Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dark Places: A Novel by Gillian Flynn; Book-to-Movie Comes to Theaters in U.S. 09-01-14! DEDICATION of this Blog Post is to Robin Williams and His Family.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
This is the hardcover edition. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.
DEDICATION: This blog post is dedicated to Robin Williams who passed away today, Monday, August 11, 2014 (as I am drafting this post), at approximately 11:55 a.m.--Please see full dedication below.

     "The sun was shining when he started, but it was as dark as night in the tunnel. The light from the door, almost closed, soon faded as he went down....'Old Smaug...can't see me and he won't hear me. Cheer up Bilbo!' He had forgotten or had never heard about dragons' sense of smell....Then Smaug spoke. 'Well, thief! I smell you and I feel your air.  

     I hear your breath. Come along!'...[Bilbo thought] if Smaug hoped to get him to come nearer so easily he was disappointed.'No thank you, O Smaug the Tremendous!' he replied...I only wished to have a look at you and see if you were truly as great as tales say. I did not believe them.' 'Do you now?' said the dragon somewhat flattered, even though he did not believe a word of it. 'Truly songs and tales fall utterly short of the reality, O Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities,' replied Bilbo. 'You have nice manners for a thief and a liar,' said the dragon." ([2] pp. 221-222) 

     Bilbo denied being a burglar, but the truth was, as proclaimed by Smaug, Bilbo really was a thief and a liar. And so is the main protagonist of Gillian Flynn's novel, Dark Places. Libby Day, as the story opens is an adult looking backwards at her younger self. 

     Libby proclaims that she has a "meanness inside" her, that she "was not a lovable child," and that she had grown into a "deeply unlovable adult," that she has been depressed for about 24 years, and, oh, yeah,  that she is a thief and a liar.
     One more thing. Before we talk more of Libby and the book, I must place a warning, here.


     Libby Day, the main protagonist in Dark Places, was only seven-years-old when she was witness to horrible events in her family's Kinnakee, Kansas home. Libby's mother and two of her sisters were notoriously murdered during "'The Satan Sacrifice' of Kinnakee, Kansas." No one is sure how Libby survived, but she did. The traumatized seven-year-old girl then testifies that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Ben is sent to prison.

In Matrix Morpheus is always saying,
"What if I told you..." and he is act-
ually a thief (steals bodies); and
he does lie to Keanu Reeves.  And,
lastly, what if he then said, "Do
you believe me now?" Funny! [4]
     Flash forward twenty-five years, where Dark Places opens, and Libby Day is now thirty-one-years old. A fund, created from donations for Libby, has run dry, and Libby, still barely functional after all the years (and still afraid of dark places), is desperately trying to think of ways to earn some money on which to live. Admitting to being a thief and a liar, Libby steals things not because of the money; she steals personal things as a way to connect to other people's lives. 

     It is at this point in Libby's life that a secret society contacts her. The "Kill Club," a misnomer since they kill no one, is a society of people obsessed with notorious crimes. The society offers Libby three hundred dollars as an "appearance fee," to come and speak to the group. When she appears in front of the group, Libby is, at first, surprised that each person has a thick file about her family's murders. They aggressively question her trying to obtain any inside information they can or details not yet known, and...they are willing to buy "souvenirs" from the murders. 

Duh...! [5]
     Ultimately, the group is hoping to get sufficient new information to free Ben from prison--where he has been for the last twenty-five-years. Libby agrees to do the investigatory interviews with the people connected to the case back then to see if she can get additional information for the Club--of course, for a fee.

     Libby begins earning money from the group by completing interviews of people to which the Club members do not have access--like her father. Libby's quest becomes more than simply earning money when she begins to want to know the real truth about that night, so long ago. Her journey takes her from some of Missouri's shabbiest strip clubs, to Oklahoma's touristy attractions. She meets and interviews many people, and as the "unimaginable truth" begins to emerge, Libby comes face-to-face with a killer. Just like that night so long ago when her mother and sisters were murdered, Libby is forced to run out into the night to flee her pursuers. What happens to Libby shouldn't happen to anyone....

