Review – The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn

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The Grownup
by Gillian Flynn

Genre: Short Stories, Horror

Length: 64 Pages

Release date: November 3, 2015

Blurb via GoodReads: 

A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the “psychic” visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it.

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The Grownup is a short story which features what seems to be the archetypal Gillian Flynn protagonist: a dark, gritty woman with somewhat of a chip on her shoulder and an unapologetic attitude. She is pragmatic and has grown up doing whatever needed to be done for survival; as a child, that meant begging for money with her mother, and now it means giving handjobs to lonely businessmen or telling fortunes to gullible customers. Honesty is for people who can be sure where they’ll be getting their next meal. She doesn’t have the luxury.

The story was fun and creepy. Flynn writes full-length novels so well, and I had wondered how her skills would transfer to a short story, as she seems to be a master at crafting slow-burning stories. The pacing of The Grownup was quick and engaging; I practically got whiplash trying to keep up with the plot twists.

Flynn seems to have a penchant for leaving the reader hanging in a moment of tension. While this worked really well in Gone Girl, it left The Grownup feeling somewhat lacking, perhaps due to the shorter length of the story. (If you’re only going to give me 64 pages to enjoy, at least give me a resolution at the end of them.) The ambiguous ending felt frustrating rather than tantalizing.

I loved the story, but I need some closure here, Gillian Flynn.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

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Sharp Objects – Dirt

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Last night, episode two of HBO’s Sharp Objects adaptation aired. This episode begins to delve more deeply into Camille’s as a character; like other Gillian Flynn characters, she isn’t always likable, but she feels multi-faceted and real.

Camille is in Wind Gap with a job to do, and she’s sometimes less than forthcoming and honest in order to accomplish this. After a murdered little girl’s funeral, Camille shows up at the family’s home with all of the other attendees. She strikes up a conversation with the victim’s father to dig for information without identifying her as a reporter.

This episode also delves more into Camille’s emotional problems and traumatic childhood. Flashbacks blend seamlessly into the current timeline, offering the viewer glimpses of a young Camille and her cold, distant mother after the death of her sister. This episode was replete with images of self harm, with the words carved into Camille’s skin and the pin she keeps in her car to prick her own finger, but also an interesting addition which, to the best of my memory was not included in the book. We see the word “scared” carved into Camille’s car door, just underneath the handle, possibly her attempt to redirect her urges in a less harmful manner.

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Camille doesn’t seem to be the only character struggling with a form of self harm. After the funeral, we see Camille’s mother yanking at her eyelashes in a fit of stress. This is the first hint that self destructive behaviors may run in the family; perhaps this is also meant to hint at the mental state of Camille’s younger half sister, Amma, whose duality in behavior is becoming more pronounced as the story continues. Camille bumps into Amma in a convenience store, giggling with her friends during their classmate’s funeral. Later that night, she is wearing a baby doll-esque nightgown at home, playing with a dollhouse and working herself up into a tantrum, which her mother puts down to emotional distress over the deceased classmate.

The rural small-town vibes are also out in full force in this episode, with Camille’s former classmates gossiping about the rest of the town at the wake and small children with access to guns. The gossiping, close-knit but oddly antagonistic community makes for really interesting interactions with Camille, the prodigal daughter returned home. She has more access than a typical reporter, as she’s known to these people, but she has no ability to keep a professional distance.

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The pace so far remains slow, although it doesn’t feel like a detriment. Camille is struggling to find her footing in Wind Gap after being gone for so many years, and the pace seems to compliment this, putting the viewer in a similar emotional state to the protagonist while slowly teasing out the mystery. Readers of the book will know that there is a slow build, but the revelations coming are well worth the wait. Capture

Are you watching Sharp Objects? What are your thoughts so far?

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HBO’s Sharp Objects Adaptation Premier

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As a Gillian Flynn and Amy Adams fan, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Sharp Objects adaptation by HBO.

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

Camille is a pretty typical Gillian Flynn protagonist: complicated, a bit damaged, and unapologetically angry. Adams has her work cut out for her; so much of the character development takes place inside Camille’s head, as she is reserved and distant around the hometown acquaintances she hasn’t seen in years. Camille’s discomfort in Wind Gap is palpable, however. It seems clear that this discomfort is not only rooted in the morbid subject of her reporting assignment. Camille seems like she’d rather crawl out of her own skin than associate with the people from her hometown. At this early stage in the story, it effectively makes one wonder what memories she’s avoiding confronting.

Amma, Camille’s younger half sister, is one of the most interesting characters in the book. The sharp divide between Amma’s public persona and the persona she presents in front of her mother catches Camille’s attention very early on. As of the first episode, this duality is not yet as obvious as it is in the book. It will be interesting to see how this develops in coming episodes.

They always call depression the blues, but I would have been happy to waken to a periwinkle outlook. Depression to me is urine yellow, washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss.

The show feels slow to expose Camille’s deep emotional issues. Self harm, as implied by the title, is a central aspect of Camille’s character. Her concealing outfits are obscuring a plethora of words carved into her skin over the years, the result of a habit which landed her in the previously mentioned psych hospital. This raises the question of how her past trauma will impact her ability to cover the grisly details of the story she’s been sent to report.

So far, I’m ridiculously intrigued and optimistic about how this story will be adapted for TV. HBO has brought together a talented cast, and Flynn’s work seems to be in very capable hands.

Are you watching Sharp Objects? What are your thoughts on the book and/or the show so far?
Please share in the comments!