Study Guide

Dark Places Family

By Gillian Flynn

Family

It's the Day blood. Something's wrong with it. (1.1)

The book's first paragraph sets us up with the theme that something is wrong with Libby's family. Is this even possible? Can an entire family have bad blood? What does bad blood even mean? Is it something psychological?

What kind of woman gets slaughtered by her own son? (1.117)

Many people, even Patty's own daughter, doubt Patty's parenting skills. The irony turns out to be that Patty died trying to help her family. Almost everything she did was to protect Ben.

In truth, though, I wasn't proud of my family. No one had ever liked the Days. My dad, Runner Day, was crazy, drunk, and violent in an unimpressive way—a small man with sneaky fists. My mom had four kids she couldn't take proper care of. (3.6)

Libby is surprisingly objective in her analysis of her own family. She doesn't sugarcoat things, even though she suffered an incredible tragedy that would cause most people to sanctify their own families.

Still [Ben] was expected to turn over half his paycheck to his mom. Families share. Yeah? Well, parents take care of their children, how about that one? How about not squirting out three more kids when you could barely afford the first one? (4.10)

Ben is bitter and angry toward his mother, but can you blame him? He has a point here. The Days wouldn't be in over their heads if they didn't have so many mouths to feed.

So I was going to meet my brother, all grown up. (8.1)

Libby visiting Ben in jail is like when the Rugrats were All Grow'd Up, except somehow creepier. Phil and Lil reunited in prison, anyone?

"God, you look just like Mom." (8.28)

This is the first Libby learns of her family resemblance. She doesn't speak to Aunt Diane anymore, and everyone else is dead. Libby being Libby, this doesn't warm her heart, but she does realize she can use the resemblance to her advantage. Reminding people of her mother makes people more likely to open up to her.

"I don't want to go home. I need to find my son." (17.6)

Despite all the terrible things we hear about Patty in the first half of the book, the majority of her chapters in the later half of the book revolve around her trying to find Ben and help him. She may be unable to manage many aspects of family life, but she loves and tries to protect them in the best way she can.

"You remember your son, right, this is your son, isn't it, Runner?" (23.19)

Runner Day is such a deadbeat, he doesn't even remember his own son. Runner blames it on the hair color, but you should probably recognize your own offspring despite any hair dye, right?

"Runner, it's Libby. Your daughter." (24.19)

This scene recalls the one from the previous chapter and confirms our belief that Runner is a loser. He doesn't recognize his own daughter, either—but he has no problem asking her for money.

"I'm Crystal. I'm your niece." I felt like I should hug her, and I wanted to. We shook hands. (33.2-33.3)

We can only imagine what Libby must feel at this moment. Almost her whole family is dead, but now she finds a brand-new family member. Crystal, however, is the secret daughter of Ben's psychopathic ex-girlfriend—you know, as if this family tree needed to get even twistier.

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