I was completely drawn in by Gillian Flynn's writing style when I read her first book, Sharp Objects. Dark Places doesn't disappoint. This story line pulled me in from the first page. The way the author writes gritty, real, female characters is absolutely spell-binding. It's dark, it's disturbing, and it's impossible to put down!!!
After devouring Gone Girl, I couldn't wait to get my hands on more from Gillian Flynn. After only a few pages of Dark Places, it was obvious that I was going to love Flynn's earlier work just as much. Maybe even a little more.
Flynn is masterful at creating characters that aren't the least bit likeable, but completely engaging. For example, it's hard to feel sympathy for the "heroine," prickly shoplifter Libby Day, short-tempered, unmotivated, entitled -- and the lone survivor of her family's mass murder in the Satan-crazed '80s. But it's impossible not to want to peel back the layers of her story, to shine a light on Libby's titular "dark places." And chapters told in alternating voices, including Libby's murdered mother, Patty, and her big brother, Ben, imprisoned for his family's grisly murders, provide a great way to slowly unfurl the truth behind the night of the killings.
Once again, Flynn has captured a single day gone horribly wrong in the life of a truly twisted American family. And once again, I was genuinely blindsided when the author's carefully plotted reveal finally played out. What a great read.
Libby Day is the only survivor of a massacre that killed her mother and two sisters. The killings had a ritualistic feel, and her older brother, Ben, is arrested and convicted of the crimes. Libby, who was only 7 and at home during the murders, testifies against her brother. She is living off the proceeds of the kind hearted people who donated money after the killings.
Libby is a complicated character, with an edge to her character, and she is motivated by money to work with a "kill club", a group of people that find entertainment in researching past murders. The murders of her family members have their devotees and Libby works with them to get in contact with the people who knew her family, looking for the truth.
The book flashes from the days before the murders to present day, but was easy to follow. The characters were memorable, complicated, and compelling. When I finally got to the end and found out what really happened in the farmhouse that day, it was not at all what I expected.
I was compelled to read this book and wished that I could have read it all day.
Wow! I finished this book yesterday and still can't stop thinking about it. Flynn is a master storyteller, putting a fresh, unimaginable twist on a tale reminiscent of Capote's 'In Cold Blood'. Her characters feel so real and the plot so riveting, I'm a little sad it's over! Kind of like that feeling you get after watching the finale of your favorite tv series.
Flynn is by far a talented writer, each book better than the last. I can't wait to read what she writes next!!
As with Gillian Flynn's debut novel, Sharp Objects, in Dark Places, the author also deals with the psychology of someone who is mentally unwell (among many other issues including a farmer's tough life and the way things were in the 80's for them). In this case, the protagonist, Libby, is mentally unwell because of the trauma she suffered as a child. Her family was murdered by not just anyone, her brother. She was the only one that managed to escape. Since then, she has become very bitter, uncaring, lonely, clinically depressed, has developed kleptomania, and seems to have a difficult time forming healthy relationships. She believes all of these will keep her from functioning enough to get a job. In my opinion she should have seeked therapy as it might have helped her function. Because she does not think she can get a job where she won't get fired and is running out of the money she's been living on (money sent to her by well-wishers who know about the murders of her family), she winds up selling family memorabilia to the Kill Club. The Kill Club is a horrible group of people obsessed with murders. They challenge Libby's idea that her brother was the murder that fateful night of January 3, 1985. Throughout the book the readers are told (in flashbacks) about the events of that night and events leading up to it. All is told through the point of view of Libby, Ben, and Patty, their mother. Readers, like Libby, will begin to question whether Libby at the young age of 7 was correct in stating her brother was the murderer. I know it seems as if just by knowing that readers will think "okay so then Ben probably wasn't the killer." Trust me, there's a lot you won't see coming and it's all worth the ride. The fact that it's so fast paced and makes you turn the pages like a madman/madwomen, adds to the enjoyment level.
