...a cerebral haunting in book form, a page-turning, suspenseful read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it ... Like the work of Leonora Carrington, the effective terror of The Grip of It comes with sudden juxtaposition of the surreal, both in the subject’s environment and within the subject’s persona ... 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 ... Jemc is telling us the story of the putrefaction of a relationship. This relationship is not clean-cut and bookended by dramatic flares — it festers, untended, a thriving hotbed for the things that break us down, cell by cell ... 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.
It is in the juxtaposition of the two main characters’ points of view that Jemc finds new ground. Where as the traditional narrative requires one of the characters to play the 'straight man,' so that the spouse’s perspective is called into question consistently, Jemc has her married couple, James and Connie, begin to become more and more erratic as the novel progresses ... Jemc successfully juxtaposes the ghosts of the supernatural world with the ghosts of the natural world, and as a result, the reader must engage with the book to search for clues that might validate the claims of the narrators ... What separates a good supernatural story from schlock are the ways in which the author subtly approaches the subject. It is here where Jemc’s writing really shines. She holds back enough to keep the reader engaged in the construction of their own fears ... Simply put, we need more books like this, books that allow us fear without forcing themselves on us with a two dimensional ta-da.
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. Is the house exerting a horrible control over them? Are spirits following them even to as wholesome a place as the ice cream shop? Or is it their own minds that are closing each other out, and creating paranoid scenarios? ... By layering in a lot of different histories and making them all plausible, she creates a diffuse sense that any house in the town could be haunted. All of us have tragedies in our lives, right? ... Jemc gives us this empathy by leaning into Julie and James’ status as millennials. She lets us into their desperation, their dwindling resources, and the panic that comes with each new decision.