"Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between ocean and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple.
[...]Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, mapping itself onto bodies and the relationships we cherish." - From Goodreads (edited slightly so as to not give too much away)
The Grip of It was my October 'bump in the night' book pick, and I had the pleasure of reading it as part of a read along with some lovely Bookstagrammers (@nadirasworld, @farrimmah, @ms.read.alot, and @readulteress).
As anyone who has seen the trend of my book reviews knows, I am not much of a horror reader. Now, don't get me wrong, I love horror (see: movies I enjoy watching). There's a certain thrill to fear, after all, especially the supernaturally sourced, but with my preciously limited reading time, I tend to focus my energy on fantasy.
But, when it came time to pick a book for JAF Ink's 'bump in the night' theme, I decided to go outside my comfort zone, so to speak, and take a crack at reading something that befit the theme and the month almost to a T.
So: couple searching for a new start decides to buy a house in the suburbs that's priced a little to cheap? So begins a classic haunted house story.
Or is it?
The Grip of It is told in short and snappy alternating chapters, switching between James and Julie's perspectives seamlessly so that by the time you think you know something, you get someone elses' perspective.
The strange occurrences start with little things, noises that could be explained away, events that feel strange and out of place that just escalate more and more until even when you think you know what is happening, you immediately aren't certain. Just like you don't know whether to trust James and Julie's narration, especially with their growing mistrust of their own experiences and each other, you as a reader start doubting your own conviction that the story is going a certain way.
Among your feeling of growing dread and unease (I could almost imagine the soundtrack that would go along with this plot if it were a movie), you get to see the couple's relationship from both angles, sympathizing and siding with each in turn. Never completely agreeing with just one of them as the root of the troubles in their marriage.
There is almost, but not quite, a parallel between James and Julies' relationship breaking and reforming and their experiences in the house itself. The slow descent into madness manages to tear them apart and bring them together. Who do they trust, who can they trust if not each other? Who can they blame for things they can't explain, if not each other?
I loved the fact that the couple was experiencing all of this together, that it wasn't just one being haunted and the other assuming they were crazy. I also really liked the fact that this book will most likely leave people divided. Is it a haunted house or a psychological thriller? Were they really being haunted or could it all be explained away rationally, and reasonably?
I could see the grip of it being a movie, imagine the various scenes, the music and creaky floor boards, the close up shots and shadows filtering under doorways.
As much as I really enjoyed the book, managing to finish it in two sittings, there was two things that caused me to not rate it as highly as I might have. One, a part in the middle when Julie begins rambling nonsensically that broke the snappy flow of the narrative (there's a possibility that its connected to the haunting/explaining the past...but it seems to come out of nowhere) And two, the ending which left me feeling a bit...not dissatisfied so much as incomplete. I wanted more, honestly. There were no answers, which on one hand I can see the appeal of because it magnifies the feeling of not knowing what is real and what isn't, but on the other made the book feel too open ended.
There was a way, I think, for them to keep the uncertainty the book exudes very well, while still giving a plausible explanation for the haunting. The story dives briefly into the history of the house, and the couple's neighbor through a journal that is found in a secret gap in the wall (weird, right? you don't even know the half of it) but it doesn't take full advantage of that potential explanation.
Over all, The Grip of It was a very enjoyable, perfectly October quick read that will leave you questioning what you think you know about those noises your home makes.
(Some) Memorable Quotes:
Every time a door in the house creaks, it says something a little different, and like those picture puzzles where you have to find the errors, we can't pinpoint it, but we hear the something that is off.
What is worse? To be confronted with an obvious horror, or to be haunted by a never-ending premonition of what's ahead?
Without the comparison to sleep, waking doesn't feel like much at all.
Is it harder to begin something or to keep it going? My mind races with examples that make both statements feel true and I think of how it's easy to keep dating a person but hard to keep the relationship alive once you've hit a tough spot?
There is no acceptable, untainted name for a wilderness of the mind. People will always wonder what to believe. They expect the stray inaccuracies to be looted out and abandoned. They expect the mind's voice to unstitch only when alone. When the seams rip, they look away.
If anyone has read The Grip of It let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!