Sharp Objects

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Overview

FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF GONE GIRL

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old ...

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Overview

FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF GONE GIRL

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Winner of the 2007 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Awards

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly." An edgy first line, and it provides the perfect opening for this gritty debut novel by journalist Flynn. Her protagonist, Camille Preaker, is a reporter for a second-rate Chicago newspaper. A solitary woman with a cynical bent, she appears to have carved out a workable life for herself despite a painful past and an estranged family. But when a second young girl turns up missing in Camille's hometown -- shortly after another local girl was found murdered -- Camille's editor sends her home to Missouri to cover the story. The question is, can Camille get to the bottom of the story before her demons get the best of her?

A classic whodunit, Sharp Objects is an gripping page-turner. Readers follow Camille to the field as she examines crime scenes, interviews the friends and family of the victims, and probes reticent investigators for information. After all, the world of investigative reporting is tantalizing. Take, for example, the provocative flirting between Camille and a Kansas City detective assigned to the cases. Is it sex they're after, or simply information? And the gradual unfolding of Camille's alarming past will keep readers riveted until the very last page.

Flynn writes with impressive authenticity about difficult, often painful, subject matter. As its title suggests, Sharp Objects is a cutting, incisive read. (Holiday 2006 Selection)
From the Publisher
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“A first novel that reads like the accomplished work of a long-time pro, the book draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction...Flynn's book goes deeper than your average thriller. It has all the narrative drive of a serious pop novel and much of the psychological complexity of a mainstream character study. All in all, a terrific debut.”
—Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune

“A compulsively readable psychological thriller that marks [a] dazzling debut...[Flynn] has written a clever crime story with astonishing twists and turns, and enough suspense for the most demanding fans of the genre. But it is the sensitive yet disturbing depiction of her heroine that makes this an especially engrossing story...Flynn's empathic understanding of her major characters leads to storytelling that is sure and true, and it marks her a write to watch.”
—Chicago Sun-Times

“To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild. I haven't read such a relentlessly creepy family saga since John Farris's All Heads Turn as the Hunt Goes By, and that was thirty years ago, give or take. Sharp Objects isn't one of those scare-and-retreat books; its effect is cumulative. I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then, after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights.”
—Stephen King

“Not often enough, I come across a first novel so superb that it seems to have been written by an experienced author, perhaps with 20 earlier books to his or her credit. I'm extremely excited to discover my first debut blowout this year, a sad, horrifying book called Sharp Objects...[Flynn] is the real deal. Her story, writing and the characters will worm their way uncomfortably beneath your skin...But this is more literary novel than simple mystery, written with anguish and lyricism. It will be short-listed for one or more important awards at the end of the year...Sharp Objects is a 2006 favorite so far. I doubt I'll ever forget it.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A deeply creepy exploration of small-town Midwestern values and boasts one of the most deliciously dysfunctional families to come along in a while...[Flynn] handles the narrative with confidence and a surprisingly high level of skill...Wind Gap ends up the sort of place you'd never want to visit. But with Sharp Objects, you're in no hurry to leave.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Brilliant...Powerful, mesmerizing...A stunning, powerful debut from someone who truly has something to say.”
—San Jose Mercury News

“One of the best and most disturbing books I have read in a long time...Flynn never stoops to the gratuitous, and the torment produces haunting characters that hung around my imagination long after I had finished the book. Her skillful blending of old tragedies with new culminated in an 'oh-my-gosh' moment that I never saw coming. This book simply blew me away.”
—Kansas City Star

“Don't look here for the unrelenting self-deprecation and the moping over men common chick lit...I promise you'll be thoroughly unnerved at the end.”
—Newsweek

“First-time novelist Flynn is a natural-born thriller.”
—People Style Watch

“A witty, stylish, and compelling debut. A real winner.”
—Harlan Coben

“Flynn delivers a great whodunit, replete with hinting details, telling dialogue, dissembling clues. Better yet, she offers appalling, heartbreaking insight into the darkness of her women's lives: the Stepford polish of desperate housewives, the backstabbing viciousness of drug-gobbling, sex-for-favors Mean Girls, the simmering rage bound to boil over. Piercingly effective and genuinely terrifying.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Fans of psychological thrillers will welcome narrator/Chicago Daily Post reporter Camille Preaker with open arms...As first-time novelist Flynn expertly divulges in this tale reminiscent of the works of Shirley Jackson, there is much more to discover about Wind Gap and, most of all, about Camille.”
—Library Journal

