What better way to kick off my short story week than returning to my favorite author (who was also the author of the first review ever posted on this page, Dark Places). You may also have noticed that I’ve switched to a 5-point system instead of a 10-point system, this is a temporary departure, exclusive to short stories.
“The Grown Up” is written in quintessential Flynn style—it’s creepy, weird, disturbing, unsettling, and all the accompanying synonymous adjectives. It’s also a ghost story, something that Flynn hasn’t really touched upon in her other work. First published under the title “What Do You Do?” in Rogues, the story was later released by itself under the current title (one which in my opinion is much better). The story is sort of formulaic when it comes to Flynn: an dubiously trustworthy and unlikable adult woman with a difficult childhood and semi-secretive past, although in this go-round she’s notable for giving the “perfect” hand job and for masquerading as a psychic (or really being psychic? It’s not very clear). It is through this second profession that she meets Susan, who enlists the narrator’s help in ridding her house of whatever is haunting Susan’s family. The narrator accompanies Susan to her home, where she meets Susan’s children, and her son in particular. The boy seems…off. Typically for Flynn, that’s when things go haywire. It’s a short piece, so I won’t say anymore or risk spoiling, but I will tell you that the ending is as unexpected and disturbing as you’d anticipate from Flynn.
The issue with this story is that you have to like Flynn and her style, or else you won’t like this at all. As I said before, this story pretty perfectly sums up her style and technique, and the dark humor and Flynn’s insight into the human condition are similar to the elements of her full-length novels. On the other hand, if you are a huge Flynn fan (guilty!), than the story feels too short, and you’re left wanting a full-length novel. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story immensely, and would highly recommend it to any other Flynn fans out there, or to anyone who just enjoys a spooky ghost story.