Books Stephen King Recommends discussion

Sep-Oct 2013 Group Read > 6. Overall Impressions (SPOILERS)

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message 1: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Put your overall impressions about the book here.

message 2: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 801 comments I finished reading the book today. Reading it the second time around was as gripping as it was the first time through.

I think Libby evolved as a person and in self awareness through the process of trying to learn what really happened when her family was murdered. I grew to really like her.

In a way, jail saved Ben. He didn't have to face being a father or the charges of child abuse. He was really deluded. He was happy to take the fall to protect Diondra and their daughter. Perhaps it was the pendulum swinging to the opposite side because he felt he failed in protecting his mother and sisters. But when he learned just how sick his daughter was, he was willing to protect her too, by letting her loose in the world.

I started off saying that Diondra was a lost girl who just wanted her parent's love and attention. I have since realized that she was narcissistic, a sociopath and psychopath. Crystal is likely all that with the added complication of fetal alcohol syndrome. Scary to think she's a loose canon out there somewhere in the world.

Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer. She's able to elicit strong emotions while weaving her spell of situations gone horribly wrong. There's nothing pretty about her stories. They are all visceral. She doesn't wrap up the story in a lovely bow. You are left feeling like something is still amiss. I can hardly wait for another book from her.

message 3: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Janice - great comments! I don't know that I could read a book like this again, but since I am going back and skimming parts of it in print as I listen to the audio I can see the benefit of studying the clues again and letting the tension build. The chapter headings with the progression of time stated so baldly across the evening of the murders were so ominous. I started each new "flashback" chapter with a sense of dread mixed with curiosity.

The audio was stellar. Libby's voice especially drew me in and really helped me visualize her lethargy and the distance she kept between herself and others which was especially pronounced in the beginning of the story. I could see her pause and consider what she could have done to reach out or to say to comfort someone. I am not sure that the impact of her pulling back would have been so pronounced if I was galloping along in print.

I was celebrating as I listened when she actually hugged Lyle as her "Libby Sticky Fingers" habit paid off with the DNA. She finally reached out to someone. I was glad that she and Lyle found each other. The greeting with the fierce hug with Libby's tentative, "Aunt Diane?" approach was a great moment too. I was holding my breath. Libby really stretched and grew as a person. I suppose Ben did too, but he still felt stunted to me. His getting out of prison isn't a slam dunk, and after all of the lies, I am ok with that. He may have been under the influence of the 'devil drugs' but he was not blameless as he contributed to Diondra getting away with murder and raising their sociopath child.
Was I the only one who wondered if Baby Day was really Ben's child? Runner seemed sort of odd when Ben told him he was "going to be a daddy", at the time I wondered if Diondra hadn't been with Runner too. Something Runner said led me in that direction, more than his usual poor parenting reactions. I felt like Trey was using Diondra and would have thought nothing of pimping her to others. She was so strangely insistent in telling Ben he was the father. He seemed almost to not even know how that happened. (Silly I suppose for a farm kid who dealt with animals)
The whole dynamic around Diondra was odd. That one glimpse of her as a teenager with teenage friends when she got several voice mails about the Ben and Krissie rumors, then coupled with her saving Michelle's diary and then making her daughter her best friend and complicit partner- very sick and immature.

message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I instantly suspected that Dioandra's baby may not have been Ben's like she claimed but it could have been anyone's I suppose, but as we know she knew Trey and Runner, either could have been possible. But then when we met Baby Day all grown up, she had the classic red hair and that trait in the family came through the mother and not the father so rules and Runner and Trey (he was of Indian descent) so I think Diondra was telling the truth for once!

message 5: by Ann (last edited Oct 05, 2013 12:29PM) (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Upon an extra day of reflection I am still thinking about these characters. Neither Ben nor Libby had been able to grow up after the terrible events of their family massacre. Until Libby ran out of money she was living in the past in a self imposed burrow, unable to break free. And then with the help of Lyle, she was able to investigate and to finally understand more, at least about the catalysts, incredibly bad timing and coincidences leading up to the tragedy. For Libby, the lure of enough money to survive in her little house where the neighbors were not her friends and no one visited or called got her moving and while in motion she realized there was enough evidence to follow (money or not) and together she and Lyle seems to be healing.
The future for Ben is more uncertain. He has been lost in prison, and in suspended animation, dreaming that he was heroically protecting his daughter and Diondra.

