I joined my first book club recently. Or maybe it is better described as a wine club where we sometimes talk about books. (But not always.) The founder set us up on a little website and we even have a name: We Like Big Books and We Cannot Lie. It is a very fun group.
For June, I recommended Dark Places by Gillian Flynn despite the fact that I’ve already read it. Twice, in fact. Why recommend a book I’ve already read? Not because I’m lazy, I promise. It’s because no one in the group had read the book, and I firmly believe that everyone needs to! I find Flynn’s prose seriously addictive. Like ‘force your family and friends to sit tight while you read it aloud to them’ addictive. It’s just that good.
The crazy thing is, I’ve read the first two paragraphs of Dark Places even more. Probably over fifty times. By the time I die, it may be up in the thousands. You see, I am a new writer, and sometimes when I’m stumped, or discouraged, or just need to remember why I even want to write, I flip through my Kindle and get re-acquainted with one of my favorite unlovable characters, Libby Day. Flynn had me wrapped around Libby’s finger from Libby’s first few sentences: “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It’s the Day blood.”
Who could resist learning more about Libby, who tells us that if you drew a picture of her soul, it would be “a scribble with fangs.” Flynn delivers a well-plotted, suspenseful novel with Dark Places, and I couldn’t put it down. But honestly, I was so hooked by Libby the character, that I would have read her story regardless.
After Dark Places, I read Gone Girl. I realized after reading the first page, that Flynn had a real knack for drawing her readers in. This time it was Amy’s head. No one who has read Gone Girl will ever look at their spouse’s head in the same way. Flynn makes it clear from the start that Nick and Amy are a couple you’ll remember for a long time to come. Oh, Amy and her finely-shaped head.
I’m going to skip Sharp Objects, Flynn’s first novel, not because it wasn’t good, just because it didn’t start out with the punch of the other two. But that’s fine because I’m not done yet, not by a long shot. You see Flynn wrote a little short story that was published in an anthology called Rogues, a great collection with new work by George R.R. Martin and others. But it was the promise of scoring another dose of Flynn’s prose that had me buying it.
With “What Do You do?” Flynn does not disappoint. The story is great but she has taken the hook to another level. The first sentence is absolutely priceless. Do not take a sip of a drink before reading it–you will be choking up with laughter. I have read the first five paragraphs of that story to literally anyone who would listen. It is my favorite thus far:
“I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.”
Do I need to say more? I don’t think so.
I have many favorite writers. Gillian Flynn is firmly situated near the top of the heap these days. I love her writing. I love her dysfunctional characters. And damn, does she write a great hook! I can’t wait for her next book.