Title: The Grownup
Author: Gillian Flynn
Published by: W&N
Publication date: December 1959
Source: Bury Library
A young woman is making a living faking it as a cut-price psychic (with some illegal soft-core sex work on the side). She makes a decent wage mostly by telling people what they want to hear. But then she meets Susan Burke.
Susan moved to the city one year ago with her husband and 15-year-old stepson Miles. They live in a Victorian house called Carterhook Manor. Susan has become convinced that some malevolent spirit is inhabiting their home. The young woman doesn’t believe in exorcism or the supernatural. However, when she enters the house for the first time, she begins to feel it too, as if the very house is watching her, waiting, biding its time . . .
The Grownup is a short story that I picked up from the local library as a quick read; and while it is a very quick read, it was filled with all the thriller staples you’d expect. There are twists and turns in the plot to keep the story interesting and the pacing is pretty fast. There’s a slow build-up while all the characters are being introduced but once things get up to speed the break-lines are cut!
The main character of The Grownup is an unnamed woman that makes a living as an illegal soft-core sex worker in the back of a Tarot Reading store. She is approached by Susan Burke who begs her to fix the psychic problems in her house that’s sending her Step-Son loopy in some sort of Exorcist possession manner. The woman, thinking she can scam Susan out of mega-bucks, agrees and visits the manor house. Where she soon starts believing in the Spiritual! She is a vaguely interesting sort of lead character that cares mostly about herself and ways in which she can better her own situation; usually through manipulation – as the story progresses and the twists in narrative start coming, her bad-girl attitude comes to the fore and we’re shown a bit of her past as a sympathy-con-girl; which feeds back nicely into where she currently stands in life.
Alongside her are Susan Burke, her non-appearing husband, and her teenage Step-Son, Miles. While some of these characters get no actual page time (Susan’s husband) they are still fully developed and you get a decent understanding of who they are, what makes them tick, and what their overall goals are… sort of.
I did lose a bit of patience with the plot; there are several outcomes that are never really solidified by a proper ending. It’s open-ended for the reader to believe whichever version of events they’d like, good in theory, but it leaves the story feeling unresolved. Some of the crumbs threaded throughout the short story are never picked up on and digested. Leaving the whole experience somewhat flat and frustrating. I was once asked if I like a ‘good ending’ to a book. I answered no. An ending doesn’t have to be good to be a ‘good ending’ but I do like a book that feels fully resolved. This one didn’t.
It was the length of the story that helped this one along, as a fully-fleshed novel the ideas would have become stale far too quickly and it’d have delved into the realms of ‘Just another Supernatural thriller’ as such the brevity of this one felt like a credit to the narrative; you could quickly get a feel for the characters and situation without being bogged down with over-complicated back-stories or fluffy descriptions for the sake of it. It helps the fast-paced book zoom off the page and really gets underway.
So, with all this praise, why the 3 stars? It all just felt a bit lackluster; the characters were strong, the plot implodes and certain points and tips preconceptions on their heads, but somehow it all felt dreary. It wasn’t a bad read, but it’s not really memorable, just something I picked up as a quick read that filled an hour or so in the evening. But mostly, it was the seemingly lazy open ending that left all the hard work up to the reader; I have no issue trying to figure out who-dun-its as long as I get some sort of answer. Here, that wasn’t the case.
While the crux of the short story was well written, the descriptions good, characters fully-fleshed out and interesting, the ending left too much to the imagination and the story never feels fully resolved. Thankfully, it’s a short book so not much time investment wasted!