     My favorite quote from Gillian Flynn's Book, Dark Places, takes place as she is going to meet Jim Jeffreys, her trust fund manager. She is en route to meet him and, looking into the rearview mirror, observes herself. Here is the quote: 
Nothing bad can happen to BRAVE BABY DAY, LITTLE GIRL LOST, the pathetic, red-headed seven-year-old with big blue eyes, the only one who survived the PRAIRIE MASSACRE, the KANSAS CRAZE-KILLINGS, the FARMHOUSE SATAN SACRIFICE. My mom, two older sisters, all butchered by Ben. The only one left, I'd fingered him as the murderer. I was the cutie-pie who brought my Devil-worshiping brother to justice. I was big news. The Enquirer put my tearful photo on the front page with the headline ANGEL FACE. I peered into the rearview mirror and could see my baby face even now. My freckles were faded, and my teeth straightened, but my nose was still pug and my eyes kitten round. I dyed my hair now, a white-blonde, but the red roots had grown in. It looked like my scalp was bleeding, especially in the late-day sunlight. It looked gory. (pp. 5-6)
     Wow! Gillian Flynn wrote a graphic and very surreal description of how Libby looks at herself. Libby paints the picture of a darling baby-faced angel girl with dazzling red hair and big round blue eyes, eyes full of tears. Then Libby layers the present day image of herself over the image of the little girl. Libby sees her own platinum blonde hair with red roots growing out. Her red roots looking like blood and gore. The image harking back to the murders...what would she look like if she had been killed with an axe to the head? Again, we see that juxtaposed image of a murdered little girl overlayed onto Libby's present day image. Libby Day's mind and soul were bleeding--she had been, metaphorically, murdered along with her mom and siblings, after all. 

     Gillian Flynn has crafted such a graphic, poignant, and memorable description of how Libby looks at herself. It is no wonder Libby feels depressed, and sometimes suicidal. Powerful stuff!

     First, let's start with that great quote. I've already told you it's my favorite quote from the book, so I won't overly belabor the point. The writing just conjures up concrete and at the same time, surreal images for the reader. Just very good writing, that.

     Second, even though I'm not a "Thriller-Suspense" kind of reader, Gillian Flynn has won me over with her novel, Dark Places. Her writing is lovely, and even though graphic violence (to be expected in thrillers and suspense novels) is used, Flynn never uses more violence or gore than is needed to move the plot forward. Pardon the pun, "It's not overkill."

Charlize Theron has been cast as Libby
Day in the movie, Dark Places, from the
novel by Gillian Flynn. This photo is the
first official still from the upcoming movie. [10]
     Third, I cannot help but like Flynn's decision to make Libby Day a rather unlikeable, unsympathetic character. If Libby were too sympathetic, I think it would feel more like one of those appeals for money and sympathy on behalf of the suffering victim. I don't want to be enticed to have to contribute sympathy for a character because that character is too saccharine or needy. I like that Libby has flaws: Missing finger and toes, kleptomania, lying, fear, inability to function well in society (like holding down a job or paying bills), etc. Flynn really makes this work for Libby.

     Also as regards the other characters, Libby's father, for instance is someone I do not EVER want to meet. Flynn has drawn him so deliciously awful that I get the creeps just thinking about those little girls having to deal with him; and I just don't know where Libby gets the courage to go and interview him about the murders--even if she is now thirty-one years old. Astounding! So...I liked the character development, for the most part.

     In spite of really liking some elements of the book, I did find a few things that didn't work for me. First, Gillian Flynn starts out the book (Chapter one) in the present and chapter two goes to the past. Flynn alternates between past and present. That's OK as it goes, but then things get more complicated as she also starts alternating among the other characters, as well (Patty and Ben as well as Libby). The chronology, generally, moved forward in time, but the jumping back and forth amongst the characters--Libby, Patty, and Ben--and also discussing other characters in the book felt a bit like whiplash to me. I felt lost a few times and had to go to the table of contents and/or reread part of the previous chapter to reorient myself. I really didn't like this about the book.

I agree with Matthew Macfadyen. I think that is why
I like the way Gillian Flynn created Libby. Although,
I'm not really sure about Libby's father. [12]
     Second, I really believe that Gillian Flynn did a GREAT job in delineating Libby's character development. The problem is that in this story no one seemed even relatively normal. Not the financial advisor who sends a hit man to make a deal with Libby's mother, not Libby's father, not even the aunt who cared for Libby. I can't think of one sympathetic character or one person with whom I could identify. So, while Flynn did really well with Libby's character, I think she went overboard on everyone else making them either psychologically disturbed or criminal. Just too much. The way Flynn writes here makes it appear that no one in society is even half way normal.

This cover image plays
an instrumental part in
one scene in the book.
No spoilers here! [13]
     I hope you noticed that no where in my post did I mention what the title of the book signifies, Dark Places. I will not be telling you that here, because it is an integral part of one of the themes of the book. As you read through the book, just pay attention to all the mentions of "dark places." You'll see it before the end.

     Don't forget about the book-to-movie, movie release slated for September 1, 2014. I'm not sure if it is limited release or a general one. Keep an eye out for it.

