by Sara Gran
Soho Press (2003)
Sometimes a book recommendation is a real eye-opener. In this case, Robert Dunbar (author of The Pines and most recently Willy) recommended Come Closer in a comment thread in the Literary Horror group on Goodreads.com. I've never heard of Gran before, but I'm a sucker for a good haunting story--and Dunbar is a man of discerning tastes. As evidenced by what turned out to be a very quick, but highly engrossing tale of horror.
Amanda seemingly has it all. She's married to a loving husband, Ed, has a great burgeoning career as an architect, and just moved into a wonderful fixer-upper of a home. If only that infernal tap-tap-tap would stop.
The signs are all there to tell Amanda she is possessed apparently, but she doesn't recognize them. It starts with unexplainable occurrences. Her boss receives an obscenity-laced memo from her that she doesn't remember writing. She and her boss pass it off as a cruel prank played by someone else in the firm. She and Ed hear a phantom tapping noise in the walls that they cannot trace. They pass it off as as rattling pipes, or maybe even a mouse, but the noises only occur when Amanda is in the house. She starts having strange dreams too, about her childhood imaginary friend, Pansy, who served as a kind of security blanket in the wake of her mother's death. Pansy is back in her dreams now, but goes by a new name. Naamah.
Amanda is the one telling her story, all the while insisting that the danger Naamah posed was only visible in retrospect. It's easy to see things from her perspective, and placing yourself in her shoes, it's hard to say you could do things differently. Especially when the specter of a malevolent spirit hangs over her shoulder at all times. The mounting isolation and deprivation of her will is a slow and heartbreaking story to watch unfold--and Sara Gran tells it with great precision and panache.
The novel is short, easily finished in a single evening, and reads not unlike a diary. But it's told in such a way that you see things not only from Amanda's perspective, but from Ed's as well, as he is an unwitting witness to Amanda's possession, thinking it a mental breakdown. The disintegration of their relationship as the possession worsens may be the most terrifying part of the tale.
I'm not sure if Sara Gran is an author who has since more supernatural tales, but not matter what she writes, but thanks to Robert Dunbar's recommendation I want to read more.