Don’t expect Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) of Sharp Objects to sit you down, and meticulously explain each facet of her family history. She'll never say, "This is the precise reason why my mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), is such a controlling wreck," or reveal her actual thoughts on her younger half-sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), who seems to be part-snake, part-teenage girl.
Essentially, there's not much exposition to be found in Sharp Objects, no pristine flashback that immediately explains the toxic environment within Camille’s household. As such, you might entirely miss the fact that Camille Preaker is half sisters with Amma and Marian (LuLu Wilson), Camille's younger sister who died when she was a child. However, understanding Camille's parentage is crucial to understanding, well — just about everything in Sharp Objects. We've got you covered.
When Camille comes back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, after a long absence, it appears as if she's returning to her nest — but the nest was never really hers to begin with. Camille's mother, Adora, lives with her husband, Alan Crellin (Matt Czerny), whom she married after she had Camille. Adora and Alan then had two daughters together, Marian and Amma. Camille was raised as if she were Alan's daughter, and the matter is never openly discussed.
Gillian Flynn's book Sharp Objects explains Camille's parentage in further detail than the show does. As a teenager, Adora Preaker had been Wind Gap royalty. Heir to the pig farm-generated fortune, Adora was perceived to be the "most beautiful, sweet girl Wind Gap had ever raised." When she was 17, though, Adora's image was altered. She got pregnant.
"Some boy from Kentucky who she met at church camp came for a Christmas visit and left me in her belly," Camille explains. Things got more Southern Gothic from there. "My grandparents grew angry twin tumors to match my mother's expanding tummy, and were dead of cancer within a year of my birth."
So, within a span of a year, Adora became a mother, an orphan – and a wife. While Camille was still an infant, Adora began seeing Alan, the Tennessee-born son of her parents' friends. "I cannot picture this courtship as anything but awkward. Alan, pleated and pressed, elaborating on the weather. My mother, alone and untended for the first time in her life, in need of a good match, laughing at...jokes? And where was I in this picture? Probably in some far corner of the room, kept quiet by the maid," Camille narrates.
Eight months after the wedding, 20-year-old Adora and 35-year-old Alan had their first child, Marian. Camille was swiftly incorporated into the newly formed familial unit, but always felt like an outsider. Whereas Marian called Alan "dad," Camille was "never encouraged to call him anything but his proper name." Marian had a dad; Camille had an Alan.
Technically, of course, Camille does have a father. She just has no idea who he is, thanks to Adora. The name listed on Camille's birth certificate under "father" is fake. Adora deliberately keeps his identity hidden from Camille "lest [she] hunt him down." Adora confines Camille to a kind of purgatory. She'll never be fully a part of Adora's new family, but will always be at her mother's mercy.
Yet Camille's status as an outsider also spares her from receiving the blunt of her mother's — shall we say — attention. Adora is a highly controlling woman. Camille, as a rebel and an outsider, revolted against her mother's ministrations. And that was fine, because Adora had Marion and Amma to focus on. Due to a blend of her nature and her "outsider" status, Camille was able to get away (as far as St. Louis, that is).
Here's something we can promise: Camille's father's identity won't be some massive plot twist. His identity remains a mystery throughout the book, and the show will most likely follow in the same vein. After all, who he is doesn't matter – but his absence does. Adora holds Camille's rebellious personality against her, and the way Camille's birth affected her life. In terms of genetics and personality, Camille is an "other" in the Crellin household. As a result, she's the only person able to uncover them for who they are.