     Finally, this book is a multi-layered and, obviously multi-faceted, book. Gillian Flynn has done a great job layering all the various characters, themes and motifs throughout the book. I could do one whole blog post just on this topic, alone. And, as far as the quotes go, I have about six that I really love from the book...too many good quotes to use. Ah, me.... And now, to an even more serious matter.
DEDICATION: Today, I dedicate this blog post to Robin Williams who died earlier this morning (as I am drafting this post) at about 11:55 a.m. Sadly, preliminary information from the Coroner's Office indicates that the likely cause of death is "suicide by asphyxia."

     Robin Williams was known for many movies and appearances. Among them, just a few are as follows: The World According to Garp; Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poet's Society; The Fisher King; Hook; The Birdcage; Goodwill Hunting; Patch Adams; Night at the Museum; Night at the Museum: Battle of The Smithsonian; Mrs. Doubtfire and What Dreams May Come. 

     To many people, their sentimental favorite was his television series, Mork and Mindy. He was also adored when he made guest appearances on Happy Days, Eight is Enough, Saturday Night Live, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and American Idol. He also was nominated for Critic's Choice Television Award for Best Actor in A Comedy Series for his work in The Crazy Ones. [15]

      To Robin Williams' family and friends I and my family offer our sincerest sorrow at his passing. We pray for you and send peace and love to you. Also, I wish to offer my condolences to all of Robin William's fans and to those who loved him and his great body of work. I am so very sad tonight as I think about what beauty and light the world has lost. God Bless you, Robin, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the great gift of yourself to the world in your remarkable appearances on film and in person.

     As I indicated at the top of this post, I will caution everyone of a sensitive nature or who is immature against reading this blog post and book. I don't know if I remembered every objectionable thing for these two groups of people (sensitive and immature), but here's what I can recall: The book contained themes of suicidal thoughts, graphic murder, violent acts, illicit sex, alcohol and drunkenness, smoking, kleptomania and lying, fear, anger, Satanism and ritual sacrifice, animal abuse and murder, murder-for-hire, and child sexual abuse. A lot of really heavy-duty themes here, running throughout the book. But for adults who like crime novels, mystery-murder, or thrillers and suspense, this book will be absolutely appropriate--dependent, of course, on your own tastes in reading material.

     I would have given this book one more star if not for the aspects that didn't work for me, as stated, above. I enjoyed this book and am pleased to give it the rating of 4.0 stars out of 5.

     Thank you for taking time, today, to read this post about Gillian Flynn's novel, Dark Places. Please join me next week as we will be celebrating my one-year BLOGIVERSARY. I will be telling you about many behind the scenes aspects of this blog, renewing and announcing MY top ten favorite reads of all time, and will be awarding the four free prizes in a blogiversary drawing--and more.

     To enter, all you have to do is tell me what (if anything) this blog means to you. That's it. Nothing more--easy. The entry form is on the top right side bar. No information you give me will be given to anyone else. Please enter, I have four nice prizes to give away--take a look at the photos.

     My friends, it has been an honor to write for you; thank you for your attentiveness and time spent reading my blog posts. I hope you have gained something valuable or informative this year. Do something good for yourself this week and read just a bit every day.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [20]
...many happy pages of reading.

[1] "Dark Places." [hardcover edition] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-06-14.
[2] "The Hobbit." [J.R.R. Tolkien] Kindle Ed. Retrieved 08-10-14.
[3] "Conversation with Smaug." pinwords.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[4]  "What if I told you..." [created by Sharon Powers] memegenerator.net. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[5] "Kill Club." [created by Sharon Powers] memegenerator.net. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[6] "My Favorite Quote." [graphic image] myhomepage.org. Retrieved 08-11-12.
[7] "Girl With Red Hair and Blue Eyes Wearing Red." gettyimages.com. Retrieved 08-11-12.
[8] "An Axe Murderer, A Missionary and A Miracle." crosswalk.com. Retrieved 08-11-12.
[9] "Performance Monitoring, What Works and What Doesn't...." usaidlearninglab.org. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[10] "Charlize Theron; First official still from Dark Places." chapter1-take1.blogspot.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[11] "Jump Frog." commentskart.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[12] "Matthew Macfadyen Quote." izquotes.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[13] "Dark Places." [alternate cover image] amazon.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[14] "R.I.P. Robin Williams; Legendary Comic and Actor Dead at 63." collider.com. Retrieved at 08-11-14.
[15] "Robin Williams Filmography." en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[16] "Mork and Mindy Reunite on an Episode of 'The Crazy Ones'; Nanu Nanu" examiner.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[17] "Caution, Be Careful What You Believe." doubletakedebate.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[18] "4 Stars out of 5." [graphic] giantbomb.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[19] "It's Our One Year Blogiversary!" blissedoutbelle.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.
[20] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 08-11-14.