Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review: "The Grownup" by Gillian Flynn

This short story by Gillian Flynn had easily one of the best, most memorable opening lines I've ever read: "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."

Given that opening salvo, however, The Grownup isn't really raunchy, nor is it erotica or sex-focused. The 64-page story is narrated by a smart young woman who spent her formative years learning from her mother how to beg for money (mainly because her mother didn't want to have to work otherwise), and it wasn't long before she became better at it than her mother. In her adulthood she found a job at Spiritual Palms, which provided tarot readings, fortune telling, and other "spiritual" analysis—however, her job was more physical (hence the opening lines).

After suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome ("...when you give 23,546 hand jobs over a three-year period, carpal tunnel syndrome is a very real thing."), she becomes an aura reader. It's not long into this job before she meets Susan Burke, a well-to-do wife and mother who is in utter distress, convinced her house is evil and so is Miles, her 15-year-old stepson. In Susan, the narrator sees a ticket out of her current situation, as she believes she can mine Susan's crisis into a more upper-crust spiritual adviser-type position. But when she visits Susan's house, and meets Miles, it isn't long before she realizes she may be out of her league—there probably is evil in the house, but whether it's coming from Susan, Miles, or the house itself, she's not quite sure.

The Grownup hooked me completely from the very beginning. (How could it not, really?) It's funny, a little creepy, and full of surprises, all in just 64 pages. While it's billed as a ghost story, I don't quite agree—perhaps if Flynn had took the story a little further those elements would have presented themselves. I wasn't wild about the ending but it certainly has left me thinking.

I've been a fan of Gillian Flynn's since she published her first book. Reading The Grownup seems a little like a tease, so I hope a new novel is on its way. And in the meantime, I may need to read George R.R. Martin's Rogues anthology, which is the book Flynn originally wrote this story for. This was definitely a good, quick, fun read.

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