A defining moment was when Libby hides from Diondra and Crystal in the roots of the gargantuan oak tree; similarly as she hid nearly twenty-five years before, in the snowy reeds down near the pond after the murders. Ben finally showed some backbone then and defied Diondra, telling Libby to "stay where you are, sweetheart". I like to think Libby emerged from under the oak a changed person who has the potential to evolve and grow and take refuge in knowing her remaining family, and to find a life separate from being a victim.

message 6: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 801 comments Ann wrote: "A defining moment was when Libby hides from Diondra and Crystal in the roots of the gargantuan oak tree; similarly as she hid nearly twenty-five years before, in the snowy reeds down near the pond after the murders. "

Good comparison, Ann! I think that's quite significant. I like the symbolism of emerging from the oak, changed!

message 7: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Another thought. I wonder how Diane is dealing with Patty's decision to contract with the 'Angel of Debt'. That last phone call when she offered to come over and Patty told her not to must haunt her. I was glad that Libby (at first angry) forgave her mother, realizing that she had tried, "on that final day, as hard as anyone could have tried."

message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I too liked the similarity with Libby hiding in the tree - on both occasions from Diondra. I also liked that this second instance, Libby made the realisation that she didn't want to die - she had spent many years thinking she wanted to die and now she wants to so fights to get away and then Lyle to the rescue. In the case as a child, she changed as a person because she lost something physically (family and her toes/finger) and mentally, but on the latter situation, she emerged a changed person but for the better.

message 9: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Sarah: yes, I liked that too, she simply accepted the fact that she might lose some toes again and called Lyle after they left her shivering under the tree. It wasn't easy to get away from Crystal and Diondra, but she tried, she really tried, and succeeded. Remember in the beginning when she couldn't even find the energy to open three letters, or read the ones from her financial manager? Her Aunt Diane was right, she needed to try, and in the end, she did.
Sarah wrote: " I also liked that this second instance, Libby made the realisation that she didn't want to die - she had spent many years thinking she wanted to die and now she wants to to fight to get away and then Lyle to the rescue."

message 10: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

message 11: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Almeta: I so very often find that I remember and am moved by an audio much more than reading the print copy. Dark Places definitely qualified as one of those. As a point on the narration, the four different narrators were mostly seamless and I only noticed when they switched to the voice for the narration around Ben's original movements. I wonder if the more robotic rendition of those revelations was on purpose. I found it a bit jarring.

message 12: by Debra (last edited Oct 18, 2013 09:15AM) (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Like Almeta, this was a reread for me, and I had forgotten most of the book. It's strange how the mind works. I gave it a 5 star rating and didn't remember who the killers were! I think I've got it better cemented in my brain this time, now that we've discussed it!

message 13: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Debra: Discussing a book usually does cement details, and for me listening to an audio book tends to reinforce details for retention too. I definitely have done the same though and later had no idea who "done-it".
Debra wrote: "I think I've got it better cemented in my brain this time, now that we've discussed it! "

message 14: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I also find that discussing a book helps cement it in my mind. It also gives me a deeper understanding on what has been happening in the books and make me think about it as I stop after each section and make notes. I also find it a very enjoyable part of the whole reading experience.

message 15: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Sarah: Oh yes, taking notes, and considering motivations and catalysts when discussing a book really adds to my enjoyment too! This is a great group to do that with too, so many thoughtful opinions and ideas flowing!

message 16: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) | 801 comments I agree on all counts. I really enjoyed this discussion.

message 17: by Debra (last edited Oct 22, 2013 01:24AM) (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
We have a great group of folks here that really put their minds and energy into the discussions. I really appreciate that and enjoy it!

