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Growing Things and Other Stories

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2019)
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.

352 pages, ebook

First published July 2, 2019

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About the author

Paul Tremblay

109 books7,879 followers
Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Pallbearers Club (coming 2022), Survivor Song, Growing Things, The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, and the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. He has a master’s degree in mathematics and lives outside Boston with his family. He is represented by Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 858 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,284 reviews119k followers
November 1, 2022
We all know the big bad is coming, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, yet still we go to our jobs and we chitchat about nothing important with coworkers and we go to dinner and we go to the mall and we go to our dentist appointments and we buy groceries and we make plans with friends and family and we walk and love our pets and we watch TV or read or sit in the glow of our smartphones, and all we’re doing is going through the motions because we can’t stop and think and accept that the pit of dread in our stomach is a pit of knowing. The big bad is coming.
Growing Things is my second exposure to Paul Tremblay’s writing. The first was his outstanding, award-winning 2018 novel, The Cabin at the End of the World. I have not read his earlier horror novels, A Head Full of Ghosts or Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. The reason this matters is that there are a few stories in this collection that use characters from A Head Full of Ghosts. It would certainly enhance one’s appreciation of those to have read the novel. And there is one story among these nineteen that serves as a prequel to Disappearance. Impact officially lost on me.

Paul Tremblay - image from More2Read.com

If you do not mind such things, or have read the requisite novels, then no problem. There really should be few reasons not to thoroughly enjoy Tremblay’s dark tales. Some may be familiar to frequent readers of the genre. Turns out that seventeen of the nineteen have been previously published in anthologies or magazines. But now, together for the first time!...

The approach to the stories varies, from third-person omniscient to first-person narrator to addled first-person narrator. From a story told largely through photographs to a tale told through journal entries. From a choose-your-own-adventure offering to a tripartite querying of a circus seer laid out in a very unusual physical format. There is a story within a story, and one that qualifies as a novella. Sometimes Tremblay will get you close to a character, enough to care, while in other stories the characters are held at a distance, in favor of concept. Be prepared for ambiguity. He even makes fun of himself for this impulse in one of the stories. Monstrous things might be extreme manifestations of fraught emotional/behavioral states, and sometimes the horrors be real.

There are several things that turn up more than once. One is most certainly a fondness for Lovecraftian beasties. There will be tentacles! Teachers recur (Tremblay’s day job is cramming math into high school brains. Maybe using tentacles?) Students get a corresponding degree of attention. Childhood is indeed a powerful source of so much horror. And let’s not forget writers. They are kept busy scribbling away, or being referenced.

Best of all, there are many fun reads in Growing Things, which should only secure Tremblay’s rep as one of the best horror writers working today. You probably don’t want to let any grass grow under you waiting to pick this one up.
Some fears can only be explored by story. Some emotions can only be communicated by story. Some truths can only be revealed by story.

Review posted – September 13, 2019

Publication date
----------July 2, 2019 - hardcover
----------July 7, 2020 - trade paperback

November 28, 2019 - Growing Things is named to the NY Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2019

December, 2019 - NPR names Growing Things as one of the Best Fantasy and Speculative Fiction Books of 2019

Sadly, new reductions in the allowed review size on GR have forced me to break this review up into parts. THE STORIES follows immediately in comments #1 and #2 while EXTRA STUFF remains here

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

-----Cemetery Dance - Interview: Paul Tremblay on Craft, King, and Building His Cabin - not sure if it includes this book
-----GQ - Paul Tremblay Is Horror's Newest Big Thing - by Tom Philip – 7/10/19
-----Slant - Interview: Paul Tremblay on Growing Things and the Hope of Horror Fiction - by Neil McRobert – 7/11/19
-----More2ReadInterview: Paul Tremblay on his Growing Things and Other Stories, his characters, writing, recommendations, and inspirations
-----WGBH News - Paul Tremblay On His Book 'Growing Things' and Growing Up In Massachusetts
-----Hangouts on Air - 2:17:45 – Tremblay with others

My reviews of other books by Paul Tremblay
-----2018 - The Cabin at the End of the World
-----2020 - Survivor Song
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
November 15, 2019
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for BEST HORROR 2019! what will happen?

a collection of stories! from paul tremblay! in which "karen brissette" appears in one and MAYBE two of the stories. although it's pretty clear to ME that there's no 'maybe' about it, coyboy. between the observation of "The cheerful unhinged-ness" of KB's writing style and the mean-but-accurate grousing about "this obnoxious KB person" (well, i NEVER!!), i am absolutely certain of what those letters stand for. PAUL TREMBLAY!!! I WILL SHOW YOU A PSEUDONYM IN A HANDFUL OF DUST!!!

here is the TOC:


and if some of those titles look familiar to you, don't worry - you are not going crazy! many of these stories have been scooped out of anthologies in which they previously appeared, including a few from tremblay's first collection, In the Mean Time (Growing Things, It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks, The Teacher) which was my first introduction to his work and a book i loved, especially the duck story, which was one of my favorites from that book and i was thrilled to read it again after all this time and to find i loved it just as much.

so, yeah - maybe you have read some of these stories before. or maybe you are like me and you have bought several of these anthologies, in part because of seeing tremblay's name on the cover, but you still haven't actually gotten around to reading them (koff Dark Cities (Society of the Monsterhood), Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales: An Anthology (Something About Birds) koff)

but that just means that when i get around to reading those anthologies, it will go more quickly because reruns!

AND - the story from my more-recently-purchased New Fears 2: More New Horror Stories by Masters of the Macabre is NOT in this collection, so SCORE!

short story collections, especially ones pulling in works across a long period of time or from very specific "themed" anthologies, tend to be hit-or-miss. i didn't love-love every story in this book, but it's entirely down to my personal taste and - true to form - the ones i liked the least were written for lovecraft-themed anthologies (__________) or written as an homage to laird barron (Notes from 'The Barn in the Wild')-- two authors i want to like because people i like are among their fans, but they do nothing at all for me. and the hellboy story (Her Red Right Hand) probably felt more 'at home' in its original surroundings. here it stands out a bit from the tone of the rest of the collection.

but there were some extremely high points.


i have never been so close to crying during a choose your own adventure experience. not even when i was shrunk down very tiny and threatened by a cat



this is the novella featuring that obnoxious KB person, and there are so many parts that sound like the inside of my head. IS THIS HOW SATAN FELT AFTER READING PARADISE LOST? but narcissism aside, it's a brilliant story. and it's meta for days

actually, the collection as a whole is wicked meta, if you know where to look. there are lots of little snickers to be had

but be warned - THE THIRTEENTH TEMPLE should probably not be read until after you have read A Head Full of Ghosts, because - to quote the sage karen brissette from that book - I WILL SPOIL YOU!

but as far as the KB in THIS story, everything "she" says about a person's bookshelves, about short stories, about referential authors - so much gold, my friends. there's this three-page chunk that is just perfection.