I must state that this book had its merits, but it also had its downsides. I found myself unable to like the Kill Club, including Lyle. No matter what any of them say, they're just using Libby for their own entertainment and that is effed up. I will never find myself being okay with that. Libby played along because she wanted the money, which I think was horrible, yet I can see where her thought process was on that issue. Either way, she should have seeked therapy to help her. She did not need to resort to selling her family's items.
Concerning Libby's entire family; they are so flawed. All of them. I liked that. Don't get me wrong, it was unfortunate for them. For their flaws, I can understand why readers might find the family (even the younger sisters) unlikeable, but hey! People are like this in real life! I liked the honesty in this book. No matter how "messed" up everyone in this book was, you will find people like this in real life. Hopefully someone can come into their life and help them.
When I think about it, Libby and her family were not the only ones with mental issues. Pretty much every single character in this book had a problem.
In reference to memories, I had never thought about this issue before until I volunteered with an organization that helps children who have been abused. another organization had spoken to us about how back in the day, children who have gone through a trauma, were interviewed incorrectly. this led to false testimonies and many other consequences. one of the worst things that occurred was that the child would be forced to relive the trauma over and over because they would have to retell their story to numerous people like the local policemen, FBI, mother, father, aunt, etc. obviously this was not a good way to go about things. not only does it negatively affect the child, but what the child is saying may gradually change. it's not that the child is lying, but memories change the more you conjure them. It does not help when cops (they shouldn't do this anymore) used to ask children questions phrased in a way that would cause the child to believe something else occurred. for example, a cop may have asked a child "that man touched you didn't he? he hurt you? where did he hurt you?" the child might then start to believe that an event that did not occur, did in fact occur. the child will start to think that they were hurt by someone. If someone keeps repeating the same question to the child, "did you get touched by that man?" the child may end up giving the "right" answer, or the answer they believe the adults want to hear. they may then end up thinking the event really occurred. memories are a fragile thing. fascinating though. you're supposed to ask a child something like "what happened that day?" not "did he touch you?" I learned a lot of this from my psychology classes and research by Deborah Poole (among others). Look at something interesting a professor of psychology, Stephen Ceci, stated:
Our review of typical interviews from the 1980s shows many investigators blindly pursued a single hypothesis: Sexual abuse occurred. They would reinforce that hypothesis to the children, who would be led to believe in it.
It is essential to keep in mind now that most children with such implanted memories will have believed in their allegations of abuse for far longer than they were alive before those allegations first surfaced. Those 'implanted' memories are no less visceral than real-life memories.
Remember, this book took place in the 80's.
Libby's father, Runner, talking to her:
"How long it's been since I seen you, little girl? You get that flamingo ashtray I sent you?" The flamingo ashtray I got more than two decades ago, when I was a nonsmoking ten-year-old.
I feel that if Ben hadn't continued to be in an effed up relationship with Diondra, maybe he would have been better off. He may not have been as angry. All she did was tear him down. She and her step-brother Trey continually lowered his self-esteem. There is a reason that shouldn't happen to people. it can make them ANGRY! Anger leads to violence. Bad, bad things.
As for Michelle, I can completely see that girl growing up to be just like Ben. Demented, almost. By the end of the book, I wondered if there was a mental illness running in the family. Maybe not Patty, or their father (although alcoholism is technically a mental illness I don't mean that kind), but someone before them. Or maybe there was something in the water. *shrug* It's just interesting how Michelle, Ben, Trey, Deondra, and Crystal, were all off the wall. Okay, it was pretty much everyone in this book.
October 2010 - Movie rights to DARK PLACES sold!
Im thrilled to announce that the movie rights to DARK PLACES have been sold, with French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner to adapt and direct. Gilles most recent film is a beautiful (and harrowing and suspenseful and elegant) adaptation of Tatiana de Rosnays internationally bestselling novelSarahs Key, to be released in the United States in 2011. More news soon!
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn- If you liked S.O, you will like Dark Places. Psychological thriller + family issues = fun reading times. Well, not "fun" like jump up and down on a moonwalk but you know what I mean.
Criminal Minds (T.V show) - also deals with the workings of the inner mind
Dexter (T.V show) - ditto