"What we think is impossible happens all the time," observes Amanda, the narrator of Gran's second novel (after 2001's Saturn's Return to New York), providing all the explanation advanced for this effectively understated account of her demonic possession. An industrious young architect with a promising career and seemingly happy marriage, Amanda begins acting uncharacteristically: writing obscene notes to her boss, shoplifting, committing impulsive acts of cruelty, indulging in extramarital affairs—and worse. These episodes, as inexplicable as they are erratic, dovetail with sexually suggestive dreams dominated by an alluring woman who reminds Amanda of her imaginary childhood playmate. Is Amanda losing her grip? Or is Naamah, the dream woman, a demon who has sought since Amanda's infancy to take control of her? Gran keeps the reader as intriguingly uncertain as her heroine, letting Amanda relate her experience in the casual, un-self-conscious voice of someone so increasingly accepting of her outrageous behavior that she almost seems to stand outside it. This ambiguous balancing of the psychological and supernatural creates just the right amount of narrative tension to keep the reader turning pages to see if Amanda is a lost soul on the road to perdition or just a bored yuppie giving into the imp of the perverse. Gran demonstrates that an urbane and subtle approach to ideas more often treated with hysteria and flash can still produce a gripping contemporary tale of terror. (Aug.)
Forecast:As the blurbs from Stewart O'Nan and Darin Strauss suggest, this one is aimed, like Gran's sleeper of a first novel, at a mainstream literary audience. Genre horror fans can help give a boost, especially with a World Fantasy or Stoker nomination.