THE GETAWAY and NINETEEN SNAPSHOTS OF DENNISPORT were both great - gritty crime fiction, only one of which has supernatural/horror elements. I'LL LET YOU DISCOVER WHICH ONE FOR YOURSELF!

&etc. it's a great collection, and i am obsessed with this cover.

It's a hard world for little things.

indeed it is.



choose your own adventure story! fun! although maybe less-fun in an ARC:



and, DAMN, but paul tremblay always has such gorgeous covers:

it's even prettier in person.

so, AM i the "kb" of “Notes from the Dog Walkers”? maybe, maybe not, but the fact that the character is so savvy-wary of birds speaks volumes

i can't wait to read it and find out MORE!

thank you for the immortality and the ARC, paul tremblay!!!



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.

is what i heard about this story from someone you evidently value more than you value me TRUE??

Growing Things also features stories with ties to Tremblay’s previous novels. In the metafictional novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers,” the blogger Karen Brissette (last seen in A Head Full of Ghosts) deconstructs the horror genre while also telling a story that serves as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Char .
1,597 reviews1,443 followers
June 7, 2019
4.5/5 stars!

Paul Tremblay first appeared on my radar with his book A HEAD OF FULL GHOSTS. Then came DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK, which really impressed me. He followed that up with CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, which broke my heart. Now, here he is with a solid collection of stories that I ADORED.

GROWING THINGS is a hefty volume of tales, mostly told already in other publications, but they were almost all new to me. Among them, these stood out the most:

HER RED RIGHT HAND Something about this tale grabbed my imagination. There is a surprise well known figure comic figure within, but for me it was the young artist drawing the story that affected me the most.

NOTES FROM THE DOG WALKERS seemed like an experimental form of story telling to me, and as such, I was carried along from the normality of the day to day dog walker down into the heart of madness. This tale totally worked for me and I wanted to applaud when I finished.

NINETEEN SNAPSHOTS OF DENNISPORT Here is another story in which the way the tale is related is different and fascinating. Who doesn't sit down with their vacation pictures at some point or another? It's within these types of normal situations where Mr. Tremblay really shines. He takes those normal day to day things and twists them around...it's really something to see.

WHERE WE WILL ALL BE Here we find another experimental tale and once again, it worked quite well. A young man wakes up and finds his parents confused and talking nonsense about how they all have to go "where we will all be." That's all I'm going to say because I don't want to ruin it, but I find myself still thinking about Zane and his family.

THE ICE TOWER I don't know what the heck was going on in this story, at least not for sure, but once again, Mr. Tremblay wove his spell around me, and I was immediately entranced.

A HAUNTED HOUSE IS A WHEEL ON WHICH SOME ARE BROKEN A tour through the home where you grew up with your family. Top that with a "Choose your own adventure" feel and you have this unique tale that turned around within itself and surprised me.

IT WON'T GO AWAY A few days after his brother's suicide, a man receives a letter from the deceased. Once again, the story twists and turns and before you know it, you are miles away from where you started.

I guess I'll leave it off here because I'm discovering that I can go on and on about this collection.

Usually, weird fiction doesn't work that well for me. While I can appreciate and enjoy ambiguous stories, certain authors considered masters of the form leave me a bit cold. (Robert Aickman, I'm looking at you!) I am unsettled by and enjoy the work of Tom Ligotti, but it often comes across as too nihilistic for my tastes. In this volume, Paul Tremblay appears to master the form, but in his own unique and brave style.

That's not to say this collection features only weird tales, because it doesn't. What it does feature is an author willing to experiment with all different types of dark fiction and nearly every one of them was a beauty to behold!

My highest recommendation!

*Thank you to Edelweiss, NetGalley, and to William Morrow for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback.*
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.6k followers
August 7, 2019
I was very excited to read this collection of horror short stories and give another shot to Paul Tremblay.

I listened to it as an audiobook and couldn't focus for the life of me. I listen to plenty of audiobook every year and I rarely have a problem but I could not do it with this one.

The stories weren't compelling enough, one of them had the narrator naming each character before each sentence ffs...

I might try the physical book to see if it will help but I don't think this is for me.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 18 books3,707 followers
July 2, 2019
This review originally published on Cemetery Dance (April 29th, 2019)

“I’m terrible at remembering plot and character specifics…if the story is successful, what I do remember and will never forget is what and how that story makes me feel.”—Paul Tremblay in the “Notes” of Growing Things.

Thank goodness Paul Tremblay kindly bestowed some Author’s Notes upon his readers in the end pages for Growing Things. I was not ready to let go! I needed Paul’s conversational and personal commentary on each story—almost like I had been on a long journey, the boat had docked and Paul was there to carefully guide his readers as they stepped off the boat to stand on solid land again.

Part of the sentimentality was from Paul’s carefully crafted ordering of the stories. It’s this reader’s recommendation that this collection needs to be read in order. Don’t skip about. It’s not for any reasons other than emotionally; the stories follow a cycle and it’s best to have the same beginning and ending experience as everyone else. I hope that makes sense. I’m trying not to diminish any reader discoveries by oversharing.

I also recommend finishing a story and then flipping to the end, to the Notes, to read what Paul has to say about what you just read. To shed light on what you just encountered. After the first and title story, I was so excited and captivated by what I had just discovered I felt like I needed someone else in the world to freak out with! (Paul’s notes satisfied that urge to have a discussion.)

As the journey continued, I took note of all the experimental narratives, story formatting and literary devices. It’s almost like over the years, Paul Tremblay has had all these fantastic ideas rattling around in his writer brain and this is the collection where he got to try them all out! I really wish I could tell you some of the unique aspects of my favorite stories but to tell you that would be to spoil some of the fun surprises that you should be able to experience for yourself. I just want to tell you that “The Teacher” was intense. “A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” was strange, powerful and engaging. “It Won’t Go Away” was unsettling and disturbing. “Notes From the Dog Walkers” was a slow build to madness. Madness I tell you! Shock and awe!

