Review: The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

Rating: ★★★★☆


A chilling literary horror novel about a young couple who purchase and live in a haunted house. Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It tells the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home.

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. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julia and James.

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.


Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It may be one of my favorite haunted house stories of all-time. It is a gripping, unsettling, and overall petrifying novel that will have you re-thinking your purchase of that historic home downtown. What this novel doesn’t have in pure terror and gore is made up for in a constant sense of unease and dread.

That flicker of light from a pitch-black room. That stain on the wall that seems to grow to longer you stare at it. That shadow on the other side of the curtain. They may not be just figments of your imagination; your eyes playing tricks on you. There may be something there, waiting for just the right moment.

Jemc is an author I had not heard of before seeing The Grip of It come across bookstagram a little while back, and I am certainly surprised by that. The cover alone made for a quick Google search to find out more about the novel and to see what the reviews had to say. I am slightly baffled that it hasn’t gotten more love (other than by some of my favorite people in the book community) and especially after having read it.

At only 276 pages with a plethora of short chapters, it is a fairly quick read and an even quicker listen (a little over 6 hours). The chapters alternate between James and Julie, allowing the reader to get both perspectives of the happenings surrounding them, their home, and their neighbors. The addition of parents and friends add even more head-scratching into what exactly is going on with the house and just how James and Julie can stand to continue living there.

Don’t even get me started on the stalker neighbor, the kids playing in the forest, and the bruises that continue to show up all over Julie’s body. This book gets freaky super quick and doesn’t let off the accelerator. Even the ending leaves me with so many unanswered questions, which is exactly what I want in a horror novel. I don’t want to know what I just witnessed; I just want to know that I had a good time witnessing it.

If you enjoy haunted house stories, with very subtle yet skin-crawling scares, I recommend The Grip of It whole-heartedly. Just don’t come complaining to me when you can’t sleep at night because you feel something breathing over you.

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