“This impressive debut novel is fueled by stylish writing and compelling portraits...In a particularly seductive narrative style, Flynn adopts the cynical, knowing patter of a weary reporter, but it is her portraits of the town's backstabbing, social-climbing, bored, and bitchy females that provoke her sharpest and most entertaining writing. A stylish turn on dark crimes and even darker psyches.”
—Booklist

“[A] chilling debut thriller...[Flynn] writes fluidly of smalltown America.”
—Publishers Weekly

“[Flynn]] offers up a literary thriller that's a doozy...and she does it with wit and grit, a sort of Hitchcock visits Stephen King, with plenty of the former's offstage and often only implied violence, and the latter's sense of pacing and facility with dialogue...This is not a comfortable novel of touchy-feely family fun. Rather, it is a tough tale told with remarkable clarity and dexterity, particularly for a first-time author.”
—Denver Post

“A tense, irresistable thriller...Flynn's first-person narration is pitch-perfect, but even more impressive is the way she orchestrates the slim novel's onrushing tension toward a heart-stopping climax.”
—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Darkly original...Flynn expertly ratchets up the suspense...A disturbing yet riveting tale.”
—People

“Skillful and disturbing...Flynn writes so well. Sometimes she dips her pen in acid, sometimes she is lyrical, but always she chooses her words deftly...She has an unsparing eye for human imperfection and for the evil that moves among us.”
—Washington Post

“Using understated, almost stark prose, Flynn paints a jagged, unflinching portrait of the vise-like psychological bonds between women, and how their demons lead to the perpetuation of cruelties upon themselves and others. The end result is an unsettling portrait of how long emotional wounds can last- and how deeply they hurt.”
—Baltimore Sun

“More in the tradition of Joyce Carol Oates than Agatha Christie, this one will leave readers profoundly disturbed. But from the first line...you know you're in the hands of a talented and accomplished writer.”
—The Boston Globe

“[A] breathtaking debut...Written with multiple twists and turns, Sharp Objects is a work of psychological prowess and page-turning thrills.”
—Richmond Times

“As suspenseful as the V.C. Andrews books you shared in high school, but much smarter.”
—Glamour

Sharp Objects is one of the freshest debut thrillers to come around in a long while. It's a gripping, substantive story, stripped of cliche, and crafted with great style. The characters are refreshingly real, burdened with psychological issues that enrich the story. And the ending, which I was positive I could predict, is unpredictable. Sharp Objects is, indeed, quite sharp.”
—Augusten Burroughs

“Sharp, clean, exciting writing that grabs you from the first page. A real pleasure.”
—Kate Atkinson, author of Case Histories and One Good Turn