“It’s Against the Laws to Feed the Ducks” was upsetting and even beautiful in its sadness. Lastly, I can’t even really talk about “The Thirteenth Temple.” I was super emotional about that story—lots of tears, a knot in my stomach and an odd feeling of closure. Again, thankful for the notes after that particular story.

I just want to urge anyone reading this review to preorder (Update: July 2nd, 2019 AVAILABLE NOW!) this book and then read it straight away. This is one of those books that people will talk about and you just don’t want to be late to the party. Mother Horror is trying her very best to encourage you NOT TO BE LATE TO THE PARTY! I savored my time in these pages—even though some of the stories had been released previously elsewhere, they were all new to me and I treasured every word.

A short story collection from a favorite author is just the best possible thing in the world; Growing Things is among the best of them.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books861 followers
Want to read
April 5, 2020
Did not finish. Got through probably half the stories. Started reading in order and then skipped around based on interesting titles. Paul Tremblay is a talented writer and I enjoyed 'A Head Full of Ghosts' all right, but he hasn't quite mastered a level of readability that manages to glue me to the page.

These stories are particularly challenging because most are highly experimental or, more than likely, incomplete starts to discarded novels. The title story 'Growing Things' for example, spends excessive time on set-up just to stop mid action.

'Notes from the Dog Walkers' is probably the most definitive story because it encompasses everything that feels good and bad about the collection. Half of the story is actually a kind of meta-diary where Tremblay seems to be critiquing his own writing through a character lens. It's all very schizo and spooky at first, but then it just goes on and on.

I'll continue to keep my eye on Tremblay because he's clearly a talented voice in horror literature, but I do wish--as he rambles about in 'Dog Walkers'--that he would discard his desire for ambiguity and just have fun with it.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,016 reviews652 followers
September 2, 2019
What lies beneath the smelly tattered cushions of a worn out sofa?  Look up into the night sky aswirl with white moths, take time to regard a shadow painstakingly pieced together, beware the kudzu and bamboo growing rampant, and steer clear of a town with its very own brand of monster.  

Nineteen tales to give you pause, leaving you with a feeling of apprehension and disquiet.  My favorite was Something About Birds.  Those beaks, those talons . . .  cunningly designed to ruffle your feathers and it succeeds.
Profile Image for TraceyL.
988 reviews133 followers
August 4, 2019
I was disappointed with this book. I love short story collections. I think that's because I like weird or unique story lines, and short story collections allow an author to write down all of their weird ideas that may not be strong enough to base an entire novel on.

There were two stories which I did really like: "Growing Things" and "Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport"

There were a few stories which I was into, such as "The Teacher" and "It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks," but they didn't have any real ending or conclusion to them. They felt like they were leading up to some sort of conflict or twist, but they just kind of lost their momentum and fizzled out.

Most of the stories in this collection were either too confusing, or I just didn't see the point. Sometimes I'll read a book and think to myself "Why does this exist?" I had that thought many times with this book.

One story in particular, "Notes from the Dog Walkers" actually made me angry. It started off as a cool idea, which is a series of notes left for a dog owner by the various dog walkers who work for him. But then it started getting meta by referencing previous stories in this book. The author also put himself into the story, which is a giant pet peeve of mine. He basically used this story to complain about how horror writers, such as himself, don't get enough recognition for the work they do.

I would recommend people skip this collection all together.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews256 followers
Want to read
June 27, 2019

001 - Growing Things
017 - Swim Wants To Know If It's As Bad As Swim Thinks
031 - Something About Birds
053 - The Getaway
069 - Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport
083 - Where We All Will Be
097 - The Teacher
109 - Notes for "The Barn In the Wild"
125 - _____
137 - Our Town's Monster
151 - A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken
175 - It Won't Go Away
191 - Notes From The Dog Walkers
235 - Further Questions For The Somnambulist
245 - The Ice Tower
253 - The Society of the Monsterhood
267 - Her Red Right Hand
283 - It's Against the Law To Feed The Ducks
299 - The Thirteenth Temple
323 - Notes
335 - Acknowledgements
357 - Credits
Profile Image for Cameron Chaney.
Author 6 books1,808 followers
March 1, 2021
When I say the act of DNFing a book is a rarity for me, I mean I have only done it twice. That's it. Just two times in all my years of reading. I like to see books through to the very end even when I'm not meshing with them, just so I may know for sure who the target audience is.

My job as a horror book reviewer is to state my opinions on a book from my perspective, and then determine who would enjoy that book based on their tastes. That's one of the great things about working on a Bookmobile; asking kids questions in order to pinpoint just the right book to place in their hands. It may be a book to make them laugh, or to give them further insight on a subject that interests them. It may even be a book that will change that child's life forever, even if that story meant nothing to my own life. When you hold the knowledge that your own reviews are subjective, it reminds you what the point of reviewing is on a larger scale: to find someone's next read.

I read enough of Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay (75%, to be exact) to know exactly who this book is for. It definitely isn't me. In fact, I am beginning to realize that Paul's books just aren't my thing. I read A Head Full of Ghosts a few years ago and loved it for it's eerie atmosphere, unique take on the possession genre, and its ability to remain ambiguous while giving the reader so much to unpack. The answers are all there, but part of the book's mystery and commentary is taking a neutral stance on its own events. It was pretty genius, honestly.

Well, it seems Tremblay is now in the scene of ambiguity for ambiguity's sake. His second book Disappearance a Devil's Rock was decent, but it left me with a lot of questions I was unsure the author had satisfying answers to. Then Cabin at the End of the World came out and I found myself angry at its further ambiguous nature, when it could have easily just told the story.

Now we have Growing Things. I was willing to give this a shot despite not caring for Tremblay's recent works because of its connections to his first novel A Head Full of Ghosts, but what I got were rambling snippets that lacked any rhyme or reason. Sometimes I would be reading a story and think: "This is decent so far, but I know there won't be an ending." Boom. No ending. Called it. Other times, I wouldn't know what the hell was going on at all, nor would I care.

