THE GRIP OF IT by Jac Jemc
Kirkus Star


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A psychological spook story in the best high literary tradition.

Julie and James are a happenstance couple. They met after James answered Julie’s Craigslist ad and married after he singled himself out by being the only one who kept calling. In spite of their haphazard beginnings, their marriage is a loving one, and the two are so well-suited they seem to “fit together effortlessly.” This holds true until Julie discovers that James has developed a gambling addiction and hidden it from her. In an attempt to rebuild their relationship and remove James from the locus of his compulsion, the couple buys a moldering Victorian manse in a preternaturally tranquil small town outside the city where they met, find new jobs, seek out new friends, and trade their urban lifestyle for the domestic thrills of first-time homeownership. At this point, as should be expected by anyone familiar with the haunted house tale, things quickly fall apart. The house emits an untraceable humming sound and is filled with architecturally improbable hidden rooms. The borders of the nearby woods seem to draw nearer and nearer to the back door, and the woods themselves echo with the games of unseen children. An unnerving next-door neighbor, spontaneous bruises that spread across Julie’s skin, childlike drawings that appear on the walls, and James’ periodic descent into fugue states set the stage for a read-in-one-sitting, sleep-with-the-lights-on book; however, the real scare in this truly haunting novel stems from the way Jemc (A Different Bed Every Time, 2014, etc.) keeps the psychological tension of Julie and James’ relationship taut. Telling the story from alternating perspectives, Jemc reveals Julie’s and James’ growing distrust of each other and themselves even as she manipulates the novel's language to reflect the evolution of what is either psychosis or possession.

Shivery and smart. A book that brings the legacy of Henry James into the modern world with great effect.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-374-53691-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2017


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