Sharp Objects

by

Gillian Flynn

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Camille Preaker Character Analysis

The novel’s narrator and protagonist, Camille Preaker, describes herself as “trash from money”—the least-favorite daughter of the wealthy, cruel, controlling Adora Crellin. Camille has wrestled all her life with feelings of being ugly, unloved, and unwanted. She turned to self-harm at an early age, turning her obsession with language and the desire to control it into a way of marking herself. Camille has covered her entire body in words made of scars—the words are alternatingly feminine (“cupcake,” “dumpling,” “cherry,” “petticoat”) and violent or self-loathing (“wicked,” “duplicitous,” “vanish”). During her childhood, she was forced to watch helplessly as her sister Marian descended into illness and eventually death. Camille has made a life for herself in Chicago as a mediocre journalist, though her self-hatred and alcoholism hold her back from professional success. When a murder and a disappearance in her hometown of Wind Gap bring her back home for the first time in years, Camille is forced to confront the demons from her past and bring to light horrible secrets about her sister’s death and her mother’s abuse. Camille ultimately realizes that her mother was responsible for Marian’s death due to Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, a psychological disorder in which an individual (usually a mother) seeks to gain sympathy and attention by creating illness in another (usually a child). Camille believes that not only was her mother poisoning Marian, but is now too poisoning Amma—and, possibly, hiding the fact that she killed both Ann Nash and Natalie Keene, whose deaths brought Camille back to Wind Gap in the first place. Conflicted, self-loathing, wry, brilliant, and obsessed with language and its capacity to harness the unclouded truth, Camille is in many ways an unlikable, unreliable, and difficult protagonist, and a shaded portrait of modern-day femininity in all its complications, contradictions, and unreasonable expectations.

Camille Preaker Quotes in Sharp Objects

The Sharp Objects quotes below are all either spoken by Camille Preaker or refer to Camille Preaker. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Sharp Objects published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

When I was still in grammar school, maybe twelve, I wandered into a neighbor boy’s hunting shed, a wood-planked shack where the animals were stripped and split. Ribbons of moist, pink flesh dangled from strings, waiting to be dried for jerky. The dirt floor was rusted with blood. The walls were covered with photographs of naked women. Some of the girls were spreading them­ selves wide, others were being held down and penetrated. One woman was tied up, her eyes glazed, breasts stretched and veined like grapes, as a man took her from behind. I could smell them all in the thick, gory air.

At home that night, I slipped a finger under my panties and masturbated for the first time, panting and sick.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker)
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Alan, Adora, and Amma were all gathered in the living room when I returned. The scene was startling, it was so much like the old days with Marian. Amma and my mother sat on the couch, my mother cradling Amma—in a woolen nightgown despite the heat—as she held an ice cube to her lips. My half sister stared up at me with blank contentment, then went back to playing with a glowing mahogany dinner table, exactly like the one in the next room, except that it was about four inches high.

“Nothing to worry about,” Alan said, looking up from a newspaper. “Amma’s just got the summer chills.”

I felt a shot of alarm, then annoyance: I was sinking back into old routines, about to run to the kitchen to heat some tea, just like I always did for Marian when she was sick. I was about to linger near my mother, waiting for her to put an arm around me, too. My mother and Amma said nothing. My mother didn’t even look up at me, just nuzzled Amma in closer to her, and cooed into her ear.

[…]

When I was a child, I remember my mother trying to prod me with ointments and oils, homemade remedies and homeopathic nonsense. I sometimes took the foul solutions, more often refused. Then Marian got sick, really sick, and Adora had more important things to do than coaxing me into swallowing wheat-germ extract. Now I had a pang: all those syrups and tablets she proffered, and I rejected. That was the last time I had her full attention as a mother. I suddenly wished I’d been easier.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Alan Crellin (speaker), Adora Crellin, Amma Crellin, Marian Crellin
Page Number: 58-59
Explanation and Analysis:

I am a cutter, you see. Also a snipper, a slicer, a carver, a jabber. I am a very special case. I have a purpose. My skin, you see, screams. It’s covered with words—cook, cupcake, kitty, curls—as if a knife-wielding first-grader learned to write on my flesh. I sometimes, but only sometimes, laugh. Getting out of the bath and seeing, out of the corner of my eye, down the side of a leg: babydoll. Pulling on a sweater and, in a flash of my wrist: harmful. Why these words? Thousands of hours of therapy have yielded a few ideas from the good doctors. They are often feminine, in a Dick and Jane, pink vs. puppy dog tails sort of way. Or they’re flat-out negative. Number of synonyms for anxious carved in my skin: eleven. The one thing I know for sure is that at the time, it was crucial to see these letters on me, and not just see them, but feel them.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker)
Related Symbols: Camille’s Scars
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“I’m sorry you had to see me that way, Camille,” Amma said. “Especially since we don’t really know each other. I’m just going through a stage,” She flashed an overdone smile. “But now we’re reunited. You’re like poor Cinderella, and I’m the evil stepsister. Half sister.”

“There’s not a speck of evil in you, sweetheart,” Alan said.

“But Camille was the first. First is usually best. Now that she’s back, will you love Camille more than me?” asked Amma. She started the question teasingly, but her cheeks were flushed as she waited for my mother to respond.

“No,” Adora said quietly. […]

“Because you love me,” Amina said, between mouthfuls of ham. The sick smell of meat and sweetness wafted over. “I wish I’d be murdered.”

“Amma, don’t say such a thing,” my mother said, blanching. […]

“Then I’d never have to worry again. When you die, you become perfect. I’d be like Princess Diana. Everyone loves her now.”

