So I just finished The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. I picked it up because I am always in the market for a haunted house book. Always. And this one was recommended in a Facebook group I’m in.
My big conclusion: this book should have ended about 60-80 pages before it did.
The story is about Julie and James who exchange life in the big city for a rambling Victorian house in a small town. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the set-up for almost every haunted house story ever. Even the first season of American Horror Story was based on that traditional narrative.
Usually, one of the couple has misbehaved and that spurs the couple’s move, and that was the case for Julie and James. James has a bit of a gambling problem and managed to fritter away his personal savings (though not the couple’s combined savings, so we can still kind of like him) on lunch hours at the track.
By the way, I’m not complaining about the narrative set-up. I quite enjoyed stepping into familiar territory.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong in the new house. There’s a constant humming noise in the house, first of all. Then the couple learns of a creepy story involving the family that lived next door, one of whom still lives there, Rolf. He refuses the couple’s neighborly overtures and always seems to be looking out one of his windows at them.
The couple become increasingly affected by the houses antics, including weird dreams, bruises all over Julie’s body, and from time to time “coming to” inside Rolf’s house not knowing how they got there.
Why is all this happening? Well, because Jemc wanted to explore the psychological effects of living in a crazy situation like this. And we get about 60-80 pages near the end where she does this. Back and forth between James and Julie. And on and on. The climax, if it can even be called that, seems to be Julie entering the hospital with some kind of temporal lobe issue.
I kept thinking, this can’t be the climax. This can’t be the end. There’s literally no explanation or resolution to either the haunting or James and Julie. In the end, they’re selling the house. It’s very mundane.
My overall opinion is that the book is around 60-80 pages too long. There are a few too many scenes and I was hoping for things to come to a head long before they (sort of) did. I think the author was trying to build the action but, honestly, the time had come and gone and I was already thinking about my next book.
And, seriously, I’m looking for haunted house books, so if you’ve read or heard of any good ones, I’d love some recommendations!