and face her demons and prove that she'd conquered them, but I'm not sure she did. She still exhibited signs of being easily influenced by everyone around her - she was so concerned about what they thought of her and wanted to make a good impression. She was still so pleased when her mother paid attention to her, and she submitted to her mother's "nursing" even when she knew that it was harmful. I'm glad that her boss was such a good friend and seem to genuinely care about her - but he seemed very calloused and unconcerned by sending her home in the first place - knowing what he did about her history.

The most disturbing part of this book for me was the ongoing obsession for the dollhouse by Amma, but I'm not astute enough to figure out just what it means. The creepiest thing in the whole book was at the end when Camille discovered the "tile" floor of the mother's bedroom in the doll house.

7jfetting
Dec 7, 2008, 10:14pm

I'm glad that Flynn didn't "fix" Camille at the end - I don't think that would have fit with the rest of the book.

I can't figure out the dollhouse obsession, either. Was it another case of trying to please Adora? It's so interesting how Amma was obsessed with pleasing her mother and was an evil bully to the rest of the world, while Camille was obsessed with pleasing the world, and (at least superficially) didn't try to please her mother.

8Donna828
Dec 8, 2008, 10:36am

>6 sjmccreary: That was a good explanation of the "relationship" between Richard and Camille. He did use her to further his investigation, didn't he? I suppose the romantic in me just wanted a happy ending for Camille, but as Jennifer pointed out (#7) -- that scenario just wouldn't have fit in with the tone of the book. That is why I am hoping for a sequel.

About that dollhouse...I found the passage in the book (pp. 42-43) where Amma was officially introduced, although Camille had seen her before and had not recognized her.

"...I saw a changeling. A little girl with her face aimed intently at a huge, four-foot dollhouse, fashioned to look exactly like my mother's home...

'Who else would be playing on Adora's front porch with a little Adora house?...I'm her little doll...This dollhouse is my fancy.'

...the phrase was definitely my mother's. Her little doll, learning to speak just like Adora."

To me, Adora is one of the saddest and most chilling characters I have read about in a long time. She had that perfect courteous "Southern girl" exterior, but she could take a little "nip" out of a baby's cheek when no one was looking -- and could suck the life out of her children. I was curious about her husband. He seemed like the life had also been sucked out of him, yet he genuinely seemed to love Adora.

The book is going back to the library today so I will have to depend on my memory for futher discussion. I would like to talk more about the depiction of Missouri in the book. You don't hear too many "ya'lls" here in the Ozarks (Springfield) either. My ex-nephew-in-law was from the West Plains area, and one of his expressions was "you-uns" which drove me up the wall. Flynn also referred to MO as the second-most addicted (to meth) state in the Union. Not the best grammar there, but you get the idea. And, I got so tired of the compulsion for sweet tea. My husband's family is from this area (I am an "import") and none of them even likes the stuff. Did anyone else see any other stereotypes about Missouri in the book?


9jfetting
Dec 8, 2008, 2:27pm

I'm an import, too (native Chicagoan now in St. Louis) and Flynn's depiction of MO is like no MO I've ever been to. I've never been to the bootheel, but I've never heard any native Missourian say "ya'll", and we have no sweet tea here. Missourians stick "r"s where they don't belong (warsh, etc), they don't drawl up here. She seems to be describing the deep South, not the midwest. The meth thing I have heard before, in other contexts than fiction.

Do small towns like Wind Gap really exist? I grew up in a small town, but I never encountered anything like the gossip and pettiness and everyone-knows-about-everybody Flynn writes about in Wind Gap.

10sjmccreary
Dec 8, 2008, 6:44pm

I'm also a transplant - from Wichita, KS. I didn't know if the southern thing was accurate or not. When we moved to Kansas City, it felt more southern than Kansas, and St Louis even more than Kansas City. (I don't notice it a bit in Springfield, which actually reminds me a lot of Wichita.) I've never been to the bootheel - but in Enemy Women, the SE folks were all confederate sympathizers, so I guess it didn't seem blatantly wrong. Where is West Plains?

I've never lived in a really small town, but we lived in a small city - 8500 people - for a few years and the people who had lived there forever and knew everyone gossiped and had their little cliques. Incomers could fly under the radar if they didn't make a point of calling attention to themselves (which, unfortunately, I did by being married to a native). I suppose towns like Wind Gap do exist somewhere, but I hope I never have to live in one!