“You are the most popular girl in your whole school, and at home you are adored, Amma. Don’t be greedy.”

Amma kicked me again under the table and smiled emphatically, as if some important matter had been settled.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Adora Crellin (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker), Alan Crellin (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

As a child, I don’t remember ever telling Adora my favorite color, or what I’d like to name my daughter when I grew up. I don’t think she ever knew my favorite dish, and I certainly never padded down to her room in the early-morning hours, teary from nightmares. I always feel sad for the girl that I was, because it never occurred to me that my mother might comfort me. She has never told me she loved me, and I never assumed she did. She tended to me. She administrated me. Oh, yes, and one time she bought me lotion with vitamin E.

For a while I convinced myself that Adora’s distance was a defense constructed after Marian. But in truth, I think she’s always had more problems with children than she’d ever admit. I think, in fact, she hates them. There’s a jealousy, a resentfulness that I can feel even now, in my memory. At one point, she probably liked the idea of a daughter. When she was a girl, I bet she daydreamed of being a mother, of coddling, of licking her child like a milk-swelled cat. She has that voraciousness about children. She swoops in on them.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Adora Crellin, Marian Crellin
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

I have one memory that catches in me like a nasty clump of blood. Marian was dead about two years, and my mother had a cluster of friends come over for afternoon drinks. One of them brought a baby. For hours, the child was cooed over, smothered with red-lipstick kisses, tidied up with tissues, then lipstick smacked again. I was supposed to be reading in my room, but I sat at the top of the stairs watching.

My mother finally was handed the baby, and she cuddled it ferociously. Oh, how wonderful it is to hold a baby again! Adora jiggled it on her knee, walked it around the rooms, whispered to it, and I looked down from above like a spiteful little god, the back of my hand placed against my face, imagining how it felt to be cheek to cheek with my mother.

When the ladies went into the kitchen to help tidy up the dishes, something changed. I remember my mother, alone in the living room, staring at the child almost lasciviously. She pressed her lips hard against the baby’s apple slice of a cheek. Then she opened her mouth just slightly, took a tiny bit of flesh between her teeth, and gave it a little bite.

The baby wailed. The blotch faded as Adora snuggled the child, and told the other women it was just being fussy. I ran to Marian’s room and got under the covers.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Adora Crellin, Marian Crellin
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Most sows are repeatedly inseminated, brood after brood, till their bodies give way and they go to slaughter. But while they’re still useful, they’re made to nurse—strapped to their sides in a farrowing crate, legs apart, nipples exposed. Pigs are extremely smart, sociable creatures, and this forced assembly-line intimacy makes the nursing sows want to die. Which, as soon as they dry up, they do.

Even the idea of this practice I find repulsive. But the sight of it actually does something to you, makes you less human. Like watching a rape and saying nothing. I saw Amma at the far end of the barn, standing at the edge of one metal farrowing crate. A few men were pulling one pack of squealing piglets out of the stall, throwing another pack in. I moved to the far side of the barn so I could stand behind Amma without her seeing me. The pig lay nearly comatose on its side, its belly exposed between metal bars, red, bloody nipples pointing out like fingers. […]

The piglets in the stall were swarming over the sow like ants on a glob of jelly. The nipples were fought over, bouncing in and out of mouths, jiggling tautly like rubber. The sow’s eyes rolled up into her head. Amina sat down cross-legged and gazed, fascinated. After five minutes she was in the same position, now smiling and squirming. I had to leave. I walked, first slowly, then broke into a scramble to my car. Door shut, radio blasting, warm bourbon stinging my throat, I drove away from the stink and sound. And that child.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

“Camille, open the door.”

“What’s wrong with Camille?” Amma chimed.

“This won’t work.” The side zipper was sticking. My bared arms flashed scars in deep pink and purple. Even without looking directly in the mirror I could see them reflected at me—a big blur of scorched skin.

“Camille,” my mother spat.

“Why won’t she just show us?”

“Camille.”

“Momma, you saw the dresses, you know why they won’t work,” I urged.

“Just let me see.”

“I’ll try one on, Momma,” Amma wheedled.

“Camille . . .”

“Fine.” I banged open the door. My mother, her face level with my neckline, winced.

“Oh, dear God.” I could feel her breath on me. She held up a bandaged hand, as if about to touch my chest, then let it drop. Behind her Amma whined like a puppy. “Look what you’ve done to yourself,” Adora said. “Look at it.”

“I do.”

“I hope you just loved it. I hope you can stand yourself.”

She shut the door and I ripped at the dress, the zipper still jammed until my furious tugs yanked the teeth apart enough to get it to my hips, where I wriggled out, the zipper leaving a trail of pink scratches on my skin. I bunched the cotton of the dress over my mouth and screamed.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Adora Crellin (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker)
Related Symbols: Camille’s Scars
Page Number: 120-121
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“You were always so willful, never sweet. I remember when you were six or seven. I wanted to put your hair up in curlers for your school picture. Instead you cut it all off with my fabric shears.” I didn’t remember doing this. I remembered hearing about Ann doing this.

“I don’t think so, Momma.”

“Headstrong. Like those girls. I tried to be close with those girls, those dead girls.”

“What do you mean be close with them?”

“They reminded me of you, running around town wild. Like little pretty animals. I thought if I could be close with them, I would understand you better. If I could like them, maybe I could like you. But I couldn’t. […] And now you come back and all I can think of is ‘Why Marian and not her?’”

Rage flattened immediately into a dark despair. My fingers found a wood staple in the floorboard. I jabbed it under my fingernail. I would not cry for this woman.

“I’m not so pleased to be left here anyway, Momma, if it makes you feel any better.”

“You’re so hateful.”

