New and popular titles at Juniata County Library

With so many good books, movies and more being released all the time it can be hard to determine what to check out next. Every week, I offer a run-down of significant new releases available here at the library.

Visit our online card catalog at juniata.sparkpa.org to search today or call (717) 436-6378 to have a helpful library staff member assist you.

“Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn

Now a mini-series currently on HBO, “Sharp Objects” is a southern gothic story that focuses on missing children and small-town secrets. Set in southern Missouri, the town of Wind Gap (population 2,720) serves as a metaphor for a divided society. The outskirts of Wind Gap contain southern Victorian homes with wrap-around porches and elaborate interiors. The small homes inside the city limits back up against bars (11 in the small town) and often are owned or rented by people who work at the local pig farm and butcher factory. It is said that Wind Gap contains old money and trash.

Enter Camille Preaker, a newspaper journalist who must return to Wind Gap (her hometown) to report on a series of brutal murders. Over the course of a year, two young children were abducted, murdered and had all of their teeth removed (possibly in that order). The first was dumped in a creek and the second was left in a display-type manner in the center of town.

The town has struggled to respond to these murders. Townsfolk took all of the rocks in the creek near girl number 1, went out of the city limits, and smashed them to pieces, hoping to symbolically remove from their town the remnants of this horrible situation. Unfortunately, they must have missed a rock. The small police force (six officers) has never dealt with such cases and has called in a homicide detective from Kansas City who specializes in serial killer profiling. This is a tough pill for the local police to swallow as it allows in an outside presence and may symbolize that they are lacking in their abilities to handle this situation.

Many of the townsfolk believe a man did this. The Kansas City detective tried removing the teeth of a dead pig and had a very difficult time physically doing this. However, a small boy claims to have seen girl number 2 taken away into the woods by an older woman in a white gown. The police do not believe the boy (his mom has skin cancer and works at the pig farm) and discredit him, mentioning his family issues as a reason he is not a reliable witness.

Life often imitates art. Many of the townsfolk have back stories and some are quite dark and murky. Southern charm is frequently used to deflect difficult conversations. Preaker does her best as a journalist to report on the case and eventually crosses into trying to solve the case as she feels the local authorities and townsfolk are looking at the cases in the wrong way. Her own dark past, which is subtly hinted at throughout the story, makes her job difficult. She lost a sister when she was young and it is hinted that it may have been due to similar circumstances as the present killings. Her mother (who owns the pig farm) is similar to Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People, in that she is emotionally caged and unwilling to let into her world the pain of others (including the overt alcoholism, cutting, and psychological struggles of her daughter).

As vampire and dystopian books and movies became a thing for a time, so now southern gothics are picking up traction in our media (see True Detective seasons 1 and 3). “Sharp Objects” is a reminder that awful things can happen even in small towns and our perceptions of those around us are not always based in reality.

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Bookshots … Here are some quick recommendations and stars I give them.

“Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man” by Lynn Vincent, Sara Vladic (5 stars)

“The Summer Wives” by Beatriz Williams (5 stars)

“All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin (4 stars)

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Vince Giordano has been the director of the Juniata County Library since 2015.

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