The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

*I received a copy of The Grip of It from FSG Originals in exchange for an honest review*

There are few things I love more than a good ghost story. The idea of an unseen, or at least untouchable, enemy is terrifying, but incredibly fun to read about. So, when I heard about Jac Jemc's The Grip of It, I was ALL IN. I wanted it. I needed it. And FSG Originals was kind enough to hear my desperate pleas over the internet and send me a copy. So for that, I thank them tremendously.

A quick synopsis: James' addiction to gambling sends he and his wife Julie running to the suburbs to start afresh. But their new house has other ideas. Almost immediately, strange things begin happening--stains move on the walls, rooms appear and disappear and change location, and both James and Julie deteriorate under the house's control over them. Whether the house is haunted or not, there is no question. Rather, the burning question is: will James and Julie be able to make it out?

Let's start with the good. Rarely have I read such a subtle, yet encompassing image of what marriage can look like. Jemc uses alternating perspectives to give the reader a deeper insight into both of these characters and the struggles of their marriage, and it works flawlessly. I bought this relationship from page one. A particular line I loved was:

We run out of things to tell each other. We share second- and even third-tier stories we’d never bother other people with. Those minutiae calcify into the bones of our intimacy.

More than the actual spirits in the book, it felt as though James and Julie were haunted by their own pasts and their doubts and insecurities in the relationship. Their somewhat tortured, yet loving marriage acted as another character in the book, and it was a good one.

Also, as I've just not so subtly hinted at above, I loved the writing in this book. Unlike a lot of horror books which can tend to rely purely on the thrill of the plot, The Grip of It is told in lyrical prose that is captivating and beautiful, while making your skin crawl. 

While there were many positives about this reading experience, there were also, unfortunately, some negatives. The first being that the tension rose very quickly in the story, and then it was just maintained. There didn't seem to be any exceedingly heart pounding or climactic moments, so it read a little one note. 

I also feel like the book never quite made good on it's promises. When reading a haunted house story, I want to: 1) know why the house is haunted, 2) know who is haunting the house, and 3) see the ghost. This book never allowed more than a passing hint at what was going on and we never saw the ghost or learned who the spirit was. And, although I loved the writing in this book, because the language was so lyrical and poetic, there were some moments that could have been terrifying, but instead felt as if you were seeing them through a big stained glass window. Your view of what was going on was pretty, but rather obscured. 

Overall, I really did enjoy reading this book. It wasn't unbelievably gripping and definitely not a book I could have read in one sitting, but the story pulled me along well enough that I finished it in a few days, and I absolutely don't regret reading it. 

Have you read this book or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Mallory