So why did I keep reading when it was clear all the stories would be the same, when I already knew who the target audience was? Well, I was curious about Notes from the Dog Walkers. That's the story everyone says they liked above all others. But I read half of it and it still didn't do it for me. I just found myself annoyed by the rambling writing.

So, after all that, can I recommend this to anyone? Of course. Many, many people have rated Growing Things five stars. Some readers love it. When a viewer comments on one of my videos asking for literary horror books that maintain an air of ambiguity (you'd be surprised how often that is), I'll still tell them to check out either Paul Tremblay or Josh Malerman. They'll probably enjoy these authors. To each their own. And I don't mean that in a passive aggressive way. I sincerely mean to. each. their. own.

Because I didn't finish this book, I won't give it a rating. You can't bail out of a marathon and blame the pavement. But if I had finished the last 25% of the book, I would have likely given it one star. Even if the last couple of stories had been perfect, my rating may have only gone up a single star. Over all, it just wasn't worth any additional time for me personally. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy, but I don't think I will be reading another of Tremblay's work.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,728 reviews739 followers
July 5, 2021
I wanted SO badly to love this because I adore Tremblay’s writing but it was just so MEH. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great and great is what I’ve come to expect from him. Maybe his strength lies in the full length novel or maybe I’m just crazy, who knows! All I know is this wasn’t as good as I was expecting and I was disappointed. It started off SO damn strong and I was so into the first few stories and amping myself up for the rest to be as great if not better. And that never happened, it just went downhill slowly but surely. I kept hoping it would pick back up and the latter stories would give me the same feelings that the first few did but sadly it didn’t happen. I’m still glad I read the collection though because the stories I did enjoy were absolutely phenomenal and it was worth going through the rest just for those few gems.
Profile Image for bookswithpaulette.
413 reviews168 followers
March 10, 2020
Some creepy short stories in here. Something about birds I enjoyed the most, more thriller stories than horror I would say. The first book I read from Paul was The Cabin at the end of the world and I loved it and was super keen to read more.

3.5 stars I give this collection
Profile Image for Alan.
906 reviews49 followers
August 2, 2019
Tremblay's collection of short stories has a few entries that are right up there with his phenomenal novels, especially the title story "Growing Things" and "Notes for 'The Barn in the Wild'". Nearly every story is at least good, if not excellent, with "Notes from the Dog Walkers" being the only one I couldn't finish, because it wasn't that interesting and seemed like it wouldn't end. Overall, I was happy to find Tremblay can write as well in short form as he can in full-length novels.
Profile Image for Steve Stred.
Author 65 books406 followers
December 28, 2021
Mixed bag. I really enjoyed the title story - as it related to a previous Tremblay release, but the rest were good to miss for me. I've really enjoyed the two novels of his I've read but the majority here were not for me.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
910 reviews
July 5, 2019
Having liked this author's three horror novels, I found this short story collection to be a disappointment. Most of the stories were really just fragments of "weirdness" and didn't have a full plot. To me, the only stories worth reading were:

- The Getaway (3 stars)
- Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport (4 stars)
- It Won't Go Away (4 stars)
- Notes From the Dogwalkers (3 stars)

