Study Guide

The Keene Family in Sharp Objects

By Gillian Flynn

The Keene Family

  • John Keene: Natalie’s handsome older brother, John lives in Julie Wheeler’s carriage house and is dating Meredith Wheeler (mostly by choice?). He tends to cry in public more than is socially acceptable. He has a one-night tryst with Camille that is strangely intimate, especially considering he was only 18 years old. 

    “He was truly beautiful, almost androgynous, tall and slim with obscenely full lips and ice-colored eyes. He tucked a shock of black hair behind his ear and smiled at his hand as he held it out to me, as if it were a beloved pet performing a new trick”. (9.80) 

    So, basically, if we had to cast John for the movie, we’d pick a young Keanu Reeves.

  • Natalie Jane Keene: Natalie was the second victim. Camille describes her as:

    […] a sweet, homely little thing, with a pointy chin and slightly bulbous eyes, the kind of girl who might have grown up to be strangely striking. She could have delighted men with ugly-duckling stories that were actually true. Or she might have remained a sweet, homely little thing. (3.15)

    According to her older brother John, she was also incredibly bright. She once created her own language, and tried to teach it to him to no avail.

    But more importantly, like Ann (and just about everyone else in town, it seems), Natalie had a violent streak. The reason the Keenes had moved to Wind Gap from a bigger town was because of an unfortunate incident that would’ve haunted her if they had stayed:

    “It was in art class, and the kids were cutting and painting, and a little girl got hurt. Natalie was a little kid with a temper, and this girl was sort of always bossing Natalie around. And one time Natalie happened to have scissors in her hand. It wasn’t like a premeditated assault. I mean, she was nine at the time.”

    I had a flash of Natalie, that serious child from the Keene family photo, wielding blades at a little girl’s eyes. An image of bright red blood mingling unexpectedly with pastel watercolors.

    “What happened to the little girl?”

    “They saved her left eye. Her right was, uh, ruined.”

    “Natalie attacked both her eyes?”

    He stood up, pointing down at me from almost the same angle as his mother had. “Natalie saw a shrink for a year after, dealing with this. Natalie woke up with nightmares for months. (9.116)

    Although John makes it sound like an isolated incident, Natalie was also prone to biting people. According to Meredith Wheeler, she was even worse than Ann:

    “I stayed over there one night when my car wouldn’t start. I was asleep in the guest room and the next thing I knew, blood all over the sheets and my ear just felt like it was on fire, like I wanted to run away from it but it was attached to my head. And Natalie was screaming like she was on fire. That screaming was scarier than the biting. Mr. Keene had to hold her down. The kid 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.”

    Not that this has anything to do with why she was killed. It’s just a blood-chilling story about a little girl, don’t you think?

  • Mrs. Keene: "She was three inches taller than he, a large, warm-looking woman with sandy hair held back with a headband. She had an open face, the kind that would prompt strangers to ask for directions or the time." (3.9) Despite her open appearance, she is not happy with Camille’s intrusion into their lives as a member of the press.

  • Mr. Keene: "Mr. Keene was small and thin, with a round child’s face made rounder by wire spectacles that looked like two gold bike wheels." (3.9)