I’m really excited to linking up with Anne and Kristyn for the first ever Between the Lines book club link up! I love to read, obviously, so I was so excited for this! I purchased a used copy of Dark Places right after I read Gone Girl (you can see my recommendations for more books like Gone Girl right here!), which I absolutely loved. The novel has been sitting on my shelf for a long time, so I had already added it to my To Be Read Challenge for 2015! Multiple birds with one stone!
Here are the discussion questions:
1. Libby became famous as a victim—how do you think this strange fame effected her?
The strange fame made Libby kind of lazy. I think that she can’t get over the strangeness of being known as “that girl,” so she doesn’t really move on with her life. Her comments about being jealous of another girl who was burned around the same time, because it caused her to get fewer donations is messed up. But, on the other hand, she embraces strange things in a way that a person who didn’t get famous in the strange way. Attending a Kill Club meeting, especially as a key witness in a murder that the people are interested in. She has reservations, but she does embrace it eventually.
2. What do you think of Patty Day as a mother? Is she doing the best she can, or is she making excuses for herself?
I think that Patty is doing the best she could possibly do. Obviously, she made a bad decision by marrying Runner, but it only snowballed from there. She married him and kept on having kids. Although, she could have left him out sooner, I don’t think that kicking him out would have been effective. He was a constant drifter and she couldn’t get rid of him, anyway. She was never going to leave her own farm because it belonged to her parents. The only sure way to get rid of Runner would have been to take the kids and move away, which would have meant leaving her sister. Leaving would have also been hard because she had no employable skill. She could not have moved and raised four children without a skill-set. I do think that she took the coward’s way out of her problem, though. It would have been embarrassing to lose the farm, but she would have still had her family. She would have had to find a new way to live, but there would have been financial assistance made available to her, as a mother of four kids with no income. It is easy to say that she should have acquired some type of skill when the farm started going south, but she was also trying to take care of four children. I don’t think that she could have physically gone to school or learned a new trade, continued to try to make an income, plus take care of a brooding teenager and three young girls.
3. Why do you think the author chose to set the murders on a farm? What images and themes does the heartland and farming evoke?
Farms are remote, which lends them an air of creepiness. Flynn spends a lot of time discussing the house, and while the house wouldn’t exactly be considered another character in the novel, like a typical Gothic novel, it is important! The farm/house, which is dilapidated and falling apart, is the homebase for all action. The juxtaposition of images of a gruesome murder next to the idea of “America’s Heartland,” which is supposed to be innocent and wholesome, creates even more tension in the novel. Flynn focuses on the seedy underbelly and poverty in the heartland, which is usually romanticized as an ideal place to raise a family.
Most importantly, Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, which is a classic, landmark novel and first true crime story, is about murders that take place on a farm in Kansas in 1959. Capote could have written about any murders, but the remoteness of the family from the rest of society, also in America’s Heartland, and the brutality of the crime, like in Dark Places, is a more intriguing story. I don’t think Flynn chose the farm murders on accident because the parallels between Dark Places and In Cold Blood are strong. Flynn, though, inverts the affluent farming family of In Cold Blood and replaces it with the poverty stricken Day family. The murders in In Cold Blood are motivated by criminals who are looking for cash. Similarly, the theories about the Day family murders throughout the book are usually centered around a hypothesis that someone was looking for cash, even in the poor family’s home.
Furthermore, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of horror films are set on farms or in remote locations. The first example that I can think of is The Stranger, which focuses on a young couple being murdered in a very isolated vacation home. Again, the idea of a vacation home is like the idea of the heartland. It’s supposed to be a respite from the chaos and violence of city life.
4. What do you believe in Diondra’s motivation throughout the story? Does her relationship with Ben change him?
Diondra ruins Ben’s life, without a doubt. She’s manipulative and cruel. She preys on the younger person, Ben, and uses him. I could never tell if she had a clear plan in mind when she began to take advantage of him, or if she was only toying with him to boost her self esteem, but she makes her both her manipulation and cruelty quite clear by the end of the novel. Ben was a drifting teenager, who was trying to find his place in life. He already felt humiliated by being the school janitor, poor, and having a father who was a known drug dealer. Diondra continues to humiliate him, yet he will do whatever she wants for brief moments of praise or sex.
I doubt she knew who the real father of her child was, but once she saw how she could use Ben by claiming that it was his, she latched onto that story. For 20+ years, she continued to manipulate Ben, who was still just a child, emotionally. I don’t think prison ever gave him the chance to grow up more than physically.
Now that you’ve read my thoughts, you can click the photo below to read more posts! I am really interested to see what other people thought about the last question. It was the hardest question for me!
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