Some writers are better at novels, some are better at short stories, and very few can be good at both. I think Paul Tremblay is better at novels. Even though I didn't like this collection, I'll still check out his next novel.
Profile Image for D Dyer.
351 reviews29 followers
October 2, 2019
3.5 stars.
It took me a while to get into this collection. The first couple of stories were only OK for me but as I settled into the author‘s writing style and read some of his more experimental pieces, 19 snapshots, the teacher and notes from dog walkers being good examples, I began to enjoy it more. It’s less directly horrifying and more creepy, sometimes even existentially so, then I expected and the stories would best be enjoyed with some gaps in between reading them. Some of the voices have a tendency toward too much sameness for my particular taste. But there are some very good stories here and the overall collection is pretty solid.
Profile Image for Alma Katsu.
Author 23 books2,668 followers
July 15, 2019
This collection is the perfect solution for when you want to take a break from binge-watching the latest sensation on Netflix but still want a steady IV-drip of mesmerizing storytelling. Paul Tremblay's work hovers between horror and speculative fiction, that familiar no man's land between dreams and wakefulness. The place where the hairs stand up on the back of your neck in recognition that something strange is going on, that things are beyond your control, and you're going to face a reality that rarely shows its face but is with us all along, hiding in the shadows.
Profile Image for Pantelis Andreou.
271 reviews52 followers
October 18, 2020
Now see, I appreciate Paul Tremblay a lot. But most of these stories were tough to get through...
Profile Image for Michael J..
647 reviews16 followers
July 30, 2019
What I enjoy most about Paul Tremblay's work is how he skillfully negotiates the thin line between reality and imagination. His scares come from the paranormal, the supernatural, the unearthly, and contain just enough skepticism that readers are never sure if the disturbing events aren't internally created by one of the characters or just how they imagine things to be. A Headful Of Ghosts and The Cabin At The End Of The World are great examples of that. I'm curious to see if he employs the same devices in his shorter fiction.
Here's the short answer for those who don't want to read all of my lengthy review: Tremblay doesn't employ the style that's made him recognized for "Ambiguity Horror" (his words) in every single one of these stories. As he refers to this in a character's voice in NOTES FROM THE DOG WALKER, he doesn't want to be considered a one-trick-pony writer. Many of these stories are more straight-forward. Many seem to be deliberately experimental, as if he was trying to work through a few things.
I didn't like every story in this collection. It's quite a mixed bag. Only 8 of the 19 stories are what I would consider above average and/or exceeding expectations. Six were just average. Five just weren't what I consider a good story. It never takes me this long to finish a Tremblay novel because I'm usually fully immersed in the story by the 50 page mark.
There are two stories written just for this collection, and NOTES FROM THE DOG WALKER is the absolute best of the bunch, good enough for award consideration. The other THIRTEENTH TEMPLE is a welcome return to some familiar characters from his novel.
It's also interesting that the six stories I found to be the best here have that flavor of vagueness to them that Tremblay does so well. GROWING THINGS AND OTHER STORIES is deserving of your reading time. Just don't feel obligated to read every single story or try to finish the ones that don't catch on with you. THREE STARS OVERALL. My story by story review follows:
I"m going to read this one slowly in order to enhance my appreciation and post updates here as I go. I started reading on July 19 with the title story, GROWING THINGS:
Damned if he didn't get me wondering if this apocalyptic scenario wasn't created by a "squirrelly" character. And are the growing things real or imagined, planted (ha) in a young gullible mind? It was nice to see two familiar characters from A Headful Of Ghosts and learn how Tremblay transferred some of their traits to the novel. GROWING THINGS is a very short but nonetheless disturbing tale. The only downside is that it ends without any resolution, as do many horror stories of this type. All is hopeless. Woe is me/us. Four stars.
SWIM WANTS TO KNOW IF IT'S AS BAD AS SWIM THINKS includes a giant monster invasion of a small New England town in the background. Because of the unstable narrator of the story, whether it's really happening is (again) questionable. This tale of a meth-eating mother grabbing her court-removed daughter in order to protect her is more of a character-study than a complete story, and ends in apparent doom (again). I'm detecting some themes so far, but it's early so I'll hold off on stating them. The grocery-store employee incident felt incredibly accurate and brought back memories of my high-school part-time job. Swim is also a clever acronym. Four stars, only because of the skillful writing.
SOMETHING ABOUT BIRDS is something about birds. What exactly is uncertain. It ends abruptly in infuriating fashion, leaving what might have been a horrific moment (or not) to the reader's imagination. The opening featuring a fictional author biography followed by excerpts from an interview is clever. Once again, Tremblay gives us a sad but creative character study -- this time of a journalist hoping to achieve his fame by interviewing a respected author who didn't get enough credit, except for one story about birds that everyone inserts symbolic meaning into. The author does have a fascination with birds and pulls the journalist into his circle of converts. It seems like Tremblay grew tired of the story and just stopped. Would have been four stars with a satisfying ending. Three stars.
THE GETAWAY starts out as a straightforward crime story about an early morning robbery of a pawn shop. Then it turns horrific until ending in . . . (wait for it) . . . . doom. (Again) This first person narrative includes a well-done character study but unfortunately I didn't connect with a single character in this story. More resolution than the other stories, though. The horror also doesn't appear to be imagined. Three stars.
NINETEEN SNAPSHOTS OF DENNISPORT is a crime story told by the young narrator, referring to 19 different photos and recalling the instances around them. They're mainly about a family shore vacation, although the dad gets mixed up in matters outside of family business. I liked the method Tremblay used to tell the story, but it's pretty average. Two and one-half stars.
WHERE WE ALL WILL BE: I shouldn't like this story because it's inconclusive like most of what I've read in this collection so far, but I truly enjoyed it. I guess there is a resolution of sorts, in that the main character finally realizes the danger he is in. However, there is no explanation for why the apocalyptic event occurs, or an clear indication of where it is going. The Notes section in the back of this collection is a very insightful look at how many of these stories originated and what Tremblay was aiming for. It's amazing how he can pull single incidents from his life and spin them into compelling yarns. In this particular story, a college student diagnosed with special needs fails to recognize a dire situation simply because he processes information differently. The analogy offered with the premature break from hibernation of moths is clever. Four stars.
In his Notes on THE TEACHER, Tremblay says "This story represents some of my anxieties as they relate to school (both as being a student and a teacher) and how any of us get through those adolescent years and into our scary futures." I would guess his anxieties included doubts about his ability to teach, as well as concern that students would be negatively influenced by his lessons. Both of these are touched on in the story, and it seems pretty accurate and convincing. Except I didn't develop any concern for a single character, teacher or student. Not really a horror story, unless you consider the horrific consequences of learning from this particular teacher. Two stars.
In his notes on NOTES FOR "THE BARN IN THE WILD", Tremblay reveals that the story was part of a tribute to the work of Laird Barron. Tremblay attempts to write in his style and does a good job. You would not recognize this as Tremblay story. He lays the story out as a series of entries from a composition book found as the only remains of the narrator. The footnotes, meant to indicate when notations were made in the margins, are distracting and interrupt the flow of the story. Laird Barron would write this better and scarier. Two stars.
_____ Yes, that's the title of the next story. Just a straight horizontal line. The reason why is not mentioned in the Notes. This starts out like a straightforward piece of contemporary fiction - - a father watching his two children take swimming lessons at a local pond, and having a conversation with a female acquaintance. Mom isn't around. Then it takes a weird twist and ends in disturbing fashion. I would only spoil it to tell more. It's also a rather short piece. This one stayed with me. It's not the best story in the collection; but it is the creepiest so far. Four stars.
OUR TOWN'S MONSTER is a different spin of sorts on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf". I didn't care for it as much, simply because I could not connect with a single character, and several I disliked. I did appreciate the twist, however. Three stars.
In A HAUNTED HOUSE IS A WHEEL UPON WHICH SOME ARE BROKEN the sole remaining member (daughter) of a family (father, mother, brother) revisits her historic landmark childhood home after many years away. She senses the ghosts of family members in each room as well as the ghosts of stories told by her brother when both were children, most likely in order to scare her. Tremblay utilizes the Read Your Own Adventure device of multiple choice at the end of each one page chapter, although every choice leads back in the same direction eventually. He also uses repetition throughout. I was annoyed more than I was entertained, although I give this Three Stars for clever experimentation.
The narrator in IT WON'T GO AWAY is an author, troubled by some messages he received from a fellow writer before his demise. It's short, but very disturbing as things become clearer near the end. This is to the point, and not vague in any way. Four stars.
NOTES FROM THE DOG WALKER is brilliant. This could very well end up being my favorite story of the collection. A writer, P (for Paul Tremblay, maybe?) hires a dog-sitting service to walk his dog every other day. A trademark of their business is to leave notes for the owner, normally short messages about how the dog performed, did it pee or poop, etc. Initially there are three different dog walkers visiting the home. Soon, the entries become more detailed, with the dog walkers commenting on observations (owners not picking up after their pets, other dogs behavior, how the dog responds, etc) and then actually sharing some of their personal philosophy. One walker in particular leaves long detailed notes beginning with analysis of the author's bookshelves, commentary on his writing, then actually providing a detailed story idea to him, and criticism of a writing career. The notes are signed by KB, and Tremblay even throws in some doubt when it's suggested that may be a pseudonym he's using. The notes get longer and eventually very disturbing, making for a frightening tale that ends with a solution on the author's part but not necessary the removal of the threat. This should be included in some Best of The Year anthologies. Five stars.
Ugh. One fabulous story, followed by two subpar stories. FURTHER QUESTIONS FOR THE SOMNAMBULIST is exactly what it says. Why does Tremblay make his somnambulist a seer/prophet instead of the sleepwalker that defines the term? This is an experimental story, in that after the brief introduction, the remainder is the listing of questions from 3 different sources in 3 separate columns simultaneously. The story ends when the somnambulist decides to give a brief answer, supposedly to satisfy all the questions at one time. Maybe some readers would like this story for the experimental style of telling. I thought it was 100% dumb. One star.
In notes for the very short THE ICE TOWER, Tremblay states this is his homage to Arctic horror. It reads like that except he includes enough confession and doubt at the end to make the reader wonder. Told from different points of view, which works for the main character. But to clump all the rest into a group point of view doesn't work. One star.
While reading THE SOCIETY OF THE MONSTERHOOD I couldn't escape the feeling that the whole thing was an allegory, that the monster was a stand-in for an unidentified internal demon or demons that plague us. The last paragraph of the story just reinforces that belief. Three stars.
THE RED RIGHT HAND was written as a tribute to Hellboy, the demonic hero character created by Mike Mignola for Dark Horse Comics. I think Tremblay captured the tone of the series and the spirit of the character quite well, but the story just didn't excite me. Three stars.
IT'S AGAINST THE LAW TO FEED THE DUCKS is apocalyptic fiction. An unknown disaster has occurred while a family is on vacation, and their responses are related via the point of view of their five-year old son. There is no explanation provided for the where or why, and no real resolution. Still, it's a compelling portrait, a single slice-of-life for a family dealing with crisis and coming together. Four stars.
The final story, THE THIRTEENTH TEMPLE is a sequel of sorts to Tremblay's novel A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS in that the inner story features sisters Merry and Marjorie and the outer story concerns Merry in present day, a writer and speaker stalked by a creepy fan. It's well told, and I liked it mainly because I like the character of Merry much more than I liked this story, another unresolved exploration that raises more questions and leaves them unanswered. Four stars.
Profile Image for Audra (ouija.reads).
726 reviews248 followers
July 31, 2019
If ever there were a case for reading short stories, Paul Tremblay is shouting it from the rooftops with this collection.