Patrick Anderson
To loathe one's home town is a venerable literary tradition, but I can't think of another novel that has painted a more scathing, over-the-top portrait of small-town America … Flynn generates suspense over who killed the two little girls. Just about everyone in Wind Gap seems capable of murder, including Camille's nutty mother, nasty kid sister and several members of the girls' families. A lot of writers have warned that we can't go home again, but Wind Gap truly is the home town from hell.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Flynn's debut novel focuses on an emotionally fragile young woman whose sanity is being severely tested by family dysfunction, smalltown incivility and murder. It is a mesmerizing psychological thriller that is also quite disturbing and, thanks to reader Lee's chillingly effective rendition, at times almost unbearably so. Camille Preaker, a novice reporter with a history of self-mutilation, is sent to her hometown in Missouri to cover the murder of one teenage girl and the disappearance of another. There, she must face a variety of monsters from the past and the present, including her aloof and patronizing mother, her obnoxiously precocious 13-year-old stepsister who dabbles in drugs, sex and humiliation, and an unknown serial killer whose mutilated victims bring back haunting memories. Lee's interpretation of mom enhances the character's detachment and airy state of denial to an infuriating degree. And her abrupt change of pace when Camille suddenly begins chanting the words carved on her body is hair-raising. But the voice Lee gives to the stepsister—tinged with a sarcastic, cynical and downright evil girly singsong—makes one's blood run cold. Simultaneous release with the Shaye Areheart hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 21). (Oct.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fans of psychological thrillers will welcome narrator/Chicago Daily Post reporter Camille Preaker with open arms. Newspaper editor Frank Curry hands Camille the stereotypically plum assignment of a serial-killer-in-the-making story, but the offer takes an unexpected turn when Camille learns that the scene of the crimes is her hometown of Wind Gap, MO, a place to which she has not returned in eight years. Although Camille's desire to cover the story quickly prevails over her trepidation, an icy welcome awaits her at her mother's home and-in the beginning, at least-she is unable to learn much about the case from police or from locals reluctant to reveal their secrets to a prodigal daughter seeking a career-boosting byline. However, as first-time novelist Flynn expertly divulges in this tale reminiscent of the works of Shirley Jackson, there is much more to discover about Wind Gap and, most of all, about Camille. Librarians can confidently recommend this title to readers of the genre, who will, no doubt, return asking for more. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/06.]-Nancy McNicol, Ora Mason Branch Lib., West Haven, CT Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A savage debut thriller that renders the Electra complex electric, the mother/daughter bond a psychopathic stranglehold. Camille Preaker is a cutter. At 13, she carved "queasy" above her navel, at 29, "vanish" on her neck. In the intervening years, she etched her entire epidermis from the chin down with cries for help. Entertainment Weekly TV critic Flynn discloses this information 60 pages into her explosive novel; before that, we know Camille as a hard-drinking, good-looking Jimmy Breslin wannabe, sent by a second-tier paper to cover two gruesome killings in her Missouri hometown. Nine-year-old Natalie's corpse was found jammed between the Cut-n-Curl Beauty Parlor and Bifty's Hardware nine months after another's girl's body was dumped in a creek. The murderer's grisly signature? Both strangled corpses had their teeth yanked out. As she snoops around, Camille gets hot for a cute detective and anxious in her mother's house. Haunted by the ghost of her sister, a child felled by mysterious illness, Camille warily befriends half-sister Amma, a snaky Lolita with precociously developed smarts and breasts. Bite-sized Queen of Mean who rules the town's teens, Amma joins Camille in shuddering at their mother, Aurora, an oh-so-proper virago who pulls down a million dollars a year running a pig slaughterhouse. Mommie Dearest is afflicted with an outre psychological disturbance: She inflicts illness on her loved ones to then prove her sweetness by nursing them. Could she be the slayer? Or perhaps an even more hideous revelation awaits? Flynn delivers a great whodunit, replete with hinting details, telling dialogue, dissembling clues. Better yet, she offers appalling, heartbreaking insight into thedarkness of her women's lives: the Stepford polish of desperate housewives, the backstabbing viciousness of drug-gobbling, sex-for-favors Mean Girls, the simmering rage bound to boil over. Piercingly effective and genuinely terrifying.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307341556
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 562
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Gillian Flynn
GILLIAN FLYNN is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Gone Girl and the New York Times bestsellers Dark Places and Sharp Objects. A former writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly, her work has been published in 42 countries. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly. It was May 12 but the temperature had dipped to the forties, and after four days shivering in my shirtsleeves, I grabbed cover at a tag sale rather than dig through my boxed-up winter clothes. Spring in Chicago.

In my gunny-covered cubicle I sat staring at the computer screen. My story for the day was a limp sort of evil. Four kids, ages two through six, were found locked in a room on the South Side with a couple of tuna sandwiches and a quart of milk. They'd been left three days, flurrying like chickens over the food and feces on the carpet. Their mother had wandered off for a suck on the pipe and just forgotten. Sometimes that's what happens. No cigarette burns, no bone snaps. Just an irretrievable slipping. I'd seen the mother after the arrest: twenty-two-year-old Tammy Davis, blonde and fat, with pink rouge on her cheeks in two perfect circles the size of shot glasses. I could imagine her sitting on a shambled-down sofa, her lips on that metal, a sharp burst of smoke. Then all was fast floating, her kids way behind, as she shot back to junior high, when the boys still cared and she was the prettiest, a glossy-lipped thirteen-year-old who mouthed cinnamon sticks before she kissed.

A belly. A smell. Cigarettes and old coffee. My editor, esteemed, weary Frank Curry, rocking back in his cracked Hush Puppies. His teeth soaked in brown tobacco saliva.