“I learned at your feet.” My mother lunged then, grabbed me by both arms. Then she reached behind me and, with one fingernail, circled the spot on my back that had no scars.

“The only place you have left,” she whispered at me. Her breath was cloying and musky, like air coming from a spring well.

“Yes.”

“Someday I’ll carve my name there.” She shook me once, released me, then left me on the stairs with the warm remains of our liquor.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Adora Crellin (speaker), Ann Nash, Natalie Keene, Marian Crellin
Related Symbols: Camille’s Scars
Page Number: 148-149
Explanation and Analysis:

"[Natalie] had serious problems. We looked for my earlobe, see if it could be stitched back on, but it was gone. I guess she swallowed it.” [Meredith] gave a laugh that sounded like the reverse of a gulp of air. ”I mostly just felt sorry for her.”

Lie.

“Ann, was she as bad?” I asked.

“Worse. There are people all over this town with her teeth marks in them. Your mother included.”

“What?” My hands began to sweat and the back of my neck went cold.

“Your mom was tutoring her and Ann didn’t understand. She completely lost it, pulled some of your momma’s hair out, and bit into her wrist. Hard. I think there had to be stitches.” Images of my mother’s thin arm caught between tiny teeth, Ann shaking her head like a dog, blood blossoming on my mother’s sleeve, on Ann’s lips. A scream, a release.

A little circle of jagged lines, and within, a ring of perfect skin.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Meredith Wheeler (speaker), Adora Crellin, Ann Nash, Natalie Keene
Related Symbols: Camille’s Scars, Teeth
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

“She likes to take care of me.”

“Great.”

“It’s weird, Amma said. “After she takes care of me, l like to have sex.” She flipped up her skirt from behind, flashed me a hot pink thong.

“I don’t think you should let boys do things to you, Amma. Because that’s what it is. It’s not reciprocal at your age.”

“Sometimes if you let people do things to you, you’re really doing it to them,” Amma said, pulling another Blow Pop from her pocket. Cherry. “Know what I mean? If someone wants to do fucked-up things to you, and you let them, you’re making them more fucked up. Then you have the control. As long as you don’t go crazy.”

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker), Adora Crellin
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

“How do you lash out?” We were near my mother’s house now, and my high was in full bloom. My hair swished on my shoulders like warm water and I swayed side to side to no particular music. A snail shell lay on the edge of the sidewalk and my eyes looped into its curlicue.

“You know. You know how sometimes you need to hurt.” She said it as if she were selling a new hair product.

“There are better ways to deal with boredom and claustrophobia than to hurt,” I said. “You’re a smart girl, you know that.” I realized her fingers were inside the cuffs of my shirt, touching the ridges of my scars. I didn’t stop her. “Do you cut, Amma?”

“I hurt,” she squealed, and twirled out onto the street, spinning flamboyantly, her head back, her arms outstretched like a swan. “I love it!” she screamed. The echo ran down the street, where my mother’s house stood watch on the corner.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker)
Related Symbols: Camille’s Scars
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“She gave me something that made me feel really groggy and sick,” I said.

“Blue?”

I nodded.

“Yeah, she likes that one,” Amma mumbled. “You fall asleep all hot and drooly, and then she can bring her friends in to look at you.”

“She’s done this before?” My body went cold under the sweat. I was right: Something horrible was about to happen.

She shrugged. “I don’t mind. Sometimes I don’t take it—just pretend. Then we’re both happy. I play with my dolls or I read, and when I hear her coming I pretend to be asleep.”

“Amma?” I sat down on the floor next to her and stroked her hair. I needed to be gentle. “Does she give you pills and stuff a lot?”

“Only when I’m about to be sick.”

“What happens then?”

“Sometimes I get all hot and crazy and she has to give me cold baths. Sometimes I need to throw up. Sometimes I get all shivery and weak and tired and I just want to sleep.”

It was happening again. Just like Marian. I could feel the bile in the back of my throat, the tightening. I began weeping again, stood up, sat back down. My stomach was churning. I put my head in my hands. Amma and I were sick just like Marian. It had to be made that obvious to me before I finally understood—nearly twenty years too late. I wanted to scream in shame.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker), Adora Crellin, Marian Crellin
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

“I know who did it, Curry,” I hissed. “I know it.”

“Well, that’s no reason to cry, Cubby. The police made an arrest?”

“Not yet. I know who did it.” Thunk on the dartboard.

“Who? Camille, talk to me.”

I pressed the phone to my mouth and whispered, “My mother.”

“Who? Camille, you have to speak up. Are you at a bar?”

“My mother did it,” I yelped into the phone, the words coming out like a splatter. Silence for too long.

“Camille, you are under a lot of stress, and I was very wrong to send you down there so soon after . . . Now, I want you to go to the nearest airport and fly back here. Don’t get your clothes, just leave your car and come home here. We’ll deal with all that stuff later. Charge the ticket, I’ll pay you back when you get home. But you need to come home now.”

Home home home, like he was trying to hypnotize me.

“I’ll never have a home,” I whimpered, began sobbing again. “I have to go take care of this, Curry.” I hung up as he was ordering me not to.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Frank Curry (speaker)
Page Number: 230-231
Explanation and Analysis:

“Camille, if you could be any fairy-tale person in the world, who would you be?” Amma asked.

“Sleeping Beauty.” To spend a life in dreams, that sounded too lovely.

“I’d be Persephone.”

“I don’t know who that is,” I said. […]

“She’s the Queen of the Dead,” Amma beamed. “She was so beautiful, Hades stole her and took her to the underworld to be his wife. But her mother was so fierce, she forced Hades to give Persephone back. But only for six months each year. So she spends half her life with the dead, and half with the living.”

