Books that are badly written from start to finish are disappointing. But, even more disappointing are books that start out great, build up nicely, suggest an awesome finish, but then, just as you reach the final pages, the story falls completely flat shattering all your high hopes. The Grownup is one such book, two-thirds superb and one-third crooked, thus, a major disappointment.
Title: The Grownup
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publishing Date: 5th November, 2015
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Adult Fiction
The Grownup is a short story written by Gillian Flynn, the author of the mega-hit Gone Girl. The story was originally published in 2014 as ‘What do you do?’ in the anthology Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. The book was then published as a standalone novella in 2015. The Grownup is a slim book with only 79 pages (the story is only 67 pages long). The story is a spooky one that tells the tale of our unnamed protagonist, a female, who has lived a not-so-honest life since childhood. As an adult, she earned a living by giving hand-jobs to clients and later, took on the role of a psychic reader- a con artist. Her life runs smooth, till one day, a woman shows up for a psychic reading; and there is far more to this woman than meets the eye.
The story starts out strong. The setting is depressing, yet, entertaining. Though, I haven’t read any other Gillian Flynn books, I knew about her inclination towards dark, twisted, bad girl characters. Hence, it came as no surprise, when our protagonist turns out to be a woman with a history in illegal soft-core sex work, who quits her job due to carpal tunnel syndrome (consequence of giving 23, 546 hand-jobs) and moves to another not-so-virtuous job of a con psychic reader. The author gives a detailed account of our lead’s past & present. For a story with only 67 pages, the character build-up is extraordinary; I felt I knew the person intimately. Instead of hating or disliking our lead for the dishonest life she led, I empathized with her. Flynn’s writing and character sketch is so masterful that I felt, ‘Okay, so she is into soft-core porn, she is a con artist, but, still she is a nice person, isn’t she?’.
The middle section of the story is tremendous. We see another well-layered character in Susan Burke, the woman who comes for a psychic reading. This part of the story takes readers to Susan’s so-called haunted house. Once there, the vivid descriptions of the house, the eerie sequence of events and the creepy characters take the story to a whole new level making it a chilling read. This is the part where the tension and enormous suspense builds up; Flynn toys with our psychology. This section is highly intriguing; I just couldn’t stop reading. And just as I reached page 57- the big revelation- wham! The story flops and plunges into disappointment.
The last ten pages- the ending- don’t actually provide any definite ending. It is completely ambiguous. I have seen ambiguous endings work very well in several books, but, not in this one. In the end, we do come to know that the con artist has been conned, but, by WHO and HOW that is for the readers to decide. This complicates the story a bit too much lending it a distorted end. The only part I liked about the ending is this- Flynn shows us through our female lead that a person’s true nature, even after a hard lesson, may not change. In this case, the con artist remains a con artist, continuing to construct even more elaborate plans to con people.
The ambiguous ending tangles the entire plot. It makes you wonder, ‘What! Everything that I have loved about this story till now has such a twisted explanation, which is no explanation at all’! It is most upsetting when a book is going great and you are enjoying yourself very much, until, out of nowhere you are hit with a non-explanatory ending. That, for sure, doesn’t work for me!
P.S. I have rated this book 3/5 solely because of the superb first two-thirds of the story.