"Where are you on the story, kiddo?" There was a silver tack on my desk, point up. He pushed it lightly under a yellow thumbnail.

"Near done." I had two inches of copy. I needed six.

"Good. Fuck her, file it, and come to my office."

"I can come now."

"Fuck her, file it, then come to my office."

"Fine. Ten minutes." I wanted my thumbtack back.

He started out of my cubicle. His tie swayed down near his crotch.

"Preaker?"

"Yes, Curry?"

"Fuck her."

Frank Curry thinks I'm a soft touch. Might be because I'm a woman. Might be because I'm a soft touch.

Curry's office is on the third floor. I'm sure he gets panicky-pissed every time he looks out the window and sees the trunk of a tree. Good editors don't see bark; they see leaves—if they can even make out trees from up on the twentieth, thirtieth floor. But for the Daily Post, fourth-largest paper in Chicago, relegated to the suburbs, there's room to sprawl. Three floors will do, spreading relentlessly outward, like a spill, unnoticed among the carpet retailers and lamp shops. A corporate developer produced our township over three well-organized years—1961-64—then named it after his daughter, who'd suffered a serious equestrian accident a month before the job was finished. Aurora Springs, he ordered, pausing for a photo by a brand-new city sign. Then he took his family and left. The daughter, now in her fifties and fine except for an occasional tingling in her arms, lives in Arizona and returns every few years to take a photo by her namesake sign, just like Pop.

I wrote the story on her last visit. Curry hated it, hates most slice-of-life pieces. He got smashed off old Chambord while he read it, left my copy smelling like raspberries. Curry gets drunk fairly quietly, but often. It's not the reason, though, that he has such a cozy view of the ground. That's just yawing bad luck.

I walked in and shut the door to his office, which isn't how I'd ever imagined my editor's office would look. I craved big oak panels, a window pane in the door—marked Chief—so the cub reporters could watch us rage over First Amendment rights. Curry's office is bland and institutional, like the rest of the building. You could debate journalism or get a Pap smear. No one cared.

"Tell me about Wind Gap." Curry held the tip of a ballpoint pen at his grizzled chin. I could picture the tiny prick of blue it would leave among the stubble.

"It's at the very bottom of Missouri, in the boot heel. Spitting distance from Tennessee and Arkansas," I said, hustling for my facts. Curry loved to drill reporters on any topics he deemed pertinent—the number of murders in Chicago last year, the demographics for Cook County, or, for some reason, the story of my hometown, a topic I preferred to avoid. "It's been around since before the Civil War," I continued. "It's near the Mississippi, so it was a port city at one point. Now its biggest business is hog butchering. About two thousand people live there. Old money and trash."

"Which are you?"

"I'm trash. From old money." I smiled. He frowned.

"And what the hell is going on?"

I sat silent, cataloguing various disasters that might have befallen Wind Gap. It's one of those crummy towns prone to misery: A bus collision or a twister. An explosion at the silo or a toddler down a well. I was also sulking a bit. I'd hoped—as I always do when Curry calls me into his office—that he was going to compliment me on a recent piece, promote me to a better beat, hell, slide over a slip of paper with a 1 percent raise scrawled on it—but I was unprepared to chat about current events in Wind Gap.

"Your mom's still there, right, Preaker?"

"Mom. Stepdad." A half sister born when I was in college, her existence so unreal to me I often forgot her name. Amma. And then Marian, always long-gone Marian.

"Well dammit, you ever talk to them?" Not since Christmas: a chilly, polite call after administering three bourbons. I'd worried my mother could smell it through the phone lines.

"Not lately."

"Jesus Christ, Preaker, read the wires sometime. I guess there was a murder last August? Little girl strangled?"

I nodded like I knew. I was lying. My mother was the only person in Wind Gap with whom I had even a limited connection, and she'd said nothing. Curious.

"Now another one's missing. Sounds like it might be a serial to me. Drive down there and get me the story. Go quick. Be there tomorrow morning."

No way. "We got horror stories here, Curry."

"Yeah, and we also got three competing papers with twice the staff and cash." He ran a hand through his hair, which fell into frazzled spikes. "I'm sick of getting slammed out of news. This is our chance to break something. Big."