“Amma, why would such a creature appeal to you?” Alan said. “You can be so ghastly.”

“I feel sorry for Persephone because even when she’s back with the living, people are afraid of her because of where’s she’s been,” Amma said. “And even when she’s with her mother, she’s not really happy, because she knows she’ll have to go back underground. ” She grinned at Adora and jabbed a big bite of ham into her mouth, then crowed.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker), Alan Crellin (speaker), Adora Crellin
Page Number: 235-236
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

One night I woke to find Amma standing over my bed.

“You like Lily better than me,” she whispered. She was feverish, her nightgown clinging to her sweaty body, her teeth chattering. I guided her into the bathroom, sat her down on the toilet, wet a washcloth under the cool, metallic water of the sink, wiped her brow. […]

I poured two aspirin into my palm, put them back in the bottle, poured them back onto my palm. One or two pills. So easy to give. Would I want to give another, and another? Would I like taking care of a sick little girl? A rustle of recognition when she looked up at me, shaky and sick: Mother's here.

I gave Amma two aspirin. The smell made my mouth water. I poured the rest down the drain.

“Now you have to put me in the bathtub and wash me,” she whined.

I pulled her nightgown over her head. Her nakedness was stunning: sticky little girl’s legs, a jagged round scar on her hip like half a bottle cap, the slightest down in a wilted thatch between her legs. Full, voluptuous breasts. Thirteen.

She got into the bathtub and pulled her legs to her chin.

“You need to rub alcohol on me,” she whimpered.

“No Amma, just relax.”

Amma face turned pink and she began crying.

“That’s how she does it,” she whispered. The tears turned into sobs, then a mournful howl.

“We’re not going to do it like she does it anymore,” I said.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker), Adora Crellin, Lily Burke
Page Number: 245-246
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

“I was friends with them for a while,” she said finally, talking into her chest. “We had fun, running around in the woods. We were wild. We’d hurt things together. We killed a cat once. But then she”—as always Adora’s name went unsaid—“got all interested in them. I could never have anything to myself. They weren't my secrets anymore. They were always coming by the house. They started asking me questions about being sick. They were going to ruin everything. She didn't even realize it.” Amma rubbed her shorn hair harshly. “And why did Ann have to bite . . . her? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why Ann could bite her, and I couldn’t.”

She refused to say more, answered only in sighs and coughs. As for the teeth, she took the teeth only because she needed them. The dollhouse had to be perfect, just like everything else Amma loved.

I think there is more. Ann and Natalie died because Adora paid attention to them. Amma could only view it as a raw deal. Amma, who had allowed my mother to sicken her for so long.

Sometimes when you let people do things to you, you ’re really doing it to them. Amma controlled Adora by letting Adora sicken her. In return, she demanded uncontested love and loyalty. No other little girls allowed. For the same reasons she murdered Lily Burke. Because, Amina suspected, I liked her better.

You can come up with four thousand other guesses, of course, about why Amina did it. In the end, the fact remains: Amma enjoyed hurting. I like violence, she’d shrieked at me. I blame my mother. A child weaned on poison considers harm a comfort.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Amma Crellin (speaker), Adora Crellin, Ann Nash, Natalie Keene, Lily Burke
Related Symbols: Teeth
Page Number: 250-251
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes I think about that night caring for Amma, and how good I was at soothing her and calming her. I have dreams of washing Amma and drying her brow. I wake with my stomach turning and a sweaty upper lip. Was I good at caring for Amma because of kindness? Or did I like caring for Amma because I have Adora’s sickness? I waver between the two, especially at night, when my skin begins to pulse. Lately, I’ve been leaning toward kindness.

Related Characters: Camille Preaker (speaker), Adora Crellin, Amma Crellin
Page Number: 251-252
Explanation and Analysis:
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Camille Preaker Character Timeline in Sharp Objects

