Wednesday, March 27, 2013

dark places

When Libby Day was seven-years-old, her mother and two sisters were murdered. Libby escaped by crawling through the window and hiding in the freezing woods behind the house (losing a few digits to frostbite in the process). Though only a child, she testified that her brother Ben was the murderer and subsequently, he was found guilty and imprisoned. 

But that is only the beginning of this story. Twenty-five years later, a member of the Kill Club (a community of "fans" obsessed with various murders) particularly interested in the "Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas" (as the Day family murders are known) contacts Libby. He offers her money in exchange for communication and she, broke and lazy, accepts. In the months that follow, Libby confronts the day she never thinks about anymore. Did Ben murder her mother and sisters? Did she tell the truth as a child, or was she coerced? Was their absent, alcoholic father Runner involved? Was Ben a Satan-worshipper, as the prosecution claimed? What really happened on January 2, 1985?

The story is told in alternating perspectives: the year 2000 (told by Libby, in the first-person) and 1985 (switching between Libby's mother, Patty, and brother, Ben, both in the third-person). With this format, Flynn is able to hide bits of the truth while slowly revealing others, always keeping her reader guessing. And she really is a master of pacing. Many of the chapters end with cliffhangers, but even when they don't, you're drawn into the next chapter because of the change in perspective and the temptation of learning more about the Day family.

If you liked Gone Girl, you'll definitely like Dark Places. But like Gone Girl, this story is not for the faint of heart. And if you need to like a book's characters in order to enjoy it, this is definitely not the book for you. Libby is the main narrator and (despite her tragic past), she is rarely sympathetic. She admits it in the first sentence
"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ"and becomes even more despicable as we learn about her laziness, mooching, begging, frank rudeness, and kleptomania. Then there's Ben, a moody fifteen-year-old filled with anger and a penchant for violence, and Patty, a good-hearted but weak-willed mother who lets her life fall apart around her. Not to mention absent and abusive father Runner, bossy Diondra, bratty Michelle, etc., etc. This is a world of bad people with bad luck. If you're not willing to enter their world of lies, abuse, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, Satan sacrifice, animal brutality, unprotected sex, neglected children, and all-around desperation, go find another, cheerier book. 

Not that I'm a fan of grimy, depressing stories! I almost gave this 3 stars just because it left me with that desolate feeling you get after reading books like Gone Girl and Fight Club
that the world is dirty and miserable and full of angry, unfeeling, dishonest people. However, this is an intriguing story with fully-fleshed characters that had me interested from beginning to end. And for that, I had to give it 4 stars. I think Flynn is incredibly talented and though a part of me is reluctant to enter her world again, I'll definitely be reading Sharp Objects soon.


TITLE: Dark Places
AUTHOR: Gillian Flynn
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 2009
DATE FINISHED: 24 March 2013
VERDICT: 4/5 stars. Darkly delicious.

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