Curry believes with just the right story, we'd become the overnight paper of choice in Chicago, gain national credibility. Last year another paper, not us, sent a writer to his hometown somewhere in Texas after a group of teens drowned in the spring floods. He wrote an elegiac but well-reported piece on the nature of water and regret, covered everything from the boys' basketball team, which lost its three best players, to the local funeral home, which was desperately unskilled in cleaning up drowned corpses. The story won a Pulitzer.

I still didn't want to go. So much so, apparently, that I'd wrapped my hands around the arms of my chair, as if Curry might try to pry me out. He sat and stared at me a few beats with his watery hazel eyes. He cleared his throat, looked at his photo of his wife, and smiled like he was a doctor about to break bad news. Curry loved to bark—it fit his old-school image of an editor—but he was also one of the most decent people I knew.

"Look, kiddo, if you can't do this, you can't do it. But I think it might be good for you. Flush some stuff out. Get you back on your feet. It's a damn good story—we need it. You need it."

Curry had always backed me. He thought I'd be his best reporter, said I had a surprising mind. In my two years on the job I'd consistently fallen short of expectations. Sometimes strikingly. Now I could feel him across the desk, urging me to give him a little faith. I nodded in what I hoped was a confident fashion.

"I'll go pack." My hands left sweatprints on the chair.

I had no pets to worry about, no plants to leave with a neighbor. Into a duffel bag, I tucked away enough clothes to last me five days, my own reassurance I'd be out of Wind Gap before week's end. As I took a final glance around my place, it revealed itself to me in a rush. The apartment looked like a college kid's: cheap, transitory, and mostly uninspired. I promised myself I'd invest in a decent sofa when I returned as a reward for the stunning story I was sure to dig up.

On the table by the door sat a photo of a preteen me holding Marian at about age seven. We're both laughing. She has her eyes wide open in surprise, I have mine scrunched shut. I'm squeezing her into me, her short skinny legs dangling over my knees. I can't remember the occasion or what we were laughing about. Over the years it's become a pleasant mystery. I think I like not knowing.

I take baths. Not showers. I can't handle the spray, it gets my skin buzzing, like someone's turned on a switch. So I wadded a flimsy motel towel over the grate in the shower floor, aimed the nozzle at the wall, and sat in the three inches of water that pooled in the stall. Someone else's pubic hair floated by.

I got out. No second towel, so I ran to my bed and blotted myself with the cheap spongy blanket. Then I drank warm bourbon and cursed the ice machine.

Wind Gap is about eleven hours south of Chicago. Curry had graciously allowed me a budget for one night's motel stay and breakfast in the morning, if I ate at a gas station. But once I got in town, I was staying at my mother's. That he decided for me. I already knew the reaction I'd get when I showed up at her door. A quick, shocked flustering, her hand to her hair, a mismatched hug that would leave me aimed slightly to one side. Talk of the messy house, which wouldn't be. A query about length of stay packaged in niceties.

"How long do we get to have you for, sweetness?" she'd say. Which meant: "When do you leave?"

It's the politeness that I find most upsetting.

I knew I should prepare my notes, jot down questions. Instead I drank more bourbon, then popped some aspirin, turned off the light. Lulled by the wet purr of the air conditioner and the electric plinking of some video game next door, I fell asleep. I was only thirty miles outside my hometown, but I needed one last night away.

In the morning I inhaled an old jelly doughnut and headed south, the temperature shooting up, the lush forest imposing on both sides. This part of Missouri isn't quite mountainous, but the hills are massive, like giant rolling swells. Hitting a summit, I could see miles of fat, hardy trees broken only by the thin strip of highway I was on.

You can't spot Wind Gap from a distance; its tallest building is only three stories. But after twenty minutes of driving, I knew it was coming: First a gas station popped up. A group of scraggly teenage boys sat out front, barechested and bored. Near an old pickup, a diapered toddler threw fistfuls of gravel in the air as his mother filled up the tank. Her hair was dyed gold, but her brown roots reached almost to her ears. She yelled something to the boys I couldn't make out as I passed. Soon after, the forest began to thin. I passed a scribble of a strip mall with tanning beds, a gun shop, a drapery store. Then came a lonely cul-de-sac of old houses, meant to be part of a development that never happened. And finally, town proper.

