Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Review)

I’ve been irrationally afraid to read Gillian Flynn. There, I admitted it. My least favorite thing in the reading world has got to be an unsatisfying ending, and I’ve heard such mixed reports of Flynn’s smash hit “Gone Girl” that I was hesitant to commit to reading it. I may also have been scarred by watching my sister in law throw the book across the room after she finished it on vacation last summer. 😉

I’m still not sure exactly what prompted me to pick up “Dark Places”, but I am glad that I did. This book started off really slow for me, it was a bit of a slog at the beginning, but by the end, I was hurtling through chapters desperate to know what really happened that night.

dark-places-book-cover

For a basic overview, Amazon really does it best: “Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.”

Libby was such a flawed character, but I never held that against her. Maybe it was my own life experiences, but I felt empathy toward her and cheered her on as she fought through her own faulty childhood memories to find the truth. Nothing is as it seems, and nothing is black or white, everything is shades of gray.

The book is a mix of present day Libby with the past component provided by her brother Ben and her mother Patty on the day leading up to the murder in 1985. The Day family had barely been surviving on farming – Runner Day, the kids’ father, was gone, Patty was trying to keep the farm going by herself. It’s worth noting that the book is set in the same year that Farm Aid became a thing, it’s getting to be the end of an era with family farming, a theme that follows throughout the book. And on this day in January 1985, things that had been set in motion months even years before finally come to a head for the family.

I never saw the ending coming. Truly. For very aware readers, there’s a throwaway reference at the beginning of the book that has a direct consequence on the ending. I remembered the reference, and as the ending was unfolding I had a few moments of “no way, this can’t be what really happened oh my GOD it IS!”

As a side note, the movie adaptation of this is completed, with a September 2014 release. While I can’t say Charlize Theron is necessarily how I pictured modern Libby (in particular, she’s far too tall, Libby is specifically mentioned as a very short woman who feels at a disadvantage without high heels), I must admit some of the other casting is inspired. I can’t wait to see Chloe Grace Moretz as Diondra, I think that’s going to be great.

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