Book Review: The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

“Jemc’s words haunt the reader as much as they haunt the characters in her latest novel, making The Grip of It an unforgettable experience.”

 

With The Grip of It, author Jac Jemc has created a darkly twisting 21st Century Weird Fiction haunted house novel. Scary, smart, and beautifully written, the only thing missing The Grip of It is a soundtrack because this novel feels like a horror film, with every scene compounding the creeps, the thrills, the uncertainty, the anxiety. It’s sharp, tight, and satisfying.

After a few troubles with their lives in the city, James and Julie decide to move to the country, pooling what’s left of their savings and buying up a little house at the end of a quiet street, with a lovely view of the woods from the backyard. There’s a funny sound in the house, a low hum, but the real estate agent tells them it’s just the house settling and points out the more interesting parts of the house. Like all of the hidden sliding wall panels that offer so much extra storage space!

Jemc doesn’t waste the reader’s time. She knows why you’re there. From the very beginning, things are a little off in the new house. The neighbor is intense. The rumors around town run rampant. There’s a disquieting little mound in the backyard that sure looks like a grave … and so much more. One of the great advantages of this story is that it’s relentless. Every chapter turns over a new stone, with creepy-crawlies beneath each one. Strange drawings on the wall. Rooms to get lost in. Doubling shadows. Each time you turn the page you invite something awful to squirm off the page into your mind. Jemc fights predictability by throwing the characters so completely off balance they’re left breathless and frightened and fighting to reclaim the lives they had before they had moved.

The book does rely almost entirely on perspective rather than action. Dread, discomfort, unease–the book is filled with intangible sensations that threaten to disconnect the reader from the turmoil these characters are experiencing. There are Julie chapters and James chapters, but both are written in first-person, present-tense, forcing readers to have to put in a little extra effort to know quite whose shoes they’re filling given every new scene. There does seem to be a provocative reason for the perspective shifts, but it can throw some readers off balance.

The Grip of It is being compared favorably to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and it isn’t hard to see why just by reading the first few chapters. Jemc’s words haunt the reader as much as they haunt the characters in her latest novel, making The Grip of It an unforgettable experience. It’s the kind of book that keeps you reading all night long, even knowing you have to work the next morning. It’s also a book that begs for a reread, if only to see if you can slide open another hidden door and peel back another layer to find more secrets hiding there.

JAKE MARLEY

 

Publisher: FSG Originals
Paperback (288 pp)
Release Date: 1 August 2017

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