For no good reason, I held my breath as I passed the sign welcoming me to Wind Gap, the way kids do when they drive by cemeteries. It had been eight years since I'd been back, but the scenery was visceral. Head down that road, and I'd find the home of my grade-school piano teacher, a former nun whose breath smelled of eggs. That path led to a tiny park where I smoked my first cigarette on a sweaty summer day. Take that boulevard, and I'd be on my way to Woodberry, and the hospital.

I decided to head directly to the police station. It squatted at one end of Main Street, which is, true to its word, Wind Gap's main street. On Main Street you will find a beauty parlor and a hardware store, a five-and-dime called Five-and-Dime, and a library twelve shelves deep. You'll find a clothing store called Candy's Casuals, in which you may buy jumpers, turtlenecks, and sweaters that have ducks and schoolhouses on them. Most nice women in Wind Gap are teachers or mothers or work at places like Candy's Casuals. In a few years you may find a Starbucks, which will bring the town what it yearns for: prepackaged, preapproved mainstream hipness. For now, though, there's just a greasy spoon, which is run by a family whose name I can't remember.

Main Street was empty. No cars, no people. A dog loped down the sidewalk, with no owner calling after it. All the lampposts were papered with yellow ribbons and grainy photocopies of a little girl. I parked and peeled off one of the notices, taped crookedly to a stop sign at a child's height. The sign was homemade, "Missing," written at the top in bold letters that may have been filled in by Magic Marker. The photo showed a dark-eyed girl with a feral grin and too much hair for her head. The kind of girl who'd be described by teachers as a "handful." I liked her.

Natalie Jane Keene

Age: 10

Missing since 5/12

Last seen at Jacob J. Asher Park, wearing

blue-jean shorts, red striped T-shirt

Tips: 588-7377

I hoped I'd walk into the police station and be informed that Natalie Jane was already found. No harm done. Seems she'd gotten lost or twisted an ankle in the woods or ran away and then thought better of it. I would get in my car and drive back to Chicago and speak to no one.

Turns out the streets were deserted because half the town was out searching the forest to the north. The station's receptionist told me I could wait—Chief Bill Vickery would be returning for lunch soon. The waiting room had the false homey feel of a dentist's office; I sat in an orange endchair and flipped through a Redbook.

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Reading Group Guide

A Reader’s Guide for Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
 
For additional features, visit www.gillian-flynn.com.
 
In order to provide reading groups with the most informed and thought-provoking questions possible, it is necessary to reveal important aspects of the plot of this novel. If you have not finished reading Sharp Objects, we respectfully suggest that you wait before reviewing this guide.
 
Introduction
A second-rate reporter for a fourth-rate newspaper, Camille Preaker returns to the tiny, troubled town of her childhood in search of her breakout story. The lead: A murderer is targeting young girls in gruesome fashion. It’s the kind of dark-hearted crime coverage that’s right up her alley—in the last place she’d choose to go.
 
Wind Gap, Missouri, is ill-equipped to solve murders, unaccustomed to the media coverage a public crime attracts. But its citizens are well acquainted with private cruelty, violence, and pain . . . as Camille rediscovers while she investigates the murders and her own dark past. Through the distorted lenses of drugs, deceit, and long-held resentment, she begins to piece together a horrifying story that hits closer to home than she ever expected.
 
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Soon after arriving in Wind Gap, Camille reflects, “Curry was wrong: Being an insider was more distracting than useful.” What exactly was Curry wrong about? What advantages did he think Camille’s “insider” status would bring with it? Was he, ultimately, wrong?
 
2. After ten years of abstinence, what is it that motivates Camille’s promiscuity during her return to Wind Gap? What do you make of her choice of partners—both relative outsiders in the town?
 
3. Does Camille deliberately sabotage her relationship with Richard? Could they have made a good couple?
 
4. Driving through Wind Gap, Camille describes the character of each distinct section of town, including its architecture: often poorly executed renovations and new construction. What do you make of her critiques? How are their homes symbolic of the people of Wind Gap?
 
5. Does Amma feel real affection for Camille? What are her motivations for getting closer to Camille?
 
6. What similarities do you see between Camille and Amma? What similarities do you think Camille sees?
 
7. Why is Amma so obsessed with her dollhouse? What significance does it hold for her?
 
8. Camille is addicted to “cutting,” a form of self-harm. Why do you think she specifically cuts words into her skin?
 
9. Camille is shocked when her suspicions about Marian’s illnesses are confirmed. Do you think she believes Adora deliberately killed Marian? Do you believe Marian’s death was intentional?
 
