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.
Length: 394 pages
Published: September 26, 2006
I gobbled this book up. In a matter of 2 days. It grabbed hold. Would not let go. And a week later, I find I can get get past it. It’s stayed with me, disturbingly. You know, the way having ingested food that’s gone off stays with you. It’s sitting there, at the pit of my stomach, the way emesis always does before it projectiles itself out of my body and onto the wall in the middle of the night. That a book elicits such a strong response in me speaks to Gillian Flynn’s amazing talent for writing and story crafting.
Flynn excels at creating female characters with deep, disturbing and even shocking flaws. She does not write about damsels in distress, objectified victims of brutal men. No, Flynn writes about brutality and cruelty in women. She writes about women who happen to others. It goes against the grain of conventional thinking, the thinking that tells us men happen to women, that men do things to women, while women remain passive and fearful. Flynn does not represent gender roles in her stories in this way. It’s disturbing, creates a sort of deep-seated dissonance. It’s stirring. And this clutches at the reader’s throat. And squeezes. And keeps on squeezing. That’s how it felt to me, at any rate.
This novel takes place in the fictitious Missouri small town of Wind Gap. Located in the boot heel of Missouri state, Wind Gap feels like a stifling and gothic almost southern town where apathy reigns because people would rather not know. A grisly murder sends Camille back to her home town – Wind Gap, Mo – a place where her mother runs things. I love the stifling setting she creates and the toxic women that populate this story. The men have deeply embedded flaws of their own, which obscure their vision of reality and truth and render them somewhat passive.
I identified with Camille a great deal. So much so that reading this book felt like sitting behind her eyes. To some extent this meant that I didn’t figure out the plot as early on as I could have. And even when I had figured things out the shock value continued to feel very real. This book got me to thinking about families, mothers and daughters, and toxic people. It raised questions about love and who is actually capable of it. It raised questions about mental illness and responsibility for one’s actions.
I would read this book again, something I typically never do.