Monday, December 22, 2014

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn
5 stars - ew, not for the faint of heart
ALR Red - some scenes of animal cruelty

Libby Day was seven when her mother and sisters were murdered in their home. As the sole survivor of the event, Libby is called on to testify against her 15 year old brother, Ben, and he is sentenced to life in prison. 

Twenty-five years later, Libby is having trouble living a normal life. Short on cash, she agrees to a paid guest appearance at the Kill Club, a group of folks obsessed with violent crime. In the case of the murders of Libby's family, a small faction of Kill Club members are convinced that Ben is innocent and they want Libby's help to prove it.

Libby agrees to contact family and friends from that dark time, for a fee, and as she does so, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems. Did she really see Ben murder her family, or does she only think she did? Was she coached by the prosecution? Interwoven with Libby's unearthing of people from the past, Ms. Flynn provides accounts of the days leading up to the murder from the perspective of Libby's brother, Ben, as well as her mother, Patty.

For those of you who might have read Ms. Flynn's most popular novel, Gone Girl, let me just say that of her three books, that is the most benign. Dark Places, like Sharp Objects, is really disturbing. I mean really disturbing. 

The Day family is beset by crushing poverty. Patriarch, Runner Day, is an abusive alcoholic who abandoned his family years ago, but still drops by now and then to slap them around and mooch money off his ex-wife. Mother, Patty, is trying to run the family farm in Kansas, but is hopelessly unable to make ends meet. And while showing up for school in raggedy clothes and getting free lunches are not the only elements required to twist one's mind, the conditions that the family lives in, the whispers and gossip about them around town, are certainly contributing factors in shaping a family which seeks out desperate solutions to problems. 

Maybe you're saying, "Hey, Mango Momma, why do you keep reading Gillian Flynn's books if they are so disturbing?" I'll tell you why. Because Ms. Flynn is one of the most exquisite writers I have come across. Her skill with the English language is breathtaking. Not one misplaced word, not one draggy scene. And she pulls you in. There are places in the book where you can see something dreadful coming, yet you can't stop reading. She has you. Every sentence, every word, pulls you along, pulls you down into a dreadful pit of sometimes sad, sometimes sociopathic, sometimes both behavior.

Just take in the opening paragraph:

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it. I was never a good little girl, and I got worse after the murders. Little Orphan Libby grew up sullen and boneless, shuffled around a group of lesser relatives - second cousins and great-aunts and friends of friends - stuck in a series of mobile homes or rotting ranch houses all across Kansas. Me going to school in my dead sisters' hand-me-downs: Shirts with mustardy armpits. Pants with baggy bottoms, comically loose, held on with a raggedy belt cinched to the farthest hole. In class photos my hair was always crooked - barrettes hanging loosely from strands, as if they were airborne objects caught in the tangles - and I always had bulging pockets under my eyes, drunk-landlady eyes. Maybe a grudging curve of the lips where a smile should be. Maybe.

Do you want to get to know that person better? Yeah, you do, but you also don't, right? Can't bear to look. Can't turn away.


  1. I've been really curious about her other books and you've just made me more so!

  2. hello mango momma its dennis the vizsla dog hay hmm that buk duz sownd rather up dadas alley!!! espeshly if libby terns owt to be a vampire or sumthing!!! ha ha ok bye