10. Is there goodness in Adora? Are there any moments when she seems to you more human, or more kind?
 
11. How would you describe Alan—a man who, as Camille says, never sweats—living among so much anxiety? Do you see this type of contrast—between cleanliness and filth, order and disorder—elsewhere in the book?
 
12. The story about cutting off her own hair before school-picture day is attributed both to Ann and to Camille. Why do you think the author makes this connection?
 
13. Discuss the role of substance abuse in the book. How does it define the characters, their behavior, and the town of Wind Gap? How does it contribute to the telling of the story, as the focus—and the substances themselves—intensify during the course of the book?
 
14. Discuss the theme of violence throughout the book, including animal slaughter, sexual assault, cutting, biting, and, of course, murder. What do you make of the way residents of Wind Gap respond to violence?
 
15. “A ring of perfect skin.” One on Camille’s back, another on her mother’s wrist. What significance does this have? How alike are Camille and her mother? In what crucial ways are they different?
 
16. Why does Camille allow herself to be poisoned by Adora?
 
17. In describing her crimes, Amma recalls happy, “wild” times with Ann and Natalie. Why isn’t Amma able to keep these girls as friends? Do their violent undercurrents doom these friendships to fail, or could they have been overcome?
 
18. As a reporter, Camille often has to distinguish between original quotes and quotes that are influenced by “true crime” dramas. What is the author saying about our society and our exposure to crime stories? Are the police working the case also guilty of this pop-culture shorthand?
 
19. At the end of the book, Camille isn’t certain of her answer to one key question: “Was I good at caring for Amma because of kindness? Or did I like caring for Amma because I have Adora’s sickness?” What is your opinion?
 
20. How important do you think the outward appearance of the people in Sharp Objects is to their personalities? Ugliness and beauty are themes throughout the book, but are they the key themes? Or do the characters rise above the visual?
 
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 597 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(279)

4 Star

(183)

3 Star

(88)

2 Star

(29)

1 Star

(18)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 598 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing But Compelling

    This was Flynn's first novel, but I read her second (unrelated) novel, Dark Places, first. Both do have points of similarity. Both have very damaged protagonists and both have great voices and striking prose. Both have disturbing themes and imagery. I liked this one much more though. Her next book has if anything an even more memorable and well-drawn protagonist and ambitious structure--but in this one the resolution made much more sense; it really held together with a wicked twist in the end.

    This isn't a genteel drawing room mystery but very gritty and noirish. This story deals with two child murders in a small Missouri town where the little girls had their teeth ripped out. The protagonist, Camille Preaker, is a reporter who returns to her hometown to cover the story. In isolation Camile might seem extreme, even repulse a reader with her self-destructive actions--she has a history as a cutter and if she's not an alcoholic, she's clearly on the way. But in the context of her family and hometown her behavior is explicable and sympathetic. Her mother is among the more well-drawn human monsters I've read in a work of fiction and yet seems just all of a piece in her setting--Flynn is very good at invoking the sharp cruelties in this small town across generations. The novel is a well-paced, compelling read I won't soon forget.

    83 out of 87 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Easy Read

    I purchased this book after loving Flynn's "Gone Girl," and once again I was not dissappointed. Her writing style is so captivating and I could not put the book down. Would definitely recommend.

    44 out of 47 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2012

    This book sticks with you

    I read it over three years ago and I still think about it. Every time I am looking for a new book to read I click on this one and look for books like it. I'm not a morbid person, quite bubbly actually, and I found this book wonderful. Gillian Flynn writes so "real" it's hard to believe it's not her true story. Very gifted writer!

    39 out of 42 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2012

    Disturbing, Bizarre--and absolutely Riveting!!!

    With so many books out there with the same old plot line, I am always in search of a novel with a unique, never-done-before character and plot line. This one hits the nail on the head. Well done.

    25 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    intriguing, freaky, suspenseful book

    Camille Preaker isn't the most likeable heroine and sometimes I think I would call her the anti-heroine. She does a lot of stupid things in this book but I always hope she succeeds. Camille is the most unusual main character I have ever read about. Her form of self-mutilation is unusual and fascinating. I'm glad I bought this book so I can re-read it because it is an unusual book and I raced thru it and the twist at the end was a huge surprise. I did not expect it at all. I look forward to reading this author's second book.

