Review: Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay

Rating: ★★★★★+

Synopsis

A chilling collection of psychological suspense and literary horror from the multiple award-winning author of the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts.

A masterful anthology featuring nineteen pieces of short fiction, Growing Things is an exciting glimpse into Paul Tremblay’s fantastically fertile imagination.

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

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advanced reading copy of Growing Things and Other Stories in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the work.

Hands down, Growing Things and Other Stories is Paul Tremblay’s BEST work to date. Fans of his previous three (3) full-length novels: A Head Full of Ghosts, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, and The Cabin at the End of the World will find TONS to love in this anthology, but especially the first two (2) works as notable characters are given new life in a few of the stories. I don’t know that I have read a more unsettling or evocative selection of stories in my years. Quite a few of these tales will stay with me for a long while, and a couple of them have kept me up the past few nights. I can’t think of a single story out of this collection that didn’t move me in some way.

Rather than go through each and every story (because honestly, you will just have to take my word for how fantastic this book is and check them out for yourself), I will speak highly about the one that stuck with me the most: Notes from the Dog Walkers.
Starting out as a seemingly innocent little story, gathering groups of notes/timestamps from dog walkers taking a family’s dog out for walks, potty breaks, and play time, it soon takes a shocking turn into a self-deprecating story about the author himself that I can only assume holds at least a little validity in real life. Even though it was the longest story in the anthology, seeming to go on for ages with no end in sight, it gripped me so hard and had me gasping for air. I have never read anything like it, and as soon as I finished the story, I immediately reached out to Paul on Facebook and simply said ” Notes from the Dog Walkers… Holy Sh*t LOL”

One thing that I absolutely loved about Growing Things is that Tremblay, like Kealan Patrick Burke in his ‘We Live Inside Your Eyes’ anthology, gives notes on several select stories at the end of the book. I only wish I had allotted more time to finish a story, flip to the back, read the notes, and move on. Sadly, Kindles take a little bit of maneuvering to flip back and forth between sections and I didn’t want to waste any time getting to the next installment; so unfortunately, the notes were left to be read once I finished the entire anthology. But if I were you, definitely take the time to check them out between each story. It just adds so much more to the experience.

All in all, Growing Things and Other Stories will definitely have a slot in my Top 20 Reads of 2019, quite possibly Top 10 (which, if I’m not careful, will expand into a Top 30 because my reading speed as drastically increased and there are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS THIS YEAR) and is an anthology that I cannot recommend enough. If you are a fan of Tremblay or enjoy horror/weird fiction, this book should be in your cart by the time you are finished reading this. Seriously… links are under the cover.

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