Book: “Growing Things and Other Stories” by Paul Tremblay
Publishing Info: William Morrow, July 2019
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: 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.
Review: I want to extend a thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!
I’ll be honest and up front here. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but short story collections aren’t really my thing. True, I will pick them up every once in awhile if the book really tantalizes me (hence the collections I’ve read on here), but overall I tend to avoid them. That said, when I found out that Paul Tremblay’s newest book, “Growing Things and Other Stories”, was going to be a short stories collection, I was basically like
I did go in with my usual worries and hesitations regarding short story collections, but I also had faith that I would probably like it overall. And that faith paid off for the most part! I enjoyed a number of the stories in “Growing Things”. And as I usually do with short stories collections on this blog, I’ll focus on some of the favorite stories from the book and why I liked them, with a general write up at the end.
“A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken”
First thing to note is that the format of this book didn’t QUITE work in eARC form, as it’s designed to be like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novel. When you have an ARC that doesn’t have ALL the kinks worked out (as far as I know), AND it’s on an eReader, that removes some of the intent to this story. But, all of that said, I found “A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” to be one of the most emotional stories in this collection, as well as creepy as heck at times. It involves a woman revisiting her childhood home, and having to recount the memories of living there. Some of those memories are about the various ghosts that haunted the house and made her childhood creepy. Others involve her mother who was dying of cancer. Along with some visceral and unsettling imagery, Tremblay really tapped into the grief of losing a parent, and how that kind of loss can haunt a person just as much as the ghosts in the story haunted the house. I definitely teared up a number of times as I read this story. Tremblay is so good with pathos.
“The Ice Tower”
For those of you who like “The Thing” and other ice/cosmic horror, this is a tale you will probably enjoy. When a group of adrenaline junkie climbers are recruited to explore a giant, mysterious pillar of ice, it isn’t just the cold and snow that they have to worry about. Slowly it becomes clear that there is something otherworldly, and wholly threatening, about the ice wall. One of the main features of cosmic horror is that you never QUITE know what is going on, and you can’t expect explanations to go along with the terrible events that will surely unfold, and with “The Ice Tower” the ambiguity was rampant. As someone who knows cold and knows the horrors that can come with it (albeit natural ones in my experience), this story really resonated with me and set me on edge. I also couldn’t help but think about the fact that one of the most notorious ice climbs, Mount Everest, had such a deadly year this past year, which made this terrifying in it’s own way, supernatural scares aside.
“It’s Against The Law To Feed The Ducks”
The third story that stuck with me was this one, which had both a sense of existential dread and a childlike whimsy within it’s pages. Through the eyes of a little boy, a family goes on a remote family vacation in the woods. But during this vacation, something on a global scale happens, and we see it unfold through the perspective of a child who doesn’t understand what’s going on, and whose parents are trying to shield him from it. If you want to talk about unsettling ambiguity, this one knocked it out of the park. It also reminded me a bit of “The Cabin at the End of the World” in it’s themes. The reader never quite figures out just what it is that has happened, and the childish lens that we see everything through is written very well, and made it all the more upsetting. This was probably my favorite in the entire collection.
In terms of the stories as a whole, there was a lot to like. We get revisits to characters in Tremblay’s book “A Head Full of Ghosts”, we get to see some more monster stories, and even Hellboy makes an appearance (as Tremblay wrote for a collection that was in tribute to “Hellboy” and Mike Mignola)! While I thought that the three I mentioned were far and away the best of the book, there were other strong stories as well. While not many of them really ‘scared’ me, I did find them all to be pretty entertaining.
“Growing Things and Other Stories” is a nice sampler of the kinds of stories Paul Tremblay has to offer, and I think that horror fans really need to check it out! And like always, make sure to have some tissues handy, because you will probably cry.
Rating 8: Once again Paul Tremblay shows his talent and contributions to the horror genre. “Growing Things and Other Stories” is a healthy mix of different kinds of scary stories, as well as moments that are filled with emotion.
“Growing Things and Other Stories” is included on the Goodreads lists
Find “Growing Things and Other Stories” at your library using WorldCat!