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Friday, July 26, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Growing Things by Paul Tremblay @wmmorrowbooks @paulgtremblay @jessmapreviews

Growing Things
 by Paul Tremblay 

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: July 2, 2019
352 Pages
Genres: Short Stories, Horror

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.

My Review:

I have a love/hate relationship with short story anthologies.  I have GREAT respect for authors who write these as I feel these are harder to write than the full novel as you're putting an entire story together in under 7,500 words.  Those that do it well, do it WELL and those are the ones I like but I'll be honest, it's very few and far between where they get me.  I am one of those who prefer that full novel, or even the extended short story ala novelette/novella.  It's hard to say I "want more" as I know this is something readers of short stories cringe at seeing when someone critiques these, but there's definitely some truth to this saying... HOWEVER, I've come to realize that when I say I "want more", it's that the author has piqued my interest enough that I want more of the story - give me the ligaments and veins and bloody insides instead of just the surface flesh.  Either way, I'm EATING IT ALL UP.  

Mr. Tremblay.. this is one talented horror writer.  As an avid reader of author's notes and acknowledgements, I always tend to skim these before I start my reads and then fully read once I'm done. I am SO glad I did that with this collection as Tremblay gives us notes on most of the stories within. I LOVE these insights and I impress upon you to read these in tandem with the stories as you go. It give them a certain *umph*. Feeling squirrely? *wink*

Like with most anthologies, there are the stories that I loved and stories I didn't quite like as much.  I will say that I did enjoy all the stories in this one - at various levels of course.  Some had my eyebrows in a continuous furrow while others left my eyes wide and mouth open. (Love the nod to Merry and Marjorie of Head Full of Ghosts.)  My favorites? Why thank you for asking.  "Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport", "Note from the Dog Walker" and "It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks". And I absolutely loved the format of "A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken" and "Further Questions for the Somnambulist".  

It's hard to really discuss any of the stories without spoiling them outright.  I do think Tremblay is fantastic at ambiguity and I feel most short stories, including these, keep you thinking at the end.  Others are more subtly done while some pack a punch.  At the end of the day, while this is on the top of my list of short story collections to read, I think that maybe short stories in general just aren't in my wheelhouse. And that's ok.  You like what you like. Quack quack.


Jessica's Review:

If you’ve followed any of my reviews for awhile, then you’ll know that I’m a big fan of short stories, especially those in the horror genre. GROWING THINGS is a collection of 19 short stories, and I highly recommend reading the Author’s Notes in the back! As with all short story collections, there will be stand outs and I was pleasantly surprised that there were a lot that I really enjoyed.

The title story, GROWING THINGS, was eerie and a great way to start off the collection – mysterious plants that have taken over and knocking that won’t stop for sisters Merry and Marjorie (anyone read Head Full of Ghosts?) We get a wide variety of scares to keep you on your toes. Some hauntings, ghosts, devils, monsters, fears, some stories are morbid, and others examine different people and what they’re capable of. A couple others that stood out, and I know it was the same for other reviewers, were NOTES FROM THE DOG WALKERS, OUR TOWN’S MONSTER, and A HAUNTED HOUSE IS A WHEEL UPON WHICH SOME ARE BROKEN.

I honestly don’t think there was a bad one in this collection, which seems rare these days. I’m not surprised though because I love Tremblay’s writing. There’s a certain flow to it that just makes it so easy to cruise through the book without even realizing how far you’ve gotten. I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next for us!

4 stars

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