I can understand why some people aren’t as drawn to short stories. It is a lot of commitment to open up your brain to one new world every time you read a book, let alone twenty or so. But I just can’t get enough of them and constantly have a collection going. I love the complete freedom the short format gives authors and to see where some of them take it makes me excited to be a reader.

Growing Things shows an author stretching far beyond the scope of what is expected by readers of his previous works. He throws those expectations out the window and doesn’t look back, instead building new, fascinating worlds, reinventions, and meta-imaginings.

There are some really unique things going on in here, some experimental styles and formatting, some truly strange narratives, and even some familiar faces from previous Tremblay novels in new and unusual situations.

I also loved and appreciated the “liner notes” at the end of the book—short explanations and thoughts from the author on where the stories came from or what sparked him to explore that format or idea.

These are my top two favorites that reaaallllllly stood out. But honestly I loved every story.
“A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken”—A CYOA story in a house that’s haunted, but probably not the way you think.

“Notes from the Dog Walkers”—a longer story that begins simply as it is titled and quickly dives deep into a meta-nightmare.

Growing Things is my favorite story collection I’ve read all year. Get on over to your local bookstore and grab a copy.
Profile Image for Jon Recluse.
381 reviews244 followers
July 31, 2019
A masterful collection of uniquely told tales of horror, from the weird to experimental pieces that will linger in your mind, and your nightmares long after you close the book.
Tremblay's voice is refreshingly his own, even in tribute stories to Laird Barron (THE BARN IN THE WILD) and the one and only Hellboy (HER RED RIGHT HAND).

A must-have for fans of Tremblay, short stories, and damn fine writing.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows).
1,529 reviews315 followers
July 26, 2019
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.

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Kat Dietrich.
1,126 reviews140 followers
July 3, 2019

Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay is an anthology of his stories.

First, let me thank Edelweiss, the publisher Harper Collins, and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Synopsis…and Opinions
A few words about each of the short stories in this collection:

• Growing Things -- Plants take over the world. I enjoyed this one.
• Swim Wants to Know If It Is As Bad As Swim Thinks -- It’s about a monster, but I swear I thought it was about a drug addict out of control. Needless to say I just didn’t get this one.
• Something About Birds -- An interview with an author gets a little strange. A little out there, but good.
• The Getaway -- A robbery gone wrong. This one made me think.
• Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport -- A summer holiday with lasting memories. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.*****
• Where We All Will Be -- Appears to be an apocalyptic tale .Interesting, but puzzling.
• The Teacher -- The tale of a small class given the occasional special lesson. This was just disturbing.
• Notes for the Barn in the Wild -- A journalist follows a trail to a Labrador barn. Strange.
-- This story does not seem to have a title. A day at the beach with your children. Weird.
• Our Town’s Monster -- A monster who, when not being a tourist attraction, is deadly. I enjoyed this one, somewhat.
• A Haunted House Is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken -- Returning to a childhood home. Loved it! *****
• It Won’t Go Away -- An author commits suicide, and leaves a hint with a friend, who starts to see what the problem was. Quite Good.
• Notes from the Dog Walkers -- Dog behaviours are to be recorded by their walkers, but these walkers have many opinions on many things. Started out entertaining, ended up going on, and on, and on. Boring.
• Further Questions for the Somnambulist -- The somnambulist knows everything, but there’s really only one question. This one did nothing for me.
• The Ice Tower -- A giant tower of ice appears in the Antarctic, and a group decide to climb it. Too predictable.
• The Society of the Monsterhood -- Four children from the poor side of town are given free scholarships, but their peers are not happy. Those that criticize are never seen again. Strange, but good.
• Her Red Right Hand -- A girl becomes interested in the goblin at the well. This one seemed to miss the mark, well, mine anyway.
• It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks -- An apocalyptic event occurs when a family is on vacation. This was okay.
• The Thirteenth Temple -- An author is forced to provide a fan with a story. I really enjoyed this one! *****

My Overall Opinions:
Note that all of these are very loooong short stories, or seem to be. Maybe it was me.

The author’s imagination is vivid, but the reader’s must also be, because a number of these stories do not have a natural end, or explanation. Even the notes by the author at the end of the book (and I seriously wish they had been added at the end of each story since I did not find them until I was done the book), did a poor job of explaining each tale.

