The GrownupThe Grownup by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

holiday hand jobs are sad for everyone.

2/3 of this story is fantastic. the ending is not.

you know how at the end of clue, you get a reasonable explanation for the murders and then this flashes on the screen:

followed by a less-satisfying solution

and then this

followed by the big, silly ensemble ending? that’s kind of what this feels like, but with all the fun sucked out. clue can get away with twisting and turning and running all over the place making no sense and just having a good time because it’s a campy screwball movie the whole way through. the way the ending of this story turns back on itself and says “but how about this?” feels less like a fun “gotcha!” than a writer still trying to decide how she wants her story to end.

the main problem is that i don’t understand the frame of this story. the voice is excellent, and it showcases flynn’s mastery of writing sympathetic bad-girl characters – in this case a woman with lots of stamina and no pride, taught the art of the sympathy-con as a little girl at her lazy mother’s knee, through which experiences she learned the fine art of reading people: pinpointing what they want and how they want to see themselves and manipulating these into profit.

she’s transitioning out of the soft-core sex trade, where For three years, I gave the best hand job in the tristate area because of health reasons:

I quit because when you give 23,546 hand jobs over a three-year period, carpal tunnel syndrome is a very real thing.

fortunately, Spiritual Palms is a business that provides handies in the back room, divination in the front, and for someone who has spent her life picking her marks and manipulating and milking them for results (and of course i am talking about her sob-story begging here, why you so scandalous?), aura-based spiritual advisory is a career that comes naturally.

when a client named susan burke comes to her with problems she is having with her stepson and the possibility that she has just moved into a haunted house, our “psychological intuitive” thinks JACKPOT! and offers susan her “domestic aura-cleansing” services:

Basically when someone moves into a new home, they call you. You wander around the house burning sage and sprinkling salt and murmuring a lot. Fresh start, wipe away any lingering bad energy from previous owners.

susan accepts and then things start to get reeeeal spooky for our retired hand-jobber.

and then the story changes from brassy sassy congirl story into gothic horror story, which is like changing from peanut butter into a unicorn. (for those of you who don’t speak “karen,” that translates into “unexpected, but equally awesome.”) and it continues to be great (really great) and probably should have ended with But I wasn’t a well-read bookworm; I was just a dumb whore in the right library.


because after that, it’s a bit too much this and then THIS and then THIS!

and it devolves from a funny/gripping/spooky story into exposition town.

so now that that’s all out of the way, i can finally talk about frame. my problem is that i don’t know who this is narrated to – it’s all in first-person declarative from our unnamed narrator, and it’s in this provocative tone – all breezy insouciance that sounds half-performative, with all the clever-clever judgments

*Feeling sad means having too much time on your hands, usually. Really. I’m not a licensed therapist but usually it means too much time.

*People are dumb. I’ll never get over how dumb people are.

*Money is wasted on the rich.

but also this:

So don’t listen to that bitch Shardelle when she says I quit because I didn’t have the talent.

which is clearly a defensive sentence directed at a listener, but who is the listener? there’s no other mention of shardelle or why she would be throwing shade at our girl, and i just don’t understand when this story is being told, or to whom.

it’s a shame, because i loved the narrator’s sex work observations – they reminded me of all the best parts of Going Down, and i loved the house and the kid and the cat and the way that part of the story was built up, but the ending was such a letdown. i think this story needed to either be longer, to explain its shape, or shorter to edit out the tacked-on weight.

but i would be perfectly willing to five-star cat the first 2/3 of this. i am doing that now in my heart.

read my reviews on goodreads

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