The meth thing does seem accurate. I know it was a huge problem here several years ago. We heard claims that Independence had one of the highest concentrations of meth labs in the country. We regularly would hear about meth lab busts in good neighborhoods in affluent communities all around us. Very scary.

11Donna828
Dec 9, 2008, 9:53am

Regarding small towns...my husband is from Purdy, MO with a population that is somewhere around 1,000 people now due to the growing chicken industry. I have "fond" memories of holiday gatherings and the hours of clean-up in the kitchen afterward (no dishwasher on the farm -- blasphemy!) and listening to my sisters-in-law telling ALL about everyone they knew. I made sure to be present at these occasions so I wouldn't be the one they talked about!

West Plains is a town in south-central Missouri. I'm guessing it probably has a pop. of approximately 10,000 and who knows how many meth labs. Oh yeah, I just remembered one more barb from the book where Flynn pointed out that "homo" was a euphemism in Wind Gap.

12beckylynn
Dec 9, 2008, 7:30pm

Born and Raised in small town Missouri, Wind Gap was like reading about my town, without the 'richy rich area'. Yes, everyone knows everything about everybody, and if your new in town it only takes a few days for the townies to figure out where your from and your entire background (okay kidding not THAT bad, but you get the idea).
There was a special about the county one over from mine on the A&E channel about how bad meth is here in MO, I know in my area (smack dab between STL and Kansas City) it's rampid.

Anyways, back to the book. I think Amma's obsession with the dollhouse is what kept her somewhat innocent in her mothers eyes. Like she couldn't grow up as long as she was still obsessed with that project.
I too was kind of let down by all the reviews I read about the book. Call me a sadist but I like all the scary creepy things that can just pop up out of nowhere. Don't get me wrong the book was disturbing, but not 'scary'.

13sjmccreary
Dec 10, 2008, 4:32pm

This a bit off-topic, but I just remembered a book I read about a year ago that highlighted the effect that meth can have on a small town - a pretty creepy book with an especially scary scene at the end. Killing Moon by Chuck Hogan. It takes place in Massachusetts or I'd suggest that we could add it to our list of books that portray Missouri as an undesirable place!

14twomoredays
Dec 14, 2008, 10:56pm

Hmm, I think I'm the only one here who didn't end up liking the book. I actually haven't finished it and I'm not entirely sure I'm going to which is super rare for me.

Personally, I think most of the characters are a little overdone for my taste in books. They seem more like caricatures than actual human beings. Furthermore, I think the way Flynn portrays the nature of Camille's self-mutilation is totally outlandish and overly theatrical. I don't deny that self-mutilation can reach some nasty extremes, but I feel like Flynn turned Camille's cutting into a cheap excuse for a literary device. I'm not sure I can get past that. I seem to be getting madder at Flynn with every passing page.

That being said, I actually think she did a fairly decent job of describing what I know of southern Missouri. (Though I'm another transplant.) One of my friends is from a tiny town called Pattonville and everyone there knows EVERYTHING about everyone else. I could totally see Amma and her creepy friends carousing around some place like that. And I know at least a few native southern-Missourians who are big sweet tea drinkers. The thing about Missouri is that I think it's actually incredibly diverse. Like our own speciall melting pot or something. For example, life in Columbia is pretty different from life in KC or St. Louis or even Springfield. And then MO's small towns are a whole different story.

15sjmccreary
Edited: Dec 23, 2008, 10:48am

I was just out on the library's online cataloge browsing the "forthcoming titles" list and found that Jillian Flynn has a new book coming out in the spring. "Dark Places" is due out in May and will be set in Kansas City - which is where Flynn grew up, according to an interview I found with her on bookslut (http://www.bookslut.com/features/2007_04_010895.php - sorry, I don't know how to make a link). One of the interview questions asked about the whole Southern thing - was she trying for a Southern gothic? Her response was that she intended it to be an Ozarks gothic noir - and explained that the Missouri-Arkansas area has a distinct culture that most people aren't aware of. She also admitted that the whole word-cutting thing was not a normal manifestation of the disorder, and thought it might have to come out of the book - no mention why it got left in.

Anyway, I hovered quite a while over the "hold" button for the new book, before I finally decided to go for it. It is labeled as a psychological thriller, but doesn't seem to be connected to "Sharp Objects" - at least she isn't admitting that it is a sequel. I'll be curious, though, to see if Richard makes an appearance.

ETA - oh! it did make a link!

16beckylynn
Dec 23, 2008, 4:35pm

I enjoyed her writing a lot so would you please let me know if this book is any good?

