Monday, August 12, 2013

#46 (2013/CBR5) "Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn

I decided to read Dark Places (2009) by Gillian Flynn because I was so impressed with Flynn after reading Gone Girl. And I'm still impressed with Flynn's writing, although Dark Places was not always as much of a page turner for me. That and every single one of her characters was so disturbing and flawed that I started losing my faith in humanity.

Libby Day was only seven years old when her mother and two sisters were murdered at her farmhouse one night. Libby barely escapes by climbing out of her mother's window and hiding in the freezing woods until dawn. Later, her testimony helps to convict her fifteen-year-old brother of the crimes. About 25 years later, circumstances collide to force Libby to revisit what might have happened that night. The book shifts between Libby's present-day perspective and her mother and brother's stories from a couple of days before the murders. While reading, I was most interested in Libby's present-day sleuthing. I was always a little disappointed when I started a new chapter and I was back in the mother's depressing existence. Although once I got into them, all of the chapters were interesting.

Again, there was a lot to be impressed with in this book. Flynn manages to balance the viewpoints of three intricate characters while still fleshing out a complicated mystery with no shortage of suspects. Flynn's characterization was amazing. Libby's brother Ben Day is a struggling, angry, lonely, and confused teenager. Libby herself is a mixed bag of contradictions: smart and insightful but lacking empathy, aspirations or motivation. I also appreciated how Flynn created a new level to her story when she allowed her characters to interpret the same situation differently. Despite the difficulty I sometimes had with the subject matter, Flynn is to good of a writer for me to skip her books. I think I need a little break, but it looks like Sharp Objects is on my reading list.

I needed my spoiler tag for some freedom to candidly discuss more of the plot. I had a hard time reading about or understanding people who were so destructive. Thus, the bull killing scene and the description of the killing at the house at the end were hard to read. Also, by the time I got to the end of the book it was the middle of the night and I was so freaked out, I had a hard time staying in my apartment. I didn't realize how invested I'd become in Libby until she was sitting in that kitchen, slowly putting everything together.

I'm a little disappointed in the "mercy" killing of Libby's mom and sister. Flynn did give a hint of it early on and Libby's mother's financial problems were prevalent in her story. It also fit with the mother's character to simply run away from her problems. But, would she really voluntarily leave the world when everything with her son was still up in the air. She didn't even know where he was. It all happened a little too quickly and easily for my taste. The killer just happened to be right there, Libby's mom just happened to be given a significant sum of cash (which made me wonder how these impoverished farmers usually payed this guy), and he just happens to be captured almost twenty-five years later, coincidentally right when Libby figures out the identity of the other killer.

Finally, I think Flynn deliberately left the end unresolved. There isn't any feeling of safety or completion. Doria's daughter is still missing and Libby is ready to forgive her. There's also the question of the two other missing girls that you read about sporadically. Initially, I thought these girls would somehow be connected to the Day family murderer, but we don't ever find out. Whatever happened to them, this lack of knowledge adds to the general unrest, lack of closure, and continued danger that pervades the end of this novel.

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