- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: FSG Originals; First Edition edition (August 1, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780374536916
- ISBN-13: 978-0374536916
- ASIN: 0374536910
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 105 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Grip of It: A Novel Paperback – August 1, 2017
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Praise for The Grip of It
Recommended Reading by Nylon, W, Marie Claire, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Journal, Lit Hub and Chicago Reader
"A page-turning psychological thriller . . . [The Grip of It] is the clever work of a writer who has patiently carved out her own home in contemporary fiction . . . as chilling as it is evocative." ―Laura Pearson, Chicago Tribune
"[The Grip of It] is a cerebral haunting in book form, a page-turning, suspenseful read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it . . . The Grip of It stalks the reader through its pages with a silent, grayscale terror, like the brush of a web against your cheek in the dark . . . What makes this novel so powerful is the acknowledgement that intimacy does require a trust beyond logic, that “ruin” can come just as easily to the guilty or the guiltless, and an embrace of the chaos is sometimes the only way to make it out to the other side." ―Matt Lewis, Electric Literature
"Jemc adds something unique to [horror in American media] with her writing . . . To keep the tension going, Jemc never allows her readers a chance to fully know if the haunting is authentic, but it’s not validation of the supernatural that the reader needs to enjoy this book. The pleasure of this text is in the participation of the reader, the act of taking Jemc’s narrative gaps and her characters’ fugue states and constructing the story they want (or don’t want) . . . Simply put, we need more books like this, books that allow us fear without forcing themselves on us with a two dimensional ta-da." ―Duncan Barlow, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Jemc’s novel of literary horror is sharply written and builds compulsive momentum, alternating between James and Julie’s points of view in short, dense chapters. The language is vivid and the syntax deliberate, building sentences that unfurl the novel’s growing unease. A novel centered on a haunted house that will inevitably also haunt the reader, The Grip of It is an intensely satisfying narrative that calls into question what trust means―of our own minds, and of the relationships around us." ―Anne Valente, The Rumpus
"You may find The Grip Of It keeping you awake at night, not because it's a traditional horror novel but because Jemc effortlessly weaves threads of reality and the abstract into an unsettling lens that distorts perception itself." ―The Oklahoman
"With an eerie quality evocative of Shirley Jackson . . . [The Grip of It] feels both familiar and disorienting, and both Gothic and modern ― a reflection of Jemc’s masterful talent." ―National Book Review ("5 Hot Books This Week")
"[The Grip of It is] so immediately frightening that your conscious mind subsumes the drama and focuses on the sounds in the house, the weird laughter in the forest, the jagged writing on the walls. The fun in the book is the way Jemc explodes all the haunted house clichés . . . Like all great haunting stories, the great thing is how quickly reality is overturned and shown to be the flimsy construct it is." ―Leah Schnelbach, Tor.com
"[The Grip of It] is a book that, like the haunted house at its core, sinks its hooks deep into you and refuses to let go until you turn that last page. . . . The Grip of It is a psychological horror novel that belongs in the same conversation as a classic like The Shining, or more modern examples in film like The Babbadook or Oculus. . . . To all the ravenous fans of the horror genre looking to devour a smart, creepy, and well written book, this is one that once you start, you won’t be able to put down." ―Robert Young, Heavy Feather Review
"The Grip of It left me with the feeling of being gaslighted―made to feel crazy while being manipulated . . . Jemc delivers a psychological horror story and a disturbing portrait of a marriage . . . The Grip of It closes with unnerving ambiguity, allowing the reader to imagine the options." ―Toni Nealie, Newcity Lit
"That distance―the distance between what your relationship feels like on the inside and what it looks like to the outside observer―is the space Jac Jemc productively exploits to some mighty frightful ends in her new novel, The Grip of It . . . All the spooky shit that happens is just on the edge of scary, just on the edge of believable, which makes it all the more terrifying . . . [Jemc's] urgency drove me down the page and onto the next one." ―Rich Smith, The Stranger
"A psychological spook story in the best high literary tradition . . . The real scare in this truly haunting novel stems from the way Jemc keeps the psychological tension of Julie and James' relationship taut . . . Shivery and smart. A book that brings the legacy of Henry James into the modern world with great effect." ―Kirkus (starred review)
"A haunted house tale that toys with the hallmarks of ghost stories―a young city couple moving to a small town, a curmudgeonly neighbor, a spooky legend―to create an exhilarating and unsettling literary page-turner . . . As the author ratchets up the tension, the reader eagerly follows. The conclusion is the perfect cap to a story full of genuine frights." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"For connoisseurs of the 'new weird' and literary/psychological horror à la Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves and Marisha Pessl's Night Film." ―Library Journal (starred review)
"Told in a luxuriously looping style that examines experiences from two points of view, this seemingly typical haunted house tale takes some very unexpected turns. Jemc has created a frightening world that feels both impossible and altogether too real. Prepare to read this in one sitting and think about it for days to come." ―Booklist
"The Grip of It is a stunning, smart, genuinely creepy page-turner that I couldn't put down. It's got depth, thrills, twists, and great writing. I'd recommend this novel to anyone. One of the few haunted house stories that sticks the landing." ―Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach trilogy and Borne
