This review originally appeared on Kendall Reviews.
*3 out of 5*
What I learned from reading The Cabin at the End of the World and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is that Tremblay has an amazingly effective narrative style. Hell, after reading The Cabin…, I went out and ordered everything else he had (with the exception of some old, rare releases I couldn’t track down) because I was so impressed and intrigued. This also meant putting up a preorder for Growing Things at the time of its announcement. I had not yet read Tremblay in short fiction form, so I was interested to see how his style would do in brevity. You see, Tremblay has a thing for ambiguous endings.
Unfortunately, Growing Things left me a bit torn. It seemed that I either loved a story (“Where We Will All Be,” “It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks,” “The Thirteenth Temple”) or hated it (“Notes from the Dog Walkers,” “Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport,” “Further Questions for the Somnambulist”). The times I was left feeling in-between, it was generally due to the weirdness factor. I didn’t have any problem with the bleakness of these stories – Tremblay’s writing doesn’t leave me feeling withdrawn or upset like some other readers noted. Instead, I felt like some were just too confusing to follow or took too long to build up to anything of substance. The darkness of it all sat just fine with me (as long as I could understand it).
These complaints aside, Tremblay’s narrative is just wonderful. Reading Growing Things spurred my own creative juices, and I found myself eager to return to the computer and write. So, you’ve got to hand it to Tremblay in that regard – even when I wasn’t liking a story, I was still left excited in a twitchy, energetic way. This collection may not have been all I wanted it to be, but it did not turn me away from this author one bit. I will be starting A Head Full of Ghosts next month with intense anticipation, as well as keep my tabs on any upcoming Tremblay work.