The Grip of It (Release Date: August 2017)
Touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.
The move―prompted by James’s penchant for gambling and his general inability to keep his impulses in check―is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to start afresh. But this house, which sits between a lake and a forest, has its own plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to establish a sense of normalcy, the home and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The framework― claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms―becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall―contracting, expanding―and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of painful, grisly bruises.
Like the house that torments the troubled married couple living within its walls, The Grip of It oozes with palpable terror and skin-prickling dread. Its architect, Jac Jemc, meticulously traces Julie and James’s unsettling journey through the depths of their new home as they fight to free themselves from its crushing grip.
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First things first: Jemc can write. Her sentences are lean and they flow effortlessly, whether they be heading us toward the buildup of tension, hurrying us through the thick of it, or temporarily relieving us from it all. Often I slowed my attention to soak in her literary prowess. The dialogue is also masterful, like listening in to private conversations throughout. And, the inner dialogue/narrative is also a realistic peek into the minds of the characters. I loved the alternating point of view between the husband and wife, as it gives a complete depiction of the subtleties of romantic relationships. That’s really the story here. How does an already strained marriage survive a haunted house? And, is the paranormal activity just a metaphor for what’s going on with them emotionally? I dare say yes.
Whatever Jemc dished out story wise, I wanted more. I didn’t care whether or not the supernatural events were particularly original or not. There is just the right amount of paranormal activity versus the paranoia and distrust of each other to make for a gripping psychological saga. Both husband and wife keep secrets and unravel at their own pace, leaving us to wonder who will meet a demise first. That’s part of what keeps us reading—are they going to die, or not?
So here’s the thing. This novel is completely engrossing up until the end. The author’s intention might have been to keep it true to life, which can sometimes be a royal let down. However, the last few pages didn’t do it for me. There aren’t enough answers, and I felt there was little payout for all the suspense that had been coming to a head. If you can handle the air getting let out of your balloon, the rest of the novel is amazing.
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