The timeline below shows where the character Camille Preaker appears in Sharp Objects. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
On a chilly May day in Chicago, journalist Camille Preaker works on a “limp[ly] evil” story about four children who were found locked in... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Camille files her article and then heads up to Curry’s office on the third floor of... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Curry reveals that last August, a little girl was strangled in Wind Gap. Camille nods as if this is old information, but in reality, she hasn’t heard it before—she... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Sensing Camille’s abject fear, Curry tells her that if she doesn’t think she can return to Wind... (full context)
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Camille has no pets or plants to worry about while she’s gone. She stuffs five days’... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
In a Missouri motel, Camille stuffs a towel around the shower drain and sits down in the filthy stall for... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
In the morning, Camille gets back into her car and continues south through the “ominously flat” and boring scenery... (full context)
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Camille parks her car, gets out, and peels a MISSING poster off of a nearby lamppost.... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
When she walks into the station, however, Camille is informed that most of the town is out in the woods, searching the forest... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Vickery asks Camille her name, and Camille introduces herself—then adds that her mother is Adora Crellin. Vickery admits... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
...found, strangled with a clothesline looped around her neck, at five the next morning. As Camille goes over these small details, she marvels at how it took her a full hour... (full context)
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Camille decides to join the search party, and heads out to the woods. At the search... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille walks past the girls into the woods, towards the sound of people’s voices calling for... (full context)
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
After an hour with the search party, Camille splits off and heads to the spot where Ann’s body was found last year. At... (full context)
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
When she was about twelve, Camille once wandered into a neighbor boy’s hunting shed and found ribbons of meat dangling from... (full context)
Chapter 2
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille abandons the search party and the woods altogether and heads for a local low-key country... (full context)
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille arrives at the Nashes’ “homely” ranch house, where a little boy is riding a tricycle... (full context)
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Camille and Bob sit down on opposite ends of the bed, and Bob almost immediately begins... (full context)
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Bob suggests that maybe a “homo” killed Ann. When Camille asks him why he’d say such a thing, he explains that Ann wasn’t raped—and that... (full context)
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
...biding his time until he can get out of Wind Gap for good. Bob shows Camille a picture of Ann, and explains that Ann was a “willful thing” and a tomboy... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
After leaving the Nashes’, Camille begins the drive to her mother’s “massive” house at the southernmost end of Wind Gap.... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Camille arrives at the house and rings the doorbell. It is just after 9:15, and Adora,... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Adora offers Camille a drink, and then asks where she’s staying. Camille awkwardly asks for permission to stay... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille peeks her head out onto the back porch, where her wan, prim stepfather Alan is... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
...remarks that both Ann and Natalie’s parents must be having a difficult enough time without Camille copying down their stories and spreading to the world noxious headlines such as “’Wind Gap... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Adora asks Camille not to discuss her work and bring “that kind of talk” into the house while... (full context)
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Camille gets a fitful four hours of sleep, full of stressful dreams about Adora feeding her... (full context)
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As Camille pulls onto Main Street, she comes upon “a scene that ma[kes] no sense.” An older... (full context)
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Camille begins dissociating—she picks up what is happening around her in brief, strange flashes. She sees... (full context)
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...detective sends the couple to the station with Vickery to give official statements, and asks Camille to come as well. As she waits in a room to give the detective her... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The morning of Natalie Keene’s funeral, Adora flits around the house getting ready. As Camille drinks coffee and watches her mother dart from room to room, she wonders at the... (full context)
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...front of the church. Natalie’s older brother, a boy of eighteen or nineteen, sobs outright. Camille slips out her notepad and begins taking notes, but Adora swiftly and quietly reprimands her,... (full context)
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After the funeral, mourners gather at the Keene’s massive stone farmhouse. Camille doesn’t approach the Keenes and announce herself as a reporter—instead, breaking journalistic code, she skulks... (full context)
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...has clearly just had a facelift, and she is covered in diamond jewelry. She wraps Camille in a hug, but rather than feeling comforted, Camille feels that the day is one... (full context)
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That night, after formally calling the Keenes to discuss with them the piece she’s writing, Camille files a short, watered-down article in which the only quotes she’s able to use are... (full context)
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Camille sleeps late on Wednesday, and even as the sounds of a phone ringing downstairs and... (full context)
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After a while, Adora knocks at the door and asks to come in, telling Camille that she has some lotion for her. Camille opens the door and accepts the tube... (full context)
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Camille asks if Natalie’s funeral was particularly hard on Adora—the unspoken connection with Marian’s funeral lingers... (full context)
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Out on the porch, Camille finds herself face to face with “a changeling.” She sees a little girl working intently... (full context)
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Amma greets Camille happily, and when she senses Camille staring at her frilly sundress and matching hat, she... (full context)
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...needs reupholstering. She’s waiting, she says, for Adora to take her to the fabric store. Camille compliments Amma on the dollhouse and then heads down the steps towards her car. As... (full context)
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Camille finds Chief Vickery a few blocks from the police station working on a dented stop... (full context)
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...crazed hitchhiker” when in reality, everyone in town knows that a stranger is not responsible. Camille, feeling the effects of the vodka, knows that Vickery is trying to tell her something... (full context)
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Vickery tells Camille that Ann and Natalie were both violent girls, and Camille asks if he thinks that... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Camille is at a local park, the last place Natalie was seen alive. Camille talks with... (full context)
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Camille drives out to the poor end of town. People in this neighborhood work mostly at... (full context)
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James tells Camille that the woman who took Natalie was “old like a mother,” dressed in a white... (full context)
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Camille heads to one of Wind Gap’s eleven bars and drinks a bourbon while working on... (full context)
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The detective, sensing Camille’s frustration, offers to start over. He introduces himself as Richard Willis and asks that they... (full context)
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Richard brings back their drinks and begins chatting Camille up, but she’s feeling somewhat exhausted and responds curtly to all of his questions. When... (full context)
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When Camille returns home, she is startled to discover a familiar scene at the house—a scene that... (full context)