    16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    Weird and gruesome

    Read this if you like suspenseful gruesome stories. I love all of her books!

    14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2012

    Meh

    After reading rave reviews, I found this book to be boring and predictable. Flynn's use of dark elements (cutting amongst many other psychological problems in the family) was there just as a sad excuse of a literary device. There was cruelty for cruelty's sake which didn't help develop the characters. All the praise Flynn is getting for her novels and writing styles is ill placed. If you're looking for characters with problems that might actually touch you, pass on this book. Try a Janet Fitch novel as it will be worth the $10 you saved by not getting this book.

    9 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 10, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    My biggest admiration of this book is that the conclusion is far more realistic than most others centering on this topic.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Awesome couldntt Couldnt stop reading!

    It hooks u from the very begining making you want to turn the pages all the way till its finished and even still wanting more

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2011

    Good book

    I knew who did it after the first 60 pages but didnt knoww how or why so i kept reading. Great twist and turns

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2012

    Not much to bother with

    Characters are too extreme in their neuroses. Flynn nails the flippant narcissism and bravado of the teenage mind, but the adults are contrived. Gone Girl is much, much better. If you liked GG, don't bother reading Sharp Objects.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2009

    Gillian Flynn Needs A Vacation from the Dark Side!

    After reviewing another Flynn novel, "Dark Places", a few posts ago, I was a little hesitant to do another one. Don't get me wrong. Flynn is a very talented author, but you really have to be in the mood for her. Her books are not frivolous beach reads, filled with rich girls shopping and sleeping around to their hearts content. Flynn's novels are dark and messy. The covers are jet black, with one small picture in the middle. I have to say that of the two, I preferred the book I am about to review, "Sharp Objects".

    This is the story of Camille Preaker, a Chicago newspaper reporter. Camille is sent back to her hometown in Missouri to report on the murders of two preteen girls. While there, she must deal with family ghosts...a mother who never loved her, a half-sister she has never met, and a sister who died long ago. Her past is not pretty, but she must confront it if she wants to report on the murders and get on with her life.

    "Sharp Objects" is hard to put down but not a fun read. Gillian Flynn just needs to go on vacation somewhere and relax to get away from her dark side. I will be reviewing "Twenties Girl" by Sophie Kinsella, the queen of chick lit, very soon! I need to get back into "summer" mode!

    MY RATING - 4

    To see my rating scale and more reviews, please check out my blog:
    http://www.1776books.blogspot.com

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2012

    Dark but Great!!! I don't mind reading dark novels. The idea an

    Dark but Great!!! I don't mind reading dark novels. The idea and concept behind the main character was new and I really appreciated that. Definitely not what I expected when I picked the book up. She did a great job with the story and the twist were very nice. There are compelling characters in the book and that makes it hard to put down. I actually went back and mentally mapped the cutting, to help me get a better understanding of Preakers mind set. I almost thought the ending was a bit rushed and sadly I figured it out about half the way through...maybe its just me. This was a good quick read and I plan on reading more from Gillian Flynn.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2012

    Dark and gruesome just for the sake of being dark and gruesome

    Not my favorite. I has just read the authors new book Gone Girl and thought I would give this one a try. Although the characters and plot in Gone Girl were both dark and twisted this book took it to a whole new and disturbing level - slightly too much for me and the darkness seemed almost pointless/unexplained at parts. The ending was abrut (similar to Gone Girl) almost as if the other had too many balls in the air and just let most of them drop towards the end. Its not necessarily a plot twisting thriller but a scattered account of gruesome and strange behavior I could not relate to at all.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent

    Dark story about family relationships and small town living.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    Excellent novel

    Great, well written first novel. Kept me guessing until the end. Dark writing but it makes for compelling reading. I would highly recommend this novel. I look forward yo reading this authors next novel.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2012

    Three stars

    Not bad. Not great. A longish short story

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    Dark and disturbing but a great thriller!

    Liked it better than Dark Places!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    !!!!!!

    Gripping read.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Addicting

    This is the best of the author's three books. Could not put it down!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 598 Customer Reviews

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