Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dark Places

Dark Places
Gillian Flynn
3.5 / 5

Published 2009

First Sentence
"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ."
Publisher's Description:
"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ."

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

Dear Reader,

I could not put this book down.  I selected it, having read Gone Girl, on the recommendation of a friend who assured me it was way better than Flynn's most famous novel to date.  I do agree with the friend, although I still didn't adore it.  (I've since had Flynn's novel Sharp Objects also recommended as even better than both, so perhaps I'll have to check that out, as well!)  In any case, both of the books I've read by this author have been gripping and suspenseful, and they constantly throw you for loops.  You cannot stop reading until you learn the truth!  I really enjoy those sorts of books, even if they are not my favorites, and even if they're not the best literature in the world.  You can't help but be sucked in by the characters, dying to learn their motives and certain you know what the real story is, only to be thrown off the scent by a little clue tossed in by the author.  (This is very much like Gone Girl, for those who are familiar with the feeling of reading that.)

Libby is not a very likable character from the get-go.  She's lazy and unmotivated and a general misanthrope, although all of that can of course be explained by her formative experience of hearing her mother and siblings murdered when she was seven years old.  The author thought up a really clever way to draw this totally uninterested character back into real life, including back to the night of the murders, which she'd been assiduously avoiding for over two decades.  Flynn also introduces a wonderful cast of characters, both in the flashbacks as well as in the wide assortment of wacky personalities that Libby encounters as she searches for the truth.  They are enough to save the book from Libby's attitude, and ultimately you kind of end up liking her, I think.  It's just that you have to read the entire book to really understand who she is and where she comes from.

I think I especially connected with this book because it was essentially about the Satanism scare that was a popular scapegoat for many bad things that happened in the 1990s.  I vaguely recall that being a thing, and that many people suspected their own loved ones of being drawn in by the devil.  It was a sensation much like the Salem witch trials or McCarthy's Commie hunt.  I always find those "groupthink" situations fascinating; how people buy into them and how they will find ways to make anything fit into their predefined conceptions.  We live in a strange and fearful world, we do.

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  1. I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and LOVED it! I need to read this one too!!! And Gone Girl.

  2. All three of Flynn's books are brilliant. I can't wait for another.


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