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Camille knows that her mother and Alan are both hypochondriacs, and that as a child, Adora... (full context)
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...the floor, cracking it into shards and then slamming it repeatedly until it’s in pieces. Camille, stunned, retreats to her room—she feels her skin “blar[ing]” at her, and states that her... (full context)
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Camille reveals that she is a cutter—she makes her skin “scream.” She has covered her body... (full context)
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Camille’s younger sister Marian died on Camille’s thirteenth birthday, and, that summer, Camille became “suddenly, unmistakably... (full context)
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Camille is unable to assign a medical term to her habit—all she knows is that cutting... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The next morning, Camille joins Alan and Adora at the breakfast table, and they call for their housekeeper, Gayla,... (full context)
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Amma comes downstairs and apologizes rather overzealously to Camille for her tantrum. She explains that she’s just “going through a stage” before turning to... (full context)
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...Amma from going into the forest, and Amma stabs at her ham. Adora pointedly asks Camille how much longer she’s planning on staying, but offers to come visit Chicago sometime later... (full context)
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Camille asks Adora just how she knew the little girls, but Adora deflects her questions, accusing... (full context)
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Up in her room, Camille—with only two days left before Curry’s deadline—tries to assemble what she has learned so far.... (full context)
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...her inability to make sense of any of the clues and loose threads she’s encountered, Camille decides to head out and find Richard Willis, hoping that his rational outsider’s way of... (full context)
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Camille finds Richard at a diner, eating waffles and perusing a high stack of folders. He... (full context)
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Even though it’s not “the straightest of deals,” Camille accepts and asks Richard—on the record—whether he really believes Ann and Natalie’s murders were committed... (full context)
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Camille reflects on her own personal history in Wind Gap—a place she feels little allegiance to.... (full context)
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Alan fathered Camille’s sister Marian when Camille was just a few years old, and Marian was a sick... (full context)
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Camille decides to drive around town. At the end of Main Street, a makeshift “shrine” to... (full context)
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Amma asks Camille why she’s writing a story about “two dead girls who no one noticed to begin... (full context)
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That night, Camille phones Curry at home and apologizes for not being able to make much headway. Curry... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Though small towns, Camille says, usually cater to one kind of drinker, “everyone drinks in Wind Gap,” so there... (full context)
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The women ask Camille what it’s like being home, and they reminisce about their own childhoods spent visiting Adora... (full context)
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Camille asks the women who they all think committed the murders. Jackie says she believes Bob... (full context)
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Camille, remembering what Amma and her friends told her the other day, asks the women if... (full context)
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After brunch, Jackie’s words stick with Camille, and she wonders whether she really should get out of Wind Gap. Feeling buzzed from... (full context)
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Camille asks Bob and Betsy what Ann was like in school, explaining that she hopes to... (full context)
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As Betsy ushers the children into another room to calm them down, Camille continues asking Bob some questions about Ann’s rumored violent streak, and whether Ann would have... (full context)
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...is at the house. Adora breezes into the living room, apologizing to the Nashes for Camille’s intrusion. Bob admits he had no idea that Camille was Adora’s daughter, and Adora says... (full context)
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Camille realizes that her mother hasn’t, in fact, been overplaying her mourning—she really was close with... (full context)
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Adora tells Camille to leave—she’s here on a “social visit” and has trouble relaxing around Camille “these days.”... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Camille often feels weightless—like she doesn’t exist, or like she could disappear forever without anyone noticing.... (full context)
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Camille never felt close to Adora as a child—she doesn’t think her mother ever knew anything... (full context)
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Camille has a memory in her head of an afternoon about two years after Marian’s death,... (full context)
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After the debacle at the Nashes’, Camille goes to another bar for a drink. She knows she has been consuming too much... (full context)
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On the way home from the bar, Camille spots a little girl on a golf cart decorated with stickers—it is Amma. Amma is... (full context)
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Camille watches Amma park her golf cart and beeline past the slaughterhouse towards a big metal... (full context)
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Camille observes as Amma watches a “nearly comatose” female pig nursing her piglets. They swarm over... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The whole time she’s been in Wind Gap, Camille has had little interest in Amma—but after what she saw at the farm, Camille finds... (full context)
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Late one afternoon, Camille decides to try approaching the Keenes for more information about Natalie. She needs a quote... (full context)
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Camille asks for a glass of water, knowing that a woman is less likely to throw... (full context)
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When Mrs. Keene returns with Camille’s water, the two make small talk for a few moments before Camille at last introduces... (full context)
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Standing slightly shocked on Mrs. Keene’s doorstep, Camille barely notices when a girl pulls up alongside the house in a red convertible and... (full context)
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That evening, Camille meets with Richard Willis at a restaurant in town. Camille recognizes the waitress as one... (full context)
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...and he wants to know whether Wind Gap’s is open or hidden, widespread or personal. Camille is wary of making a “sweeping statement” about the town’s history of violence, but Richard... (full context)
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Richard asks Camille about the next incident she remembers—she says that when she was in the fifth grade,... (full context)
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...act of teeth-pulling as tantamount to rape—at least in the eyes of the murderer. When Camille asks if their conversation is on the record, Richard warns her that if he sees... (full context)
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Camille and Richard wind up in Garrett Park, swinging on the swingset. Richard mentions that a... (full context)
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Richard asks if Camille was close to her mother when she was young, and Camille says she wasn’t. Richard... (full context)
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Camille spots a truck rumbling up. Four girls climb out of it—Amma and her three blonde... (full context)
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As Amma begins teasing Richard and Camille about whether or not they’re dating—and whether Richard has heard any of Camille’s juicy stories... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Camille wakes the following morning to an “angry sun.” She dresses and heads downstairs, where Gayla... (full context)
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Camille, Amma, and Adora head into town to go dress shopping. When they walk into a... (full context)
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As the salesgirl swans around the shop collecting dresses for Camille to try on, Camille gets nervous—the dresses are all strapless or otherwise revealing. When the... (full context)
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Adora trails Camille to the dressing room and perches on a chair just outside. Camille, confronting the strappy... (full context)