I like the style that Paul Tremblay writes. His words are clear, if not always his plot.

A number of these stories have appeared in other anthologies, so you may have come across them before. There are horror stories, monster stories, crime stories, some a mixture. Some are there are straight-forward, some confusing as hell.

Overall, while most of the stories were good, very few were “great” (I marked those with 5*’s.) So, I may be in the minority here, but this was not my favorite book of short stories.

Profile Image for Jaksen.
1,286 reviews54 followers
July 19, 2020
Don't know what it is about Mr. Tremblay, I either love or hate his books and this one, well, is in-between.

I own the book, couldn't wait to buy it, read it, taste it, sample etc etc, but...

Some of the stories are quite good. Classic horror, or classic horror with a modern twist, or written in a unique style or voice. Some feel experimental; others contain the trope of the 'ordinary family' suddenly thrown into a apocalyptic world. (World gone wrong; world with monsters; world which no longer makes sense for the world it is/or was.)

But too many of them I left halfway through as I just didn't GET IT. And they weren't that scary. Or terrifying. Or interesting. (Of course I'm reading this during the pandemic where things can't get much creepier - and then they do!) Anyhow...

Three stars.

(I'll borrow, not buy his next book.)
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,788 reviews63 followers
October 9, 2020
Paul Tremblay won me over with his novel "The Cabin at the End of the World", one of the most disturbing horror novels that I have read in a long time. "Growing Things" is his collection of short stories, most of them previously published in a wide variety of magazines and other horror anthologies that celebrate the New Weird, a fairly new subgenre of which I have grown fond. Other writers in this genre include Laird Barron, Jeff VanderMeer, and James Renner.

What constitutes New Weird? It's hard to describe, although an overwhelming sense of surrealism, a jarring and unnerving sensation of impending cosmic doom, and a heavy dose of ambiguity all seem to be major aspects of the genre. A seamless blending of multiple genres---science fiction, fantasy, noir, and gothic horror---is also quite common.

Tremblay is notable in that he seems to have mastered the art of subtlety in horror, almost to the point where horror is derived from, inexplicably, a complete lack of horror. Case in point is the brilliant story "It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks", told from the perspective of a young boy who is on vacation with his parents. The reader begins to realize that something horrible is happening on a global scale, but there is absolutely no mention of what it is, as the parents want to shield the children as much as possible from panic.

In another tension-filled story, "Where We All Will Be", a young boy on the autism spectrum is seemingly the only human left on Earth who is not affected by an inexplicable event that calls everyone, pied-piper-style, to a watery death by walking into the ocean.

In "The Teacher", students in an AP English class are shown a video that has negative life-altering consequences for all of them.

Some stories have a (very very dark) humor to them, such as "Notes From the Dog Walkers", in which the hired help leaves progressively more insane and terrifying notes for the dog owner. In "A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some are Broken", the story is in the form of one of those "Choose Your Own Adventures" books, but every choice inevitably leads back to the beginning in an infinite loop.

Every story in this collection is unnerving as hell, leaving one with an uncomfortable sense of a world that has slightly lost its bearings. It's a sensation that most of us can relate to.
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews852 followers
June 9, 2019
2019 interview with Paul Tremblay On his Growing Things and Other Stories, his characters, writing, recommendations, and inspirations. | More2Read

Morbid tales, haunting, fears and longings, dwellings, ghosts, devils, creatures, monsters inner and outer, melancholy, sisters, fathers and sons, teachers, men and women, and Merry and Marjorie from Head Full of Ghosts back in the narrative.
A myriad of bat shit craziness presented before the reader, hypnotically evoking within the reader all kinds of things, growing things, ones of fears and longings, and with that maybe some courage with all the terrification before you with nicely crafted voices and stories.

The tales I loved the most:

Growing Things

Growing plants and mysterious knocking at the door an isolation tale with Majorie and Merry from Head Full of Ghosts.

Where We All Will Be

“there was something wrong with the weather, there was something wrong out there.” With “the blacked-out TV, the fuzzed-out radio, the endless traffic jam.”

Great hypnotic pensive suspensive end of the world bat shit craziness.
Leaving things cut short to play out onto the readers mind

Our Town’s Monster

A story on a monster, the swamp kind, official or unofficial.
Concept of monsters elaborates on too with some satire.

“There’s a monster in the swamp. It eats cats and dogs; small, unwanted children, you know the type; and the occasional beautiful woman. Only rarely, so far, once a century, will it devour the angry torch-wielding villagers—your potential neighbors.”

A Haunted House Is a Wheel upon Which Some Are Broken

Nostalgia with scary things, reimagining, I see dead people in a house kind of thing, ghost and one woman’s interlude through re-walking with ghosts that scare her and the loss of loved ones.

“The house is a New England colonial, blue with red and white shutters and trim, recently painted, the first-floor windows festooned with flower boxes. She stands in the house’s considerable shadow. She was once very small, and then she became big, and now she is becoming small again, and that process is painful but not without joy and an animal sense of satisfaction that the coming end is earned.”

It Won’t Go Away

Shock and devastating recounting of last few days of peter’s death by his friend.
Two authors and writers, book readings, signings, and the terrible suicide, with the darkness and shadows around it and how he and others reacted to it.

“Nine days ago, I received an envelope in the mail from Peter. It was exactly one month after he killed himself. I’d been in my new apartment for ten weeks. Time is not an arrow. It is a bottomless bag in which we collect and place things that will be forgotten.”

The Society of the Monsterhood

More monster than Grendel, bully and monster, the story of the society, KG and the monster, myth and urban legends.

Her Red Right Hand

“The well was hundreds of years old. Its wall was a ring of stone and crumbling mortar, jutting three feet above the ground with an opening that had a circumference wide enough to fit Daniel Webster and the devil.”

A New Hampshire house, a cabin in the woods, not that book you know the one The Cabin at the End of the World.
There is an ailing mother and death, and a mysterious well with creature accompanying it, one girls armed with sketch pad draws though here loss, life, and conflict with hero and monster.

Review also @ https://more2read.com/review/the-growing-things-and-other-stories-by-paul-tremblay/
Profile Image for Chris DiLeo.
Author 11 books52 followers
January 19, 2019
"Some fears can only be explored by story. Some emotions can only be communicated by story. Some truths can only be revealed by story" (333).