"I mean this in the best possible way: Jac Jemc gives me the creeps. The Grip of It deserves a spot on the shelf beside Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, and Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves―not only because it is a masterful haunted house story, but because it, like its literary predecessors, is elegantly written, psychologically rich, and damn terrifying." ―Benjamin Percy, author of The Dark Net, The Dead Lands, Thrill Me and Red Moon
"Jac Jemc's novel gets into your brain from the first page, then steadily gasses you with a sense of growing dread. The Grip of It is a beautifully built scare ride, and also a surprisingly moving and trenchant portrait of married Millennials. It held me in its grip and squeezed."―Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will, Await Your Reply, and You Remind Me of Me
"Quick and haunting, stark and unsettling, every page of this novel is a shingle laid over the dark heart of a couple in quiet crisis. Take shelter!" ―Amelia Gray, author of Isadora and Gutshot
“A horror story, a love story, an astute exploration of the unreliability of thought and perception, Jac Jemc’s brilliant and moving novel challenges and enlightens on every page. I couldn’t put it down. ―Stephen O’Connor, author of Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings
About the Author
Jac Jemc is the author of My Only Wife, a finalist for the 2013 PEN / Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and the short story collection A Different Bed Every Time. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and in 2014 was named one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of Newcity’s Lit 50 in Chicago. She recently completed a stint as the writer in residence at the University of Notre Dame and currently teaches at Northeastern Illinois University and StoryStudio Chicago, as well as online at Writers & Books and the Loft Literary Center, and she is the web nonfiction editor for Hobart.
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This eerie and intellectually stimulating literally horror novel transcends the classic haunted house story, probing much deeper into uncanny psychological and existential territories.
In an attempt to save their marriage and start fresh, Julie and James escape the city and buy a house in the suburbs. Immediately, it seems that there's something not right with the house and the area surrounding it: from the groaning noises they constantly hear to the mysterious bruises that begin covering Julie's body to the strange neighbor living next door.
As things gradually become more menacing, Julie and James are overcome with feelings of delusion and paranoia—as if the house has taken root inside them and won't let them out of its grip. They begin to doubt everything: their perceptions, each other and even themselves. Their thoughts and actions become increasingly unfamiliar.
At one point, James convinces himself that maybe he's to blame for all of this—anything to create an illusion of control when nothing makes any sense.
Is the haunting even real, or is there something else going on—something more firmly rooted in reality that's potentially even more insidious?
The Grip of It is a horror story but it's also a portrait of a marriage. How well do we really know each other? How well do we really know ourselves?
As a fan of all things horror, I'm especially drawn to the psychological and existential variety. There's nothing scarier to me than the idea of losing touch with reality or the world not functioning in accordance with what I've come to expect. The Grip of It uses the haunted house plot to create a persistently creepy atmosphere of tension and dread, then asks us to consider whether the real menace is actually within.
This is a literary, spooky tale of terror, insanity and marriage. The narrative alternates between husband and wife James' and Julie's perspective and it can be hard to tell who's speaking at times. This adds to the sense of foreboding and unease that permeates every page, but it's also quite confusing for the reader. I found myself repeatedly starting over a few chapters, because I wasn't sure if it was Julie or James speaking. It got a little annoying and is the reason I gave it 4 stars.
If you love well written, spooky and weird stories where you're never quite sure what the heck is going on, don't pass this one up.
The story itself is very well written in regards to the vocabulary, although the plot seemed a little lack luster after about a third of the way through. The setup was ideal – a young couple looking for a fresh start buy a suspiciously low priced Victorian in the suburbs to escape the temptations of city life. This part right here just screamed potential to me. Unfortunately as soon as the couple moved into the house and started to have unusual experiences, this is where it fell apart for me.
The alternating points of view should have given more depth but instead became confusing as both the wife and husband narrated similarly to the point I sometimes didn’t know whose side of the story was being told. Whilst it was interesting to see them turn against each other amongst their confusion and self-doubt, I ultimately expected them to band together sooner and a bit stronger. There were many points throughout in which most couples would have absolutely called it quits with this house, but instead they let themselves go through so much that it became entirely too unrealistic. I get that suffering and denial tends to be the standard for a haunted house story, but it became genuinely quite annoying to read and made it harder to sympathize or connect with either of the characters.
Their neighbour, the mysterious Rolf, felt way too underutilized to me. He could have been used to help explain more background of both the house and his rumoured to be crazy, sister Eleanor. Instead he was written to come across as unusually rude, which could have been forgivable had he not ‘disappeared’ part way through, with yet again, no explanation as to how or why he disappeared. The author made a point to go through his rough childhood with a dead brother and mentally unstable mother, but didn’t give any conclusion to his story or involvement..
If you like a story with a defined conclusion and tied up loose ends and storyline, I’d advise to give this one a miss. Then again, I am one of the very few who isn’t keen on this read. If you enjoy a higher level of ambiguity and mystery, then this is the one for you.