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Back at the house, Camille walks straight into the kitchen. She wants to open up the cutlery drawer and look... (full context)
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Meredith is dressed in a cheerleading uniform, and speaks in “wheedling tone[s]” as she introduces Camille to John—a beautiful, “almost androgynous” teen with thick black hair and full lips. Camille asks... (full context)
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Camille makes some sweet tea and then sits down with Meredith and John. She tells John... (full context)
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As Camille begins asking John questions about Natalie, Meredith keeps interrupting to offer her two cents. When... (full context)
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When Camille asks John about his lack of an alibi—he was out driving around town, he says,... (full context)
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Switching the subject, Camille asks about Natalie’s violence back in Philadelphia. John admits that Natalie—a little girl with a... (full context)
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That night, Camille receives a call from one of her old high school friends, Katie, who invites her... (full context)
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At Angie’s house, Camille drinks and watches Beaches with her old friends. When the movie is over, the crying... (full context)
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When Becca and Camille return to the kitchen, the conversation has turned to Ann and Natalie—and how Amma and... (full context)
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Once Camille arrives home that evening, she feels the desire to cut herself. As she tries to... (full context)
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Camille pulls herself out of her crying jag, trying to focus on thinking about her article.... (full context)
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Amma tells Camille that she can be “nice” sometimes. “When everyone’s asleep and everything’s quiet,” she explains, it’s... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Camille’s most recent article, featuring extensive quotes from John Keene and a focus on James Capisi’s... (full context)
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...off of a silver platter, which also bears tea and assorted bottles of medicine. As Camille passes by, Adora blames Amma’s fever on Camille’s presence, but Camille simply snickers—she heard Amma... (full context)
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As Camille walks downtown to where Natalie’s body was found, Richard pulls up alongside her and asks... (full context)
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Richard has Camille take him to a series of “secret places” around Wind Gap. In the woods, they... (full context)
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Camille and Richard continue exploring the woods for the rest of the afternoon, discussing Ann and... (full context)
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Richard drops Camille at home that evening. Her skin is buzzing—earlier, they “got each other off like a... (full context)
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As Camille sits down, Adora says that she has “finally” realized why she doesn’t—and has never—loved Camille:... (full context)
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Camille feels her rage “flatten” into despair and admits that she’s “not so pleased” to be... (full context)
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Camille finishes off her mother’s amaretto sour and heads off to bed where she has disturbing... (full context)
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Camille heads over to Meredith’s house, but Meredith isn’t there at all. Instead, she finds Amma... (full context)
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Camille decides to announce her presence and enters the pool area with a hello. She asks... (full context)
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Meredith—in a perfect outfit and hairdo—swans around the house, getting things ready for Camille and apologizing for the girls’ behavior. Before Meredith is really ready, Camille starts her tape... (full context)
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Camille calls Meredith out for lying, but Meredith confesses that John would hate her if she... (full context)
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...tempers, but rather than hitting, they bit. Meredith holds out her right hand and shows Camille a scar, which she alleges is from Natalie. She then pulls her hair away from... (full context)
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Camille asks if Ann was as bad as Natalie, and Meredith replies that Ann was even... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Camille calls Richard one evening, and though he picks up, he tells her he’s busy and... (full context)
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Camille is three bourbons deep when Richard arrives at the bar to meet her, and when... (full context)
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Camille reveals what she has learned—that Ann and Natalie were violent biters. She tells Richard that... (full context)
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When Camille gets home, Alan is waiting for her on the sofa. He tells Camille that she’s... (full context)
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Camille pours herself a drink and brings it upstairs to her bedroom, where she loses herself... (full context)
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...Marian’s IV stand is still next to the industrial hospital bed and the heart monitor. Camille is “disgusted” that her mother has not “purged” the room of Marian’s things—including her extensive... (full context)
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Camille calls Curry—it has been three days since they last spoke, and nearly two weeks since... (full context)
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...she feels the pressure of being home is too much and is impacting her “recovery.” Camille admits that being in Wind Gap makes her feel like a “bad person” before breaking... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The next morning, Camille goes over to where Richard is staying, in Wind Gap’s only apartment building. She brings... (full context)
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Lying together in bed after sex, Richard and Camille continue discussing the case. Richard says he thinks John Keene is the murderer—he was close... (full context)
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They have sex one more time, and then, in the late afternoon, Camille drives through the rain to Garrett Park, not wanting to go home. She sits in... (full context)
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...time they arrive at the high school party in one of Wind Gap’s largest mansions, Camille is feeling loose and “game.” When Meredith and John Keene arrive shortly after their group,... (full context)
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...and jeers from their other classmates, Amma greets John with a syrupy-sweet “Hiiiii, murderer,” causing Camille to feel a rush of sympathy for the boy, but Amma quickly pulls her upstairs... (full context)
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Camille stands up to leave, realizing she needs to get away from the party before the... (full context)
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Amma and Camille walk home hand-in-hand, enjoying the night air as their highs descend upon them. They discuss... (full context)
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Camille tries to say more, but Amma changes the subject. She dreamily states how much she... (full context)
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As if reading Camille’s mind, Amma admits that sometimes she’s “a little… off,” lashing out and “hurt[ing]” when things... (full context)
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Camille keeps trying to talk to Amma about her confession, but Amma, claiming that Camille is... (full context)
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Camille tells Amma that she doesn’t want to sleep in Amma’s room, and Amma asks instead... (full context)
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Amma helps Camille up and gives her a ring that Adora gave to her once—now that Adora “hates”... (full context)
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The two girls quietly make their way to the house and up the stairs, and Camille invites Amma into her room. Camille peels her shoes and socks off and begins to... (full context)
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After Camille falls asleep, she has a dream in which Marian, sweaty and dressed in a white... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Camille wakes up late the next afternoon—her stomach and jaw hurt, and she runs to the... (full context)
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Adora knocks at the door, and when Camille doesn’t let her in, she slips a key into the lock and opens it. She... (full context)
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After pouring rubbing alcohol on Camille’s wounds, causing her “stunning” pain, Adora runs downstairs and returns with a glass of milk... (full context)
