Monday, February 23, 2015

**Spoilers Inside**

I finished the book early in the month, but because of travel haven't had time to write down my thoughts.  This book was such a downer- each of the nights I would read it, when I'd finally put it down, I'd be in such a low place, much like Antara said in her post.  I also totally mirror Vaishali & Stephanie in that I really never got invested. Here are some of my thoughts on the book:

I think that Gillian Flynn had a lot of good ideas that were lost in their execution throughout the book.  For instance, I liked that she was trying to develop a "dark thing" that ran in the family: Ben's obsession with annihilation (the most dramatic), all of the negative things Libby did growing up, like killing the dog (“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”), finding out Libby's mom was depressed and couldn't get up in the mornings, Ben's daughter also being nuts, but I don't think that theme was well tied together and could have been a powerful statement on mental illness.  I also think Flynn wanted to show how things that start out small turn into a conflagration and become so huge: Ben's rebellion & teen angst as the biggest example, but also Krissi Cates who's life ended up falling apart after her lie and confession regarding being molested.  Each kid was trying to solve a problem in their own way and their solution grew into a beast that was much larger than either of them- resulting in lifetime consequences.  Again, this theme was there, but I felt like it's execution left me wanting.

I also think that the character development was weak and disjointed: like Vaishali mentioned, I didn't really buy Libby's transition from being monetarily motivated to investigate her brother, to suddenly caring about her brother.  I actually got really annoyed at the scene when she visited her brother in prison and internally was like, 'oh that's my darling brother, but no, he's a killer' back and forth- it just felt so unrealistic and contrived in the storytelling.  Libby was super young the last time she saw her brother, clearly only remembered what she was coached to remember (at the time of the scene), and Ben had been in prison for a very long time- its hard for me to believe that the mannerisms and things that reminded her of teenage Ben would (a) still be there after so many years in prison and (b) that she'd actually recall them and feel the sort of nostalgia & feelings she was feeling.  And speaking of mannerisms- I really hated that every time Libby put both hands down on a table, it'd be just like Ben- I think this was one of those devices that Gillian Flynn was trying to use to draw together both Libby & Ben and show their connection, but just wasn't well executed.

And then there are Runner and Diondra.  These characters were designed to make you hate them, to make you suspect them, and to make you crazy.  And that's all they were.  They were there as a plot device and an easy out- places to cast suspicion and a way to end the story (as was the Angel of Debt).  Runner was the deadbeat dad that only showed up when he needed money and was abusive and that's really all we learn about him.  Diondra was crazy and stayed crazy and we never got any insight into her craziness.   These characters just existed on the very fringe of believability and existed only to drive the story forward- basically plot devices, and not real people: Diondra got knocked up so there'd be a person for Ben to protect- we never really understood as readers what drives her to keep the kid etc.  Runner existed to be an obvious suspect and to motivate a lot of Ben's rage, but that's about it. 

I also think Flynn was trying to paint a bleak picture of the destruction of small-town, rural America with how she portrayed Libby's farm and it's demise, a lot of the towns she drove through (notably the arrays of dead malls, all the strip clubs, failing bars etc).  Again, I think this could have been a powerful theme, but it wasn't tied together and executed in a way that made the statement Flynn probably intended.

So, in short, I certainly hope this book was/is a stepping stone to Flynn becoming a bit better with all her ideas and learning how to really propagate the themes she intends and designing her characters better.  Everything was there- the idea and premise are so cool, but the execution was just not there.  Like Vaishali said, I'd like to read Gone Girl to see if Flynn gets it right!  I read this online: "The strength of Flynn's storytelling lies (at least partially) in lining up a series of events so that the plot falls down like so many dominoes." and I agree with that description of how Flynn set up this story, but in one too many places, she left the dominoes a bit too far apart and the reader had to knock a few down to keep the story going. 


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