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Dark Places: A Novel

A book by Gillian Flynn

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"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ."

  • May 2, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5


Flynn's novel has the effect of blunt force trauma. With icy precision and an eye for the consequences of poverty and despair, this novel hums with discordance and the chronic misery of a family mired in unhappiness. In January, 1985, Libby Day is the survivor of a family massacre, at seven years old the only witness to the murder of her mother and two sisters on their Kansas farm. Libby's brother, Ben, has spent the last twenty-five years in jail for what an avid press describes as "The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee Kansas". A sullen, angry teenager, Ben proves an uncooperative person of interest, the public promptly labeling him a drug-addicted Satanist. Now in her thirties, Libby bears the scars of that harrowing night, when she climbed from her mother's bedroom window to escape her family's grisly fate. Carefully coached, Libby is the star witness against Ben, the jury happy to put an end to the nightmare scenario of the butchered Day family, Ben an obvious target.

An unlikely heroine, Libby is profoundly depressed, suicidal and nearly out of funds from a trust set up for the surviving victim of the crimes. A product of her environment, Libby is a manipulative liar and opportunist, a thief of people's belongings, anything to momentarily assuage the gaping hole in her life without family or hope. Approached by the Kill Club, a loose group of true crime aficionados, Libby seizes an opportunity to earn some desperately needed money by selling selected family memorabilia and visiting the brother she has not spoken to since her testimony in court. Her world already painfully distorted by the murders, contacting Ben is but another step down a dark path toward oblivion. Fearless, Libby has been waiting to die since that terrible January night.

This novel is shocking, brutal and disconcerting, an unsparing exploration of people and their motives, a harsh landscape that questions long-held assumptions about the human capacity for violence. The Days are the object of ridicule, their hand-me-down clothes and indelible mark of less-than. It is easy to recoil, to point the finger of guilt at the angst-riddled teenager, Ben, and donate money for the profoundly disturbed survivor, who bounces from place to place wreaking havoc on those who provide shelter. And as the facts of that night are revealed, layer after layer of ugliness is exposed, a confluence of violence that fills the air with screams, then silence. From the Day family to Ben's questionable associates and his flirtation with the forbidden, from bone-crushing poverty and the banality of true evil, Flynn crafts a masterpiece of cold-blooded horror with no happy ending, daring the reader to look away. Stripping the mask of innocence from the predictable response to a heinous crime, Flynn stares into the void, daring us to do the same. Luan Gaines/2009.


Dark Places

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May 20, 2009
It is very dark and edgy- and brave. After reading Dark Places, I read her first novel, Sharp Objects and that was even more fascinating, if deeply creepy! Not for the faint of heart, this is an impressive writer.
 
May 19, 2009
Wow! Your review summarizes nicely and probes into the events depicted in this book, which sounds like an intriguing read.
 
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More Dark Places: A Novel reviews
review by . June 18, 2009
For 25 years, Libby Day has avoided revisiting her memories of the horrendous night in which she heard someone murder her mother and sisters. It was her own testimony, as a 5 year old, that sent her older brother to prison for life. Now Libby is barely functioning as an independent adult. She desperately needs money, and agrees to consult with a club of murder groupies who believe her brother is innocent. It isn't long before everything she is forced to re-examine everything she knows is true. And …
review by . June 07, 2009
Libby Day was 7 years old when her brother murdered her mother and two sisters. Libby has spent 25 years believing that, and not particularly caring about it, but now she is finally starting to question what really happened on the night her family was killed-- not because of any curiosity of her own but because she has run out of money to live on and the only way she has of making money is by finding out information for a fan group that is obsessed with notorious crimes.    First …
review by . May 21, 2009
This is one of those books that pulls you in from the very first page; in this case a poem about the murders of the family. The poem is catchy in itself and reminds me of many form my own school days. Then you delve into Libby Day (the sole survivor years later) and her point of view. Right off I was addicted but also, dementedly, wishing the book actually covered that first murder. All was not lost though as flashbacks quickly played from other times and other player's points of view; and Libby …
review by . May 19, 2009
I really enjoyed this author's last novel "Sharp Objects" and so was interested in reading her new one. This one did not disappoint: it's a frightening story of murder and mayhem, and reminds one of the brutal farmhouse killings written about in Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". This massacre, however, has a survivor, a 7 year old,whose court testimony sends her teen-age brother to jail for life.    25 years pass, and a now almost penniless woman decides to make some money by …
review by . April 23, 2009
Dark Places is a nasty little book in all the right ways.      Twenty-five years ago, while seven-year-old Libby Day hid and listened, her mother and two older sisters were massacred in their Kansas farmhouse, a crime for which her brother is serving a life sentence. Now 32, Libby has, in her own words, "a meanness" inside her. She's also blown through every dime of the money donated to her cause after the murders, and has no idea of how she's going to earn her keep until she's …
review by . May 01, 2009
Flynn's novel has the effect of blunt force trauma. With icy precision and an eye for the consequences of poverty and despair, this novel hums with discordance and the chronic misery of a family mired in unhappiness. In January, 1985, Libby Day is the survivor of a family massacre, at seven years old the only witness to the murder of her mother and two sisters on their Kansas farm. Libby's brother, Ben, has spent the last twenty-five years in jail for what an avid press describes as "The Satan Sacrifice …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #109
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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ISBN-10: 0307341569
ISBN-13: 978-0307341563
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (May 5, 2009)

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"Wonderfully Nasty"
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