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Camille wakes up at dusk feeling dizzy and hot. She heads down the hallway to Amma’s... (full context)
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Camille gets dressed and tries to leave the house, but starts throwing up again, and Adora... (full context)
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Camille arrives at Jackie’s house, where a girl she went to high school with opens the... (full context)
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 Jackie asks Camille why she’s come over, and Camille says she wants to talk about Adora. She asks... (full context)
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Having Camille out of wedlock, Jackie muses, should have “ruined” Adora—but, Jackie says, “a beautiful girl can... (full context)
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Jackie downs several pills, and Camille asks what kind of person Adora used to be. Jackie replies that “Adora devours you,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Camille leaves Jackie’s house, still reeling from the information she’s just received. She wonders whether Adora... (full context)
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Camille wants to call Richard, but is unsure of what to tell him. As she drives... (full context)
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John tells Camille she’s the only one who understands him, and asks her about her own dead sister—whether... (full context)
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...lot, John fumbles with his keys, but then realizes he is too drunk to drive. Camille, who is not much more sober, drives John back to Meredith’s but once they get... (full context)
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John pulls Camille’s clothes off, and reads her scars word by word. He touches and kisses them, and... (full context)
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...a knock at the door. Chief Vickery’s voice calls from the other side—he asks if Camille is inside and demands she open up. Camille and John begin dressing frantically. When Camille... (full context)
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Camille drops John off at his parents’ house, and he tells her that she “saved” him.... (full context)
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Camille naps in her car for a few hours—she is terrified to return home to Adora’s... (full context)
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Katie begins reminiscing about her and Camille’s own high school years—and the way they bullied their less-popular classmates. Katie remarks that Amma... (full context)
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As Camille heads for home after interviewing Katie, she can’t stop flashing from image to image of... (full context)
Chapter 15
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When Camille arrives back at the house, three little pink bikes are lined up on the porch.... (full context)
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Camille goes to her room and runs a bath, grateful to be alone as she slips... (full context)
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Adora leaves, and Camille waits in the bathtub for a while to see if she’ll get sick. After several... (full context)
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Camille, realizing what is happening, carefully brushes her teeth and gets dressed. She goes downstairs and... (full context)
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At the hospital, Camille waits for hours while nurses and various staff track down Marian’s medical records. When Camille... (full context)
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Camille comes upon a piece of stationery written on pink paper, in a feminine hand, inserted... (full context)
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Within an hour, Camille tracks the nurse who wrote the note to where she still works in the pediatric... (full context)
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The nurse then asks Camille whether the “detective” is still on the case—she reveals, to Camille’s shock, that Richard Willis... (full context)
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On the way back home, Camille stops at a pay phone to call Curry. She can barely get any words out,... (full context)
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Camille tracks Richard down at a local restaurant and confronts him with all she has learned... (full context)
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Camille’s story about the biting, Richard says, really focused things for him, and helped him to... (full context)
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Camille arrives home, where ham is being served for dinner. Adora carves the ham and serves... (full context)
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...lethal injection and put to sleep like a cat. Amma eats her ham and asks Camille what “fairy-tale person” she’d most like to be. When Camille can’t think of an answer,... (full context)
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After a dessert of blood-orange sorbet, Adora invites Camille for a drink in her bedroom. Camille follows her mother up, amazed to be allowed... (full context)
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Adora pulls Camille close, strokes her hair, and hands her a drink. She begins telling Camille a story... (full context)
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Adora begs Camille to “need her” just once. Camille, wishing it all would end, agrees, and swallows her... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Camille wakes up with bedsheets sheets stuck to her body. She is covered in her own... (full context)
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As Camille pulls herself into the tub she vomits again. Adora wets a towel with rubbing alcohol... (full context)
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Camille awakens to the sound of screams some time later, sitting in a half-full bath of... (full context)
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...hundred and sixty one horse tranquilizers. Traces of all of these medications were found in Camille’s toxicology test. (full context)
Chapter 17
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...her out so that she can await trial “in the comfort of her home,” and Camille, meanwhile, takes custody of Amma. Two days after Adora’s arrest, Camille and Amma drive back... (full context)
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Back in Chicago, Amma exhausts Camille—she is needy and anxious, constantly pacing around the apartment. Camille believes that Amma is burning... (full context)
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...female killers, reading everything she can about violent women she considers “special.” Amma’s therapist tells Camille that Amma is probably trying to find a way to forgive Adora. After a couple... (full context)
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...friends who idolize her almost instantly. One of the girls, Lily, becomes a “fixture” at Camille’s apartment, and Camille enjoys Lily’s company. Once Amma notices how much Camille likes Lily, she... (full context)
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One night, Camille wakes up in the middle of the night to find Amma standing over her bed.... (full context)
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...home from school—her body is found “propped tidily next to a Dumpster” three blocks from Camille’s apartment just a few hours later. Six of her teeth have been pulled. Hearing the... (full context)
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Camille begins tearing through the apartment, looking under seat cushions and in drawers for evidence of... (full context)
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In the aftermath of Camille’s discovery, the investigation in Wind Gap reopens. Amma’s friends Kelsey, Kylie, and Jodes admit to... (full context)
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Amma acted alone in killing Lily, Camille notes. Amma stunned Lily with a rock, strangled her, plucked her teeth, and cut her... (full context)
Epilogue
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...is incarcerated. As the story spreads, “quickie paperbacks” detailing the lurid tale are published, and Camille is “showered with book offers.” Curry pushes her to take one, but quickly backs off. (full context)
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Camille receives a letter from John Keene. In it, he writes that he suspected Amma all... (full context)
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...up in a juvenile facility, and will probably be incarcerated well past her eighteenth birthday. Camille has only visited once, and though she promised herself before the visit that she would... (full context)
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Camille speculates that Ann and Natalie died because Adora paid attention to them. Camille believes that... (full context)
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Camille reveals that she relapsed on the day of Amma’s arrest. Though Curry and Eileen came... (full context)
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Now, Camille says, she is learning to be cared for—she is learning to be “parented.” Eileen and... (full context)