17sjmccreary
Dec 23, 2008, 6:49pm

I will - even though I was hesitant about it at first, I find myself kind of looking forward to it now. Hopefully, when it comes next May, I won't be too overwhelmed with other things to jump right in.

18scarlett.loomas
Edited: Sep 25, 2013, 1:55pm

I know I'm resurrecting an ancient thread, but I just finished "Sharp Objects" and started googling out of curiosity on what others had to say regarding the descriptions of Missouri. I am born and bred, Southeast Missouri river rat and the only thing wrong with the descriptions of the setting is there are no "bluffs" (I don't count Poplar Bluff as being part of the "bootheel") anywhere and I have a hard time believing someone raised in the Bootheel would use the term "pop" as it relates to soft drinks. I don't care how long you have lived in Chicago...I lived in Boston for quite a while, but I never called a water fountain a "bubbler". Other than that, I feel like Flynn made a concerted effort to show the Bootheel for what it is rather than lumping us into the Midwest like most do.
Sweet tea is everywhere---we "mash" buttons on remotes---and when I was little, you would have to do the double drink order when ordering a soda as saying "coke" just let the waitress know you wanting a soft drink. I don't say "y'all", but only because I make it a point not to do so...it is part of everyday speech here.

Down here, it is hotter and more humid than the rest of the state, and, geographically, doesn't look any different from Northern Louisiana. As you get as deep into the bootheel as the fictional Wind Gap, St. Louis is not "the city" to which you defer; it is Memphis. For people like me, one could go either way. Once you get to Cape, which doesn't really count and somewhat Midwestern, that is when St. Louis becomes more relevant. My husband grew up just north of Cape and even grew up eating different food, so those few miles make a huge difference culturally. My high school sends more kids to Murray State (KY), Arkansas State, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State than it sends to Mizzou as few are willing to live "up north".

I actually didn't realize how many Missourians were unaware of this Bootheel/Swampeast MO phenomenon. Although, I guess it makes sense somewhat because for most people down here, the rest of Missouri is viewed with a touch of disdain and suspicion. If you go west of Stoddard County, you are a hillbilly; if you are north of Scott County, you are a Yankee. I have heard of a lot resentment spouted when offices consolidate to St. Louis and people down here are expected to deal with people up there. It is a sort of "How dare you lump us in with y'all by implying we share something in common?!" attitude.

I'm not exaggerating either. In fact, whenever I say I am from Missouri, I feel like I am lying. I have taken to always specifying "Southeast Missouri" to try to show that, while I am from a Midwestern state, I hardly qualify as a Midwesterner. I'm just another Southerner whose college roommate from Iowa couldn't figure out why her fellow Midwesterner had no clue how to dress for winter.

And as for small towns like Wind Gap really existing...yes. I grew up in one. This is why my mom won't get every prescription filled at the local pharmacy...just antibiotics.

19sjmccreary
Sep 25, 2013, 10:50pm

#18 Thanks for an interesting look at SE Missouri. I've only ever just driven through on the interstate, and know almost nothing about that area.

I always thought "pop" for soft drinks was a western thing - never heard in St Louis, but common in Kansas City. In Kansas, where I am originally from, it is nearly universal and "soda" is not heard. What did your Iowa roommate say? I think Gillian Flynn is from the Kansas City/NE Kansas area, so that might explain why she didn't get everything exactly right.

In the book, I never had a feeling that Wind Gap was based on a real place - the people seemed authentic (people are the same everywhere, aren't they?) but the place didn't.

20jfetting
Sep 26, 2013, 9:35am

That is fascinating - I've driven through there on the way to Memphis from St. Louis but didn't realize how different SE MO was from the rest of the state.

"Pop" for "soda" is absolutely a Chicago thing too, and also apparently a bit of upstate NY. I get made fun of a lot for saying "pop" now that I live in Maine but it is hard to break 35 years of habit.

21Kate.Beem
Jan 6, 2015, 9:22pm

Just finished this book and want to concur with Scarlett Loomas -- I grew up in a town that sounds eerily like Wind Gap. My husband (a native Kansas Citian) kept asking me if I thought Flynn had modeled Wind Gap on my hometown...I personally, though, pictured it as Caruthersville because of the references to Tennessee.

So, yes. There are many place in southeast Missouri that don't feel like Missouri. When you descend that big hill on Interstate 55 south of Scott City, you are entering another world.