I´m going to grant Gillian Flynn one thing: she writes compelling stories and I finished this book within two days.
But oh boy, this book is disgusting. It´s like Flynn tried to put everything that can be remotely offending to people in one book (and this comes from a person, who is not easily offended). And she just overdoes it, because I never felt like this story could have happened anywhere exactly like that. The same goes for the characters. I can´t believe that almost all the residents in one town can be so horrible, disgusting and vile and no one does something about it. I like a shred of realism in the stories I read and I certainly didn´t find it in this book.
I hardly noticed the big and surprising twist at the end and when it came up I was utterly flabbergasted how ridiculous this whole book is (because, how you can be remotely surprised that person X is the murderer?)
Camille Preaker, cub reporter on the crime beat of a minor Chicago newspaper, is reluctant to accept the assignment when her editor sends her back to her hometown, Wind Gap, MO, to investigate the death of two pre-teen girls within a nine-month period. Wind Gap is one of those small towns where everyone seems to know everyone else just a little too well, and it does not help that her misnamed mother Adora seems to take it as a personal affront that her daughter be doing something so gruesome as reporting on brutal crimes. Although Adora insists that Camille stay at the family home, she also is clearly eager to know when the visit will end so "we can make plans of our own." Her stepfather Alan is little more than a distant stranger, and her mean-girl half sister, precocious 13-year-old Amma, is straight-up strange: sugar-sweet one moment and scary the next. Both sisters live in the shadow of Adora's second-born daughter Marion, who died at age 12, when Camille was 13.
This is the third installment of my three-book Gillian Flynn binge. Something about her books makes me want to crawl into them and not come out until I'm done. The ultimate conclusion came as a bit of a sucker punch, and I mean that as a compliment. I especially recommend this to anyone who has already enjoyed Flynn's writing.
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #4: A book by an author you discovered in 2015
I can't say I exactly "discovered" Gillian Flynn last year, as, due to the blockbuster status of Gone Girl, she's been on my radar most of the time I've worked in libraries. But it wasn't till last year that I actually READ her, and discovered that, holy expletive, the hype was totally worth it.
This book took longer to get going for me than Gone Girl did, but it is worth the wait. What's more, the slow start and incremental buildup sets the perfect tone for this creepy, atmospheric horror novel that looks at a very dark underbelly of a sleepy small town. Although not quite so sinister (thank goodness), she captured the small-town mentality well, particularly how stifling it can feel to come back to after you have been gone for a while.
As I was listening to this novel, I kept having this odd sense of familiarity, and I could not put my finger on why. I knew it wasn't reminding me of Gone Girl, because although both are exquisitely twisted and examine some of the same themes, the tone of the two is very different. But then about halfway through, I realized why this story felt familiar: it was like a more nuanced, psychologically astute version of V.C. Andrews, complete with selfish, manipulative parents and lurid, precocious sex.
Despite this, Flynn's mastery of both the writing craft and her characters' psychology keep this book from ever feeling "trashy" -- it is too "smart" for that. Similar to Gone Girl, it explores themes about media informing reality as the main character, a journalist, attempts to capture "real" reactions to the murders of two little girls in her hometown.
Although the characters in this novel are pervasively flawed, they are utterly believable, which is one of the things that makes the book so haunting. In skimming a lot of the reviews, I found that a lot of people who didn't like the book were frustrated by the poor choices that Camille makes again and again. I was frustrated with her as well, but I also think people who judge her too harshly need to take a step back and look at how or why she turned out the way she did -- growing up without parental love doesn't exactly leave one unscarred, and it's frankly she's been able to pull herself together and do as well as she has (moving away, finishing college, holding down a job, etc.) There was a bit around the middle when I was afraid the "romance" was going to get a little too saccharine, but I should have trusted Flynn to do better than that.
This book is not for the faint of heart, as it includes vivid descriptions of vomiting, pig slaughter, and underage sexuality. But if you don't mind spending a little time in the very dark corners of someone else's imagination, you might want to consider hanging out in Windgap.
[btw: could not get this song out of my head the whole time I was reading this book.]