Sunday, May 5, 2019

Reading Insights

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Can you ever truly go home again? That's the question this second-rate journalist from a third-rate Chicago newspaper attempts to answer as she heads back to her podunk Missouri hometown to investigate a string of murders. Camille's broken family relationships, tendency to over-drink, obsession with cutting herself, and predilection for falling into bed with the wrong men notwithstanding, she eventually shaves away the distractions and gets at the truth. 

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Without giving away too much, let me say that one of the central themes of this story explores the human need to be needed, and what happens when that desire runs unchecked. 

Interestingly, this question has been bubbling up in multiple places across my life this past week; I've stumbled across books, movies, and TV shows delving into different facets of this overwhelming need to be needed. Thankfully, the sources are all works of fiction, but they pose chilling and intriguing scenarios of how far adults - especially parents - will go to keep children in a state of prolonged dependency so that they, the grown-ups, can hold onto the feelings of connection and intimacy that come from caring for their vulnerable charges. 

While our storytellers spin out dramatic tales of poisonings, deceptions, and murder, the truth is that most adults must face this same painful transition in our everyday lives as parents.

We bring helpless infants into this world, literally unable to even hold their own heads up, let alone fend for themselves. For the next two decades, we devote ourselves tirelessly to protecting them, providing for them, pouring our hearts out to give them whatever they need. 

And then, in what feels like a snap of the fingers to us parents, our children grow up. They become capable, self-contained human beings and they no longer need us. 

Oh, of course, they still love us and enjoy the security we represent. They like having us around and even come to appreciate the ways we cared for them back in the day when they needed us. 

But once they are grown, our children don't need us any more. And as this book and the other stories like it caution us, we parents must never ever fool ourselves into thinking that they do. 

So what are we to do, we humans who need to be needed, once our children no longer need us?

Here is the best answer I have worked out so far. With God's blessing, we set our children free, and we carry on with our own lives to see where else in the world we might be needed. 

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P.S. In case you're wondering, I did not buy this book. I borrowed it from my first-born which just goes to show that sometimes, I'm the one who needs her. 

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Read more about what I've been reading:

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