After reading Gone Girl, I knew that I was going to read all of Gillian Flynn’s backlist. I was so happy that my book club decided to pick this novel for its December meeting. I needed no cajoling to go out and get this book, and in fact I yelped in delight when I found out it was picked. I may have been a bit hasty with that yelp, because this had to be one of the most twisted and strange books that I have ever read. When I reached the middle, I had to put the book down between chapters because it was so raw and powerful. Sad, strange, gripping: these are just the beginning of the adjectives that could apply to this book. It was feral and wild and dark in ways that I never expected.
Camille is a head-down worker bee, always on the lookout for a good story that will elevate her career and get a jump on the other reporters. Though she works alone and has few friends, she does have a mentor who wants to see her succeed. But even the idea of sending her to Wind Gap seems crazily illogical to Camille, for reasons that are as yet undiscovered. Camille is a recovered cutter, and words blaze across her hidden skin like wildfire in the night. Very few people know this about her, and she is excellent at hiding it, but her words begin to itch and come alive as soon as she hits Wind Gap. While she is a former cutter, she still hangs on to a thread of that vice, making her delicate and malleable to nefarious forces beyond her control.
The interplay between mother and daughter is fraught with tension and a confusing mesh of instability. Adora Preaker is a woman who is flawed beyond comprehension. There is a deep absence of love between mother and daughter that Camille has never understood, and as she creeps closer and closer to finding the girls’ killer, she also learns that her relationship with her mother is like a cancer, eating away all that is clean and whole in her. Adora clearly has favorites, and Camille is certainly not one of them. I was surprised that Flynn took her characters to the precipice and let them drop. Not one ounce of gruesomeness was spared, be it of the carnal, mental or physical variety. This book treads on the thin line of insanity, tipping over drunkenly into Camille’s horrific past.
The most interesting character in this tale was Camille’s younger sister, Amma. She is force of nature, and not in a good way. The leader of a pack of vicious high school blondes who terrorize the school and the residents of Wind Gap, Amma is uncannily coercive and flamboyantly proud of it. She rules not only in the word of adolescents but is equally feared by the adults. While Camille is on the hunt for the murderer, Amma is happily striking horror into the hearts of those less glamorous and fortunate than she. But being the daughter of the wealthiest scion of the small town, Amma goes unchecked, power dancing wildly from her delicate fingers like a slashing rain in the night. She is every girl you ever feared all rolled into one, but there is fear in her as well as around her.
This is not a book for the weak of stomach. Its debauchery is flagrant and vividly powerful. It’s a story that I can’t forget, and a tale that gave me the sweats while I was reading it. Gillian Flynn is a master at forging a story that had me on tenterhooks from the very first line, and her haunting denouement brought chills to my skin. For the brave and the intrigued, this book is a masterpiece of malevolence brought to you by an author who can craft a story that seeps into your brain like a vile worm. Highly disturbing, but recommended.