Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn W6
This past summer, I read the most thought-provoking, perplexing book by Gillian Flynn. Sharp Objects is a novel about a young journalist named Camille who is trying to make a better life in Chicago. She has suffered for years after the death of her sister Marian at a very young age. She spent time in a psychiatric hospital near Chicago after years of self-harm. Camille must return home to report on a murder that happened in her small town. With this visit, she must face her mother who shows no emotion towards her and her young sister who has an eerie hold on anyone she meets. This book focuses a lot on mental illness- not only because there is a mentally disturbed murderer in the town, but it also deals heavily with woman’s issues, post-mortem depression, self-harm, bi-polar disorder, and wealth and its effects it has over the law. It is a heavy book with a heavy topic, which is why I think I enjoyed it so much. A quote that was very intriguing was “sometimes I think illness sits inside every woman, waiting for the right moment to bloom. I have known so many sick women all my life. Women with chronic pain, with ever-gestating diseases. Women with conditions. Men, sure, they have bone snaps, they have backaches, they have a surgery or two, yank out a tonsil, insert a shiny plastic hip. Women get consumed.” I love how Flynn says this. The book’s main characters are all woman, so the reader really gets to look inside a woman’s mind, especially a mentally disturbed one. I picked this passage to quote because I want to show this book is not necessarily a murder mystery as it is a cry for help from woman. Flynn is showing how woman get consumed by not only illness, but everything. Disease, loss, love, emotions. Another quote that I thought was quiet beautiful was when the reader starts to understand Camille’s mental state and why she was put in a hospital for it. Since Camille was young, she found pleasure in carving words into her skin. She would hurt herself, then be pleased when she had to tend to the wounds. “I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It’s covered with words — cook, cupcake, kitty, curls — as if a knife-wielding first-grader learned to write on my flesh. I sometimes, but only sometimes, laugh. Getting out of the bath and seeing, out of the corner of my eye, down the side of a leg: babydoll. Pull on a sweater and, in a flash of my wrist: harmful. Why these words? Thousands of hours of therapy have yielded a few ideas from the good doctors. They are often feminine, in a Dick and Jane, pink vs. puppy dog tails sort of way. Or they’re flat-out negative. Number of synonyms for anxious carved in my skin: eleven. The one thing I know for sure is that at the time, it was crucial to see these letters on me, and not just see them, but feel them. Burning on my left hip: petticoat. And near it, my first word, slashed on an anxious summer day at age thirteen: wicked. I woke up that morning, hot and bored, worried about the hours ahead. How do you keep safe when your whole day is as wide and empty as the sky? Anything could happen. I remember feeling that word, heavy and slightly sticky across my pubic bone. My mother’s steak knife. Cutting like a child along red imaginary lines. Cleaning myself. Digging in deeper. Cleaning myself. Pouring bleach over the knife and sneaking through the kitchen to return it. Wicked. Relief. The rest of the day, I spent ministering to my wound. Dig into the curves of W with an alcohol-soaked Q-tip. Pet my cheek until the sting went away. Lotion. Bandage. Repeat.” I just think this is such an amazing addition to the story and it shows the reader the effects Camille’s distorted childhood had on her. I just think it adds another level to the story and makes the reader sympathize with Camille. Flynn does a great job slowly incorporating little facts of the past that come together in a big way and I love it. Later on-not to ruin some of the book for you- but Camille’s mother is revealed to be mentally unstable, finding herself unworthy of being a mother unless she can take care of someone. Adora, the mother, had acquired drugs and medication that made her children violently ill, just so that she could then nurture them to health. She was so obsessive with caring for her youngest child Marian that she ended up killing her own child. To catch her mother and reveal what she did to her sister, Camille lets her mother drug her. Camille becomes violently ill and is reminded of why she left her home in the first place. Being put in this state of helplessness brings back some dark thoughts. “There was nothing I wanted to do more than be unconscious again, wrapped in black, gone away. I was raw. I felt swollen with potential tears, like a water balloon filled to burst. Begging for a pin prick.” This imagery and dark way of writing makes me wonder what Flynn has gone through. I would love to read something either about her comments on the book itself or a bio on her growing up. I feel like to write about such a dark topic, an author must have gone through something herself. This book could almost be a cry for help.