cover image The Grip of It

The Grip of It

Jac Jemc. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-53691-6

The latest from Jemc (A Different Bed Every Time) is 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. After settling into their new home, James and Julie discover it is riddled with secret rooms and passageways. Soon thereafter, drawings appear on a bedroom wall, noises keep them up at night, and bruises appear on Julie’s body. Despite their efforts, they can’t get in touch with their realtor, who has vanished from existence, and the woods that line their backyard—full of children playing in the treetops—appear closer to their house each day. A local bartender tells James about the troubled family who previously owned the house, and while snooping around the neighboring home of a secretive old man, the couple discovers a life filled with tragedy and premature death. From here, Jemc settles comfortably into the couple’s increasingly paranoid and disturbed thoughts. Short chapters bounce between James’s and Julie’s perspectives, and as the author ratchets up the tension, the reader eagerly follows. The conclusion is the perfect cap to a story full of genuine frights. (Aug.)