How Sharp Objects Did and Didn't Stray From the Original Novel
Warning: Massive spoilers for Sharp Objects (both the book and the series) ahead!
Now that Sharp Objects has officially concluded with a gripping finale, it's time to take stock. That's mostly because the final episode has left us with more questions than answers. Sure, we got to the bottom of the killer mystery in Wind Gap, but we were unable to glean much in terms of motive, logistics, and aftermath. If you're scratching your head and asking why that is, it's because the book plays out quite a bit differently than the TV show. Sure, the killer is the same, and the bare bones are intact. But there were a lot of changes along the way, especially at the end, that left viewers with entirely different takeaways and much less closure. Let's review.
The Pool of Suspects
The TV show offers a gripping mural of possible murder suspects. Almost every significant character, at one point or another, arouses suspicion. Those close to the dead girls, especially Anne's father, Bob Nash, and the school teacher, Kirk Lacey, become suspects at one point or another. Meanwhile, in the source material, John Keene is more or less the prime suspect, and it stays that way until the delicious twists unfold.
Time in the Psych Ward
Camille's stint in the psych ward is only lightly touched on in the novel, but the show seized the opportunity to flesh out some much-needed backstory. Camille makes a friend who ends up killing herself, which further informs Camille's need to protect others, as well as her fear of losing those she holds dearly. That's why she goes into such an intense protective state over Amma.
While a bit more inconsequential, it's worth noting that Calhoun Day was invented entirely for the TV series; it never happens in the book!
Frank Curry's Big Rescue
Speaking of Camille's boss, Frank Curry, the TV show's big rescue is something that's been invented entirely. In the book, Detective Willis rescues Camille after obtaining a warrant to search the house. Curry doesn't get involved at all.
Detective Willis's Redemption
Speaking of Willis, that's an entirely different scenario as well. Willis is much more of a jerk in the novel; in fact, he's more or less repulsed by Camille when he sees her all carved up at the climax of the story. "What's wrong with you? You're a cutter?" he asks, and he's never seen again after that night. That's right, he does not visit her in the hospital, nor does he apologize.
Answers About the Murders
While the TV series leaves everything intentionally vague, the book gives a pretty in-depth explanation of how everything went down. The story stretches a bit farther — Amma is incarcerated and charged for the murders of Wind Gap's young girls. When Camille stops in for a prison visit, that's when Amma fills in a lot of the blanks.
The novel equips Amma with three blond friends who help her commit the murders. This trio would hold down the victims while Amma strangled them. We only get small flashes of these murders in the TV show, and they come during an end credits scene.
Amma's motive is also much clearer in the novel. In terms of Adora's Munchausen syndrome by proxy, Amma seems to enjoy it almost as much as her mother. For Adora, it's a need to be needed. For Amma, it's attention that she craves. Amma confesses in the novel that Adora had grown affectionate toward her friends, and also that her friends had begun to ask questions about the frequency of her illness. She killed them so that they wouldn't "ruin" the relationship between her and Adora.
That "Happily Ever After" Feeling
A lot of f*cked up stuff happens in the finale, but once Adora's arrested, there's a sense of calm and closure. Detective Willis visits Camille in the hospital and says he's sorry for everything. Camille and Amma move to St. Louis, where Frank Curry and his wife almost serve as adjunct grandparents. Camille and Amma seem to be healing. Yes, I know the final twist pulls back the veil to reveal more horror and unrest, but the novel never establishes a sense of calm in the first place.
In the book, we don't bear witness to any tearful prison visits with Adora, nor are Camille and Amma necessarily copacetic with one another. In fact, Amma is needy, prone to intense jealousy, and borderline psychopathic. She's jealous of all of Camille's other relationships and becomes obsessed with female serial killers after moving away from Wind Gap.
The Third Dead Girl
After Camille and Amma leave Wind Gap, there's one more murder that really unravels the final mystery of Amma, our true killer. In the TV series we meet Mae, whom Amma clearly seems to dislike. We get hints that Mae might not be safe, and those hints are fleetingly fleshed out as we catch glimpses of Mae's murder in the small flashes of the postcredits scene.
In the book, this new friend is named Lily. Amma goes through with the murder; she strangles Lily, pulls out six of her teeth, and abandons the body. Camille is frantic; she calls the Wind Gap police to make sure her mother's at home, which she is. That's when Camille discovers the teeth in the dollhouse, and a tiny rug made out of Lily's hair for good measure.
Then there's the part we don't get to see at all: the aftermath of the epilogue. In the book, Camille begins to cut again; she's reeling from the discovery that Amma was the killer all along. She carves into a sacred space on her back, a perfect circle that she's never harmed before. Curry stops her before she moves on to her face. The novel ends with Camille in the care of Curry and his wife. Finally, for the first time ever, she truly begins to heal.