Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay
Published by William Morrow on July 2, 2019
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg: 3.58 (as of 2019-10-01)
A chilling anthology featuring nineteen pieces of short fiction from the multiple award-winning author of the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts.
In “The Teacher,” a Bram Stoker Award nominee for best short story, a student is forced to watch a disturbing video that will haunt and torment her and her classmates’ lives.
Four men rob a pawn shop at gunpoint only to vanish, one-by-one, as they speed away from the crime scene in “The Getaway.”
In “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” a meth addict kidnaps her daughter from her estranged mother as their town is terrorized by a giant monster . . . or not.
Joining these haunting works are stories linked to Tremblay’s previous novels. The tour de force metafictional novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers” deconstructs horror and publishing, possibly bringing in a character from A Head Full of Ghosts, all while serving as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. “The Thirteenth Temple” follows another character from A Head Full of Ghosts—Merry, who has published a tell-all memoir written years after the events of the novel. And the title story, “Growing Things,” a shivery tale loosely shared between the sisters in A Head Full of Ghosts, is told here in full.
From global catastrophe to the demons inside our heads, Tremblay illuminates our primal fears and darkest dreams in startlingly original fiction that leaves us unmoored. As he lowers the sky and yanks the ground from beneath our feet, we are compelled to contemplate the darkness inside our own hearts and minds.
No one is more disappointed than me that I didn’t absolutely love this collection. After reading A Head Full of Ghosts, I knew Tremblay would become one of my favorite horror authors. It took me way too long to pick up another one of his books, but my conflicted experience Growing Things certainly won’t make me give up on loving his work. Here is a list of the stories, as well as my individual rating for each:
- Growing Things 4/5
- Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks 3/5
- Something About Birds 4.5/5
- The Getaway 4/5
- Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport 3/5
- Where We Will All Be 2.5/5
- The Teacher 4/5
- Notes for “The Barn in the Wild” 4.5/5
- _____ 3/5
- Our Town’s Monster 2/5
- A Haunted House Is a Wheel upon Which Some Are Broken 4/5
- It Won’t Go Away 4/5
- Notes from the Dog Walkers 2/5
- Further Questions for the Somnambulist 2/5
- The Ice Tower 3/5
- The Society of the Monsterhood 2/5
- Her Red Right Hand 2.5/5
- It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks 4/5
- The Thirteenth Temple 4/5
I’m the baseball pitch that stops before home. I’m an empty notebook. I’m half the distance to the wall. I’m the video with an ending I won’t ever watch.
That comes to an average of 3.26, which I rounded down to a 3. The collection certainly wasn’t bad, but there were just enough stories I didn’t get along with to make it a less-than-spectacular reading experience. There was a lot to appreciate here. I found Tremblay’s meta and self-referential tendencies to be quite fun and look forward to tying bits here to his other works as I make my way through them. There is even a notes section at the end that includes tidbits — inspirations, writing processes, etc. — about many of the works. It was quite insightful and added a lot to the experience for me.
Time is not an arrow. It is a bottomless bag in which we collect and place things that will be forgotten.
I think this collection will work well for those who like authors to play around with their writing. As I mentioned above, some of the pieces are meta and Tremblay definitely isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. Horror fans in general will probably enjoy this, but I can see it appealing to those who aren’t diehard genre readers as well. I think the nature of short story collections usually mean that everyone can find something they’ll like.
I used to hope that when I died I’d go to some kind of afterlife where I’d instantly know all these weird statistics like how many heartbeats I had in my life or how many breaths or how many times I said the word “tomato” or how many people thought I was a good person or how many holes there were in the ceiling tiles of my dentist’s office.
Overall, while this didn’t quite live up to expectations, I still enjoyed it and will be recommending it to others!