When Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn was asked by George R. R. Martin for a short story for his anthology, Rogues, she was more than happy to oblige. The short story “What Do You Do” morphed into the 64 –page novella, The Grownup. If you have read any Gillian Flynn, you know she is a master of the dark, psychologically twisted character who leads the reader on a delightfully sick reverse of the hero’s quest. The Grownup is no exception.
The pros- it’s Gillian Flynn, meaning it’s dark and twisted, never shying away from the dissection of the grotesque underbelly that passes at everyday life. The narrator is a lifelong grifter, having mastered the secrets of successful panhandling before puberty. Her lazy mother never worked legitimately a day in her life, preferring to beg, steal, panhandle, manhandle and manipulate. Even though our nameless main character attended a swanky charter school, she left home at 16 and proceeded to do things that guaranteed she, too, could never hold a respectable job. So, she gives hand jobs to men in the back room of Spiritual Vibes and poses as a psychic up front. All is fine and dandy until Susan Burke shows up. She is not like the other marks, rich, bored, purposeless. She is truly terrified. She says the walls of her house bleed. And something has taken possession of her teenage son. The narrator is convinced to visit the residence, where – surprise, surprise – a murder had indeed taken place. The old place is scary, even for an old shyster.
The cons – even though the book is genuinely creepy and contains the dark twists and turns Flynn is famous for, it is way too short. Of course it is billed as a novella, slightly longer than a short story – it’s still too short. It was intended to leave the reader salivating – trying to determine who is telling the truth, who is the liar, and what will happen when two totally messed up people arrive at the paranormal convention. There’s sure to be lots of complaining from readers who expected more, and there will be those who will say Flynn is taking advantage of her fanbase by releasing this as a standalone hardcover. Regardless, each side will be secretly hoping the talented Flynn will flesh this tantalizing tale into a fully fledged novel.