Book Review: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn has done it again with her strange and macabre new novella, The Grownup. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1971, Flynn worked as feature writer at Entertainment Weekly magazine as a television critic before publishing her three best-selling books, Gone Girl, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. Her novels usually include themes of dysfunctional families and crimes. Her most popular novel was Gone Girl, her third novel, which has been a bestseller and had been made into a blockbuster film starring Ben Affleck. It was one of the most talked about novels of recent years. The Grownup, Flynn’s newest endeavor, was originally published last year in George R.R. Martin’s (The author of the wildly popular Game of Thrones series) anthology series under the title, What Do You Do?
In the novella, the unnamed narrator works at Spiritual Palms, a psychic shop with a rather unusual addition. The store is meant to scam its customers, and our narrator knows the ropes when it comes to deception. The narrator is a typical character in a Gillian Flynn novel, a woman with a bitter and cynical world view due to a less than easy life. The character takes aspects of Gone Girl’s Amy, Sharp Object’s Camille, and Dark Places’ Libby while at the same time having characteristics all of her own, like a deep passion for reading (The novella mentions classics such as The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw).
While her outlook on life is less than cheery, and what she does is not particularly admirable, the narrator does have a few saving grace’s in her personality, and the reader can relate to her unease with her situation. Enter Susan Burke, a highly strung woman who claims that her house is haunted, and that it is affecting her fifteen-year-old stepson, Miles badly. The narrator, hoping to deceive Susan, offers to “cleanse” the house of whatever is causing the unrest, claiming to be a master at reading auras. What then occurs is a wild twist and turn of dramatic and strange events.
The narrator goes to Susan’s house, a gloomy Victorian that came with the equally creepy and gothic name of Carterhook Manor. She finds the house to be very unsettling, and notices that something is not quite right about Miles either. His behavior is dangerous and threatening and not at all like the average fifteen-year old guy. The narrator does think that there is something unusual about the Burke’s house, but she soon wonders if it is the house that she must worry about after all. Flynn’s novella is a strange, roller coaster ride of emotions. All at once, the reader will be scared at the house’s creepy encounters and will wonder, “who can be trusted” due to the unreliableness of the characters.
Flynn’s short novella acts as a sort of place holder until her next novel comes out. After the success of Gone Girl, her fans eagerly awaited Flynn’s next novel. Her novella, while short, (Only sixty-two pages) stands alone as a strong, grisly, ghost story. Flynn once again manages to surprise her readers with her bold and often times surprising writing style and her fast paced wit. She is a master at digging deep into the psyche of her readers, as seen in her other novels.
However, while the novella was a good read, it was slightly too short to accommodate all the information it tries to squeeze in. Had it been slightly longer, the reader might have been less overwhelmed by all that was happening as it would have been explained more thoroughly. One example of this would be the background of Carterhook Manor, which could have remedied with more information said about its history. Also, the ending seemed to be quite abrupt, leaving the reader wanting more, and feeling slightly unsatisfied at how rushed it seemed. Other than that, the novella was a riveting read and is a satisfying pick-me-up while waiting for Flynn’s much anticipated next novel.