Back to IndieWire

‘Sharp Objects’: 11 Biggest Differences Between the Book and HBO’s Twisted Series

The fate of that last victim in Gillian Flynn’s novel is far more detailed and depraved.

"Sharp Objects" finale killer Amma

Eliza Scanlen in the “Sharp Objects” finale

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the finale of HBO’s “Sharp Objects” in addition to the book on which it is based.]

“Sharp Objects” ended with a satisfyingly sick twist that paid off the depth of derangement that had been pulsing beneath the skin of Wind Gap through the whole miniseries. The Crellin family boasted two killers: Adora (Patricia Clarkson), who had Munchausen by Proxy’d her daughter Marian to death; and youngest daughter Amma (Eliza Scanlen), who was responsible for killing two of her peers out of jealousy.

For the most part, HBO’s adaptation was very faithful to Gillian Flynn’s novel, especially considering that she was one of the writers on the series. And yes, that meant that Adora and Amma were still a murderous mother and daughter in the book as well.

A few cosmetic differences were necessary or made more sense, such as adding in cell phones to make it feel more contemporary (the book was first published in 2006). The series also swapped in St. Louis for Chicago for where Camille (Amy Adams) lives and works. This made it far easier for her to drive back and forth, scenes that director Jean-Marc Vallée has proven to excel in filming, especially when a contemplative woman is behind the wheel.

The most significant differences, however, gave the series more depth. “Sharp Objects” was Flynn’s debut novel, and as mysteries go, it didn’t really provide many suspects other than John Keene. Very few people had redeeming qualities, and it played out more like a book of grotesques. Below, check out some of the biggest differences between the book and the series:

Amma’s Friends Admit to Helping Her Kill Ann and Natalie

"Sharp Objects"

“Sharp Objects”


While the finale’s mid-credits sequence was an impactful story told in flashes, much like the whole miniseries, the novel is more explicit. In the book, Amma has three blonde friends who helped her hold down the girls while Amma strangled them. Jodes hated it both times and showed signs of remorse, to the point where Jodes would’ve likely been the third victim, lest she squeal. As for the Woman in White that James Capisi saw, Amma had dressed as yet another Greek character — the goddess Artemis the huntress — for her sick game.

Amma’s Final Kill Is More Depraved in the Book

In the book, Amma befriends and kills a girl named Lily, not Mae, when she moves in with Camille. Lily’s body is found next to a dumpster with six teeth pulled out, and once Camille determines that her mother is still at home, only then does she realize that Amma is hiding something. She turns the dollhouse upside down and discovers the teeth.

Also, there’s no arguing that Amma is demented, but in the series, she’s shown to be an astute psychopath who can act incredibly contrite, sympathetic, and normal when she wants to. In the book, however, she’s never anything but selfish and twisted. She revels in cruelty and doesn’t see others as people, just objects. Case in point: When Amma kills Lily, she uses her victim’s hair to braid a miniature rug for her dollhouse, because the hair matches the color of Camille’s old rug in real life.

Calhoun Day Is a Horrifying Addition to the Series

In the book, when Adora takes Camille shopping, it’s to get her a dress for a random party, not Calhoun Day. The series dreamed up this choice holiday and all of its appalling rapey-ness, which explains so much about the twisted attitudes towards and by women in Wind Gap.

Chris Messina and Amy Adams, "Sharp Objects"

Chris Messina and Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects”


The Miniseries Has a Wicked Sense of Foreshadowing Wordplay

While the series dropped hints all along as to who was killing and why, some of the lines were just downright having fun with the audience. If viewers had read the book or decide to binge the series again, some lines will stick out, such as:

  • ”Natalie [was] dumped in the middle of town like a prop, a doll.”
  • ”The women here climb over anybody.”
  • ”One of your daughters is dangerous and your other daughter is in danger.”

That last line, of course, is uttered by Police Chief Bill Vickery (Matt Craven), who at the time was referring to Amma being in danger, since the killer had targeted girls her age. For those in the know, however, the reverse of what he meant was the truth.

Everybody Gets to Be a Suspect

In the novel, John Moore is the only real suspect mentioned, but the series does a good job throwing doubt at many of the male Wind Gapians in town, including the hot-headed Bob Nash (Will Chase), Kirk Lacey (Jackson Hurst), Alan Crellin (Henry Cherny), and even Chief Vickery briefly.

Adora Makes Camille Sick at Least Twice Before the End

In this case, the series gave Camille more control because she refuses her mother’s tender treatment a few times at first. Only later does she submit to her mother in an effort to save Amma from more “medicine” but also to deliberately entrap her mother.

In the book, however, Adora doses Camille up twice, and Camille gets sick and then recovers enough to go back out to continue investigating. So all this time she feels ill after her mother ministers to her, she still doesn’t get it until she comes upon the nurse who reported her Munchausen by Proxy hunch about Marian. Finally, Adora invites Camille to her bedroom for drinks, but it’s clearly going to be poison. It’s only at this point where Camille is deliberately choosing to submit and make herself sick

Camille Deals With Another Dead Girl

Sydney Sweeney and Amy Adams, "Sharp Objects"

Sydney Sweeney and Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects”


The book only lightly touches on Camille’s time in rehab, and therefore her whole relationship with Alice is new for the series. Having another young girl die while under her watch drives home her protective instincts, which would explain why she’s blindsided by Amma. At least the series’ Camille discovered music as a result of that relationship.

Richard Is More of Dick in the Book

Since the novel is told in first person from Camille’s point of view, Richard’s (Chris Messina) side of the investigation isn’t as well-presented as in the series. He’s also far more sympathetic to Camille than in the book, where he learned bout Adora poisoning her initially, and instead of expressing shock or concern, lamented that she didn’t get toxicology tested as evidence. Also, at the end when he discovers her cutting, he’s disgusted and disappears, never to be heard from again.

John Keene Suspected Amma

While John appears to be fairly intelligent and aware in the series, at the end of the novel, he writes to Camille following her discovery of the real murderer. It seems that he suspected Amma all along, and that’s why he said he had his eye on her.

Frank Curry Gets to Be a Hero

In the novel, Curry (Miguel Sandoval) only speaks to Camille on occasion since she doesn’t have a cell phone. His presence in Wind Gap to help save her at the end of the series never happened in the book, but emphasizes his almost familial caring for her, something she’s been missing all of her life.

Eliza Scanlen, "Sharp Objects"

Eliza Scanlen, “Sharp Objects”


Roller Skating

Roller skating was a Vallée addition to the story that gave the series and Wind Gap some visual flair and energy, not to mention connecting young Camille and present-day Amma. It’s a clever touch that simultaneously updates the story for the screen and yet gives it a throwback feel.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox