TITLE: The Grownup
AUTHOR: Gillian Flynn
PUBLISHER: Orion Publishing
RELEASE DATE: November 3, 2015
GENRE: Short Fiction, Thriller
PAGE COUNT: 64
This award-winning short story by Gillian Flynn is underwhelming. Fans of her dark novels, Sharp Objects, Gone Girl, and Dark Places, will be divided.
The unnamed narrator is a young woman making ends meet as a soft-core sex worker and phoney psychic. Telling customers what they want to hear normally does the trick… Until she meets Susan Burke. Susan fears that her house is haunted, and the violent behaviour of her 15-year-old stepson adds to her terror. When the young woman visits the house, evidence of past evil challenges her skepticism.
The narrative voice starts out strong. The opening sentences succeeded in gripping my attention and luring me in:
I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it. For three years, I gave the best hand job in the tristate area. The key is to not overthink it … I quit because when you give 23,546 hand jobs over a three-year period, carpal tunnel syndrome is a very real thing – page 1
In these opening lines, Flynn establishes a distinct voice. She develops this throughout the opening pages by using short statements and repeating phrases such as “the key is”, “that’s my guess” and “which was true”. However, she doesn’t maintain this strong voice throughout the story. The repeated phrases that make the narrator compelling discontinue midway, leaving me disinterested. I found that inconsistent or indistinct voice was an issue in Gone Girl as well.
The pacing is also inconsistent. The first half of the story patiently sets the scene and introduces the characters. However, the second half races to info-dump as many plot devices as possible. This results in a tangle of plot lines, none of which Flynn commits to. I know non-endings have a time and place, but in this case it felt unconvincing.
At only 67 pages long, reading The Grownup is a short time commitment. I’m interested to hear if you liked this short story and why. Fans of non-endings will probably appreciate it more.