That quote is from the "Notes" section of GROWING THINGS, an impressive collection of disturbing tales, and I share it here because that quest for exploration and emotion and truth through story is what motivates me to read and to write. If you want to know what I mean by "story truth," read THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien.

This book is not slated for publication until July 2019, but an ARC fell into my hands, and it was a special treat for me to be one of its early readers. Tremblay's THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD is my favorite book of 2018, and his HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS is a terrifying masterpiece.

Every story in this collection is unique. Some are masterful. Some are gloriously dread-inducing. Some are so brazen in their innovation it demands I quote another line from one such story that is completely meta: "it's likely the author (subconsciously feeling unencumbered by the demands of the marketplace) dares to be a bit more obtuse and experimental than she would in a novel, and so the stories tend to be even less easily digestible" (222).

That quote is from "Notes from the Dog Walkers," which is a fascinating and startling piece of work that confronts the essence of horror (and the horror community) through the hazy window of insanity.

Many of the stories are remarkable for how experimental they are. Tremblay makes use of every possible angle he can imagine, and he has quite the fecund imagination. As a reader, I'll admit, this was sometimes irritating. I wanted story, dammit. The best story here is "The Teacher" and it's also his most traditionally structured. That being said, the more avant-garde stories made the writer in me want to steal his techniques and write my own stories. [Side note: this effect is like the one Billy Collins writes about in "The Trouble with Poetry": "But mostly poetry fills me / with the urge to write poetry, / to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame / to appear at the tip of my pencil."]

This collection is not for everyone. Tremblay makes the reader work for it in many cases. It is easy to get confused, to be lost in dense paragraphs. It is, be warned, easy to get quite unnerved as you explore the darker and darker corners of these tales.

Tremblay is a master at the ambiguous ending (a technique he directly acknowledges, mocks, and irrevocably adores), and his words repeatedly left me cold and afraid, my skin prickled with gooseflesh, my thoughts a bit seasick because he's so damn good at shaking the floor beneath your feet.

Other standouts include: "Growing Things"; "Swim Wants to Know if it's as Bad as Swim Thinks"; "Something About Birds"; "A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some are Broken"; and "The Thirteenth Temple."

Every story has a strong voice, fully developed characters, and an authenticity that makes the creeping dread all the more troubling.

Some stories stunned me. Some shocked me. Some disturbed me.

I'd say this will be the best horror collection of the year, but there's this other master named Joe Hill, and he's got some darn good stories in a collection coming in the fall . . .

Here's a literary technique Tremblay might appreciate—I quoted from page 333 and page 222, so here's one from page 111: "'When all hell broke loose and you tripped over the dead climber in the snow on your way down to camp, man, that's something that stuck with me'" (111).

And these stories will stick with you, too.
Profile Image for Aina.
710 reviews57 followers
August 2, 2019
An entertaining, unsettling collection, I stopped reading this at night because I didn't want to have nightmares! At its core, the stories are about the struggle of living in a world that is cruel and filled with the unknown.

I read the author's previous short stories collection In the Mean Time a few years ago and a couple of stories stood out for me then; 'The Teacher' and 'It's Against The Law To Feed The Ducks'. These stories appear again here and I'm happy to say they are still excellent upon rereading. An impending catastrophe is a recurring theme, and each time the horror feels new. I didn't have a problem with the vagueness of the stories, it's enough to make me feel for the characters. I also liked the way families are portrayed here. They are loving, broken, damaged, supportive, and it made for a moving read.

Other notable stories are 'Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport', told in a photo-framing narrative; 'A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken', a choose-your-own-adventure flashback; 'Notes From The Dog Walkers', a meta-commentary in epistolary format and 'The Thirteenth Temple', a unnerving tale within a tale.

Thank you to the publisher for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for BunTheDestroyer.
417 reviews4 followers
June 18, 2020
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – a short story has a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s just SHORT. These stories barely had middles, let alone endings. And ending every story on a cliff hanger or a ?? moment is just LAZY WRITING. I had high-ish hopes because I DID enjoy A Head Full of Ghosts.

Also I keep asking myself: who picks these books for book group??? oh wait, it was me. sorry guys.

#1 – 1* didn’t like that it was only half a story with no ending and seemed like just one of marjorie’s stories that was told in a Head Full of Ghosts
#2 – 2* had a lot of potential but fell flat and was confusing
#3 – 0* DNF
#4 – 2* confusing yet compelling
#5 – 0* no idea what was supposed to be happening (VERY tired of reading the book by now)
#6 – 1* for strong intro, ended up being dumb

#7 – 4* the best so far
#8 – 5* SO good, reminded me of King’s N. (which was obviously much better)

#9 – didn’t bother reading
#10 – 0* dnf
#11 – 2* intrigued by CYOA format but ultimately didn’t work
#12 – 0* skimmed it, had strong beginning and then nothing
#13 – 2* another strong beginning, cool format, no clue what happened at the end
#14 – 0* what even was this

#15 – 5* very freaky I liked it

#16 – didn’t bother trying to read it
#17 – 2* goblin was interesting and using art as a medium for change
#18 – 0* another directionless plot
#19 – didn't understand it. I was excited at first for another Merry/Marjorie story but yeah...no.
Profile Image for Beth Mowbray.
293 reviews18 followers
July 12, 2019
Y’all. No, seriously. Y’all! This book just earned a spot on my top 10 of the year so far! 😱

Growing Things is my first experience with the work of Paul Tremblay and it definitely won’t be the last. He has a masterful way of beginning with a real life situation that is slowly infused with just the right amount of terror and anxiety. As the stories spiral into the realm of horror, they keep the reader guessing. Are these situations really as they seem? Are they fantastical? Or could there perhaps be another plausible explanation for the bizarre occurrences?

Tremblay weaves dark, often macabre, yet startlingly genuine narratives in such small spaces. The voice and structure of each story is unique, yet the familiar feel of classic horror writers like Shirley Jackson, modern stylings akin to American Horror Story, and even echoes of Stephen King draw the reader in and keep them coming back for more. Tremblay also employs a form of literary horror replete with opportunities to reflect within oneself, as well as to consider a larger social commentary.

Sincere thanks to William Morrow for providing me with this free finished copy to review for The Nerd Daily. Look for a full review coming soon!
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