The Grownup

Author: Gillian Flynn

Type: Fiction, short story

Published: 2014

I read it: August 2018

the grownup

I haven’t been caught off guard by opening lines like that in a while, but maybe it’s because I’ve read only one previous book by Flynn (the smash hit) and haven’t gotten used to her style and characters. I wondered if the protagonist’s profession was for shock value alone, and it’s tempting to read between the lines because the book is playfully dedicated to two “sick, sick people.” In the acknowledgements, we also learn that the story was prompted by George R.R. Martin.

By the time I got to the end, I realized there are at least a few layers to Flynn’s brisk story. Most obviously, it’s a dedicated take on a classic ghost story, such as The Haunting of Hill House. (I regret not yet being familiar with the other two stories mentioned by the characters: The Turn of the Screw and The Woman in White.) Flynn’s story is also a modern thriller, as well as a study of the motivations of women at various ages and incomes. After turning the last page, the title of the book becomes a riddle. Who can claim to be the grownup in the group?

Regardless of the answer, the story is dark in several ways but also strangely uplifting. Perhaps this is Flynn’s ultimate skill: to create a story that means a lot of things while also remaining specific and never losing forward momentum. I think I’m interested in the author again, and now I’m eyeing Sharp Objects as a near-future read.

To conclude, a curiosity for all the technical writers, copyeditors, and proofreaders out there: the title has “Grownup” sans hyphen, but when the word is finally used at the end of the story, it’s “grown-up” (as a noun). What do you think is the cause of the inconsistency?

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