Title: The Grip of It
Author: Jac Jemc
Rating: 3.75-4 / 5
Why I picked it up: I saw it on Lithub, I think, and I was interested in the cover and when I read the blurb it was basically like “couple moves into haunted house” and I was like “ok yes.” Didn’t hurt that it was published by FSG. It’s true that they don’t really publish my favorite books, but the books I’ve read that are put out by them are consistently compelling and worthwhile.
What it’s about: A couple moves into a haunted house! Or, well, maybe, I don’t know…isn’t that usually how it goes with a haunted house tale?
What I liked: I really like Jemc’s writing. Some of the descriptions are beautiful as well as creepy. This novel is like…a mood. Very atmospheric. The narration switches back and forth between chapters from wife to husband, although it’s not always super clear at first who’s talking. That can be a little disorienting (because it’s usually just back and forth but sometimes it seems like one gets two in a row) and adds to the confusion that the characters themselves are experiencing. It’s great at creating its tension, which is kind of a constant low-level and pervasive thing and it reminded me of “weird fiction” I’ve read (like Southern Reach). That tension combined with the great writing made the whole novel feel hypnotic.
What I didn’t like: I thought the resolution was “just okay.” It was in keeping with the rest of the book, which is a plus, and it wasn’t bad, but with a book like this a great ending can really bump up the rating.
Overall / recommended: I said in my intro that FSG consistently publishes compelling and worthwhile books. This one is no exception. This would be a great time of year to read this unsettling book.