I’ve read every one of Gillian Flynn’s books and I was excited to see that a short story she’d previously published for a George R. R. Martin anthology, Rogues, had been individually published. “The Grownup” is about an unnamed narrator who gets by in whatever way she needs to — begging, for example, or discreet sexual favors in the back of a psychic’s storefront.
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When an opportunity presents itself to start working as a “psychological intuitive,” the narrator meets Susan Burke, a woman who is afraid her house is haunted. From there, a series of strange events and lies puts the narrator in a precarious situation.
One of the most admirable parts of Flynn’s writing is that she allows her characters — many of which are female narrators — to be flawed, often fringe individuals, and they refuse to be self-pitying or ashamed. The narrator of “The Grownup” is not unaware of the judgement toward her sexual profession and is willing to poke fun at herself and her means of getting by. “I’d say, ‘I’m in customer service,’ which was true. To me, it’s a nice day’s work when you make a lot of people smile. I know that sounds too earnest, but it’s true. I mean, I would rather be a librarian, but I worry about the job security. Books may be temporary, dicks are forever.”
Flynn also doesn’t shy away from social commentary, even in a piece as short as this. The narrator comes from a rough childhood and says, “I have an arrest record for a few petty thefts, dumb stuff I did at eighteen, nineteen, twenty, that will ensure I never ever ever get a decent job…” while still maintaining that her circumstances are largely a product of choice, or at the very least, finding a way to survive.
The story is wry and funny, briefly spooky and thrilling in the very particular way that Flynn likes to surprise her readers.