The Grownup was originally published likely to fill the gap in new Gillian Flynn product a few years after Gone Girl released and Flynn has been preoccupied with various television outings,including the HBO adaptation of Utopia with David Fincher. The Grownup first appeared in a collection of short stories called Rogues last year, curated by George R.R. Martin. Another writer who does everything else short of writing his their next book. But I digress.
Since Flynn stormed the charts with the brilliant Gone Girl there has been a host of imitators that have sprung up in her wake with varying degrees of success. For every Girl on the Train there is an Until You’re Mine. The Grownup demonstrates that she is still the best in her genre of queasy psychological terror. Even though the story isn’t nearly as involved as her full length novels, what she does with a simple premise demonstrates her enormous talent for creating complex characters that confound a reader’s attempt to typify them.
Our unnamed protagonist, an ex-handjob expert, has lately been working as a fortune teller. One day a new client comes in and after receiving a “reading” returns for more visits. After a while she confides in the fortune teller that her house is haunted. Seeing a get-rich-quick scheme ripe for the taking, the fortune teller offers to clean the house of the evil spirits. Once she arrives in the house she realizes that maybe she’s in over her head.
Like many Flynn stories, The Grownup lends itself well to re-reading after finishing. It’s not enough to say the ending is ambiguous, the ambiguity is the entire point of the story. The classic horror novel The Turn of the Screw is reference multiple times in the slim volume, itself famous for its ambiguous ending. The Grownup is a beautifully written, cleverly designed puzzle that may not have a “true” answer but would still be great fun to discuss over a few pints one evening.
If anyone is up for it I’m game.