For example, Libby emerging from the oak as a changed person, like a butterfly from a cocoon, is very insightful. I hadn't considered the similarities between that and the time she hid after the murders. Libby evolves from an unlikeable recluse into a person who can finally accept hugs and sees her self-worth. And I like her having Lyle and Diane in her life to help her to continue coming out of her shell.

message 18: by Mary Ann (new)

Mary Ann (bellabellacat) I agree with everyone's comments - especially Janice's. I too thought jail saved Ben on many respects. I felt sorry for Ben the entire book. To me, he is a classic example of falling in with the wrong people at the wrong time and not being able - or wanting to - get away from them. I don't hold much hope for Ben. I guess I never thought of Libby as being 'unlikeable' or 'likable' for that matter. I just thought of her as severely damaged from the start of the book and less damaged at the end. Once I got into this book, I couldn't put it down. I've read Gone Girl & not sure which book I like better.

message 19: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Mary Ann, thanks for joining in on this group read. Your comments about Ben are spot on. I also can see your point about our talk about whether Libby was a likeable character.

message 20: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments another nagging thought that keeps bugging me a bit related to how (and why?) Ben was drawn to Krissi and somehow lost sight of the inappropriate age difference or her girlhood crush on him. He was such a mixed up sort of person, mature enough to work as a janitor at his school, with teenage desires to fit in with the wild crowd and to have his own crush on Diondra, definitely not an innocent little girl.
Did the relationship with his sisters lead him to pal around with Krissi? Did the animosity from sister Michelle and and annoyance of all three girls' giggles and hogging the bathroom and generally being a nuisance(to his teenage eyes) lead him to find some adoration and attention from Krissi? Was it Patty's inability to cope and pay attention to him or to provide some of the basic things that teenagers arm themselves with to fit in?
When I went back in the book to confirm I remembered correctly that Michelle was the sister that didn't get along with Ben, I reread a passage with Patty daydreaming she died from a sudden heart attack or a vehicular accident, that she hadn't the energy to leave the farm and start over somewhere else. She thought Diane was much more capable and able to care for the kids. At the time (the tenth chapter Jan 2 3 AM) I glossed over Patty's legarthy and depression and just assumed she would cope. I think my assumption at that time was that she was a hardy farm girl / a just do it yourself kind of person who would manage even if she didn't want to.
ahh the clues that things could go awry. And Ben just looking for a little bit of attention and sisterly camaraderie from Krissi and appreciation from his teacher. Things he wasn't getting at home.

message 21: by Debra (last edited Oct 27, 2013 12:48AM) (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Ann, as usual your comments are very insightful and thought-provoking. Ben's attraction to Krissi is disconcerting and I think you may have that figured out. And Patty's depression was deeper than we were led to believe, given that she thought her children would be better off if she was dead. There were many clues, like you said, but boy did I miss a lot of them!

message 22: by Amber (new)

Amber | 126 comments Due to my work schedule this month, i wasn't able to participate in the discussion. But I did read the book and I really enjoyed it.

message 23: by Debra (last edited Nov 02, 2013 12:28AM) (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
No problem, Amber. Perhaps you'll have time for one of our future discussions. Glad to hear you liked Dark Places!

message 24: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments I agree with Janice that Gillian Flynn is not for the faint at heart type of author - she is all grit and really makes you think about the story. I love that about her and I really enjoyed this book. Reading some of the comments regarding the audio version has me wanting to listen to it as well. I love when an audio book use different narrators for the main characters - I think it really helps to keep them separate in your mind.

I also think that jail "saved" Ben, I didn't think that in the beginning of the book, but towards the end it probably was the best place for him.

It broke my heart that Patty thought the kids would be better without her and that she felt her only hope was meeting with the Angel of Debt.

Ben did have a special relationship with Libby, I loved reading the part about him seeing her hiding and then told here to stay there.

I love reading books with this group of people - I enjoy discussing as we go along. I have only 2 groups that do this well and this one is one of them.

I loved this book and will look forward to reading more of Gillian Flynn!

message 25: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 466 comments Linda I agree! We do great book discussions about our monthly books here! I always look forward to reading a book with the gang and hearing what you all think about it too. Not every book I read is a candidate, but I really like to consider different sides of the story, the characters, and the author's motivation for writing the book and telling the story the way they did. Adding to that enjoyment with more opinions is a big plus.

message 26: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1094 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "I love reading books with this group of people - I enjoy discussing as we go along. I have only 2 groups that do this well and this one is one of them...."

Ann wrote: "Linda I agree! We do great book discussions about our monthly books here! I always look forward to reading a book with the gang and hearing what you all think about it too. .."

I second/third that thought!

It makes it sooo much more enjoyable to share our thoughts on what we are reading. One of Goodreads' bonuses. We have been fortunate to belong to a couple of groups where people like to share.☺

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