by Sara Gran
A recurrent, unidentifiable noise in her apartment. A memo to her boss that’s replaced by obscene insults. Amanda—a successful architect in a happy marriage—finds her life going off kilter by degrees. She starts smoking again, and one night for no reason, without even the knowledge that she’s doing it, she burns her husband with a cigarette. At night she dreams of a beautiful woman with pointed teeth on the shore of a blood-red sea.
The new voice in Amanda’s head, the one that tells her to steal things and talk to strange men in bars, is strange and frightening, and Amanda struggles to wrest back control of her life. Is she possessed by a demon, or is she simply insane? Described as “a new kind of psychological thriller” by George Pelecanos and “this year’s scariest novel” by Time Out New York, Come Closer has become a modern classic “with a kick that will stay with the reader for days afterward” (The Dallas Morning News).
I whispered “oh shit” aloud as I read the final sentence and closed Come Closer. I tore through this short horror novel in about a day and a half and probably would have finished sooner had I not had a work day right in the middle. This was a book that had me opening the Kindle app on my phone every time I had a spare few minutes while the Keurig cranked out a cup of coffee or I waited for a Zoom recording to process. Come Closer constantly lingered in the back of my mind for that day and a half, and hasn’t left since then.
There is something about possession that really gets under our skin, and this novel does so in a uniquely and disturbing way. I think this comes from the intersection of absolute violation and the horror of a brush with true evil. What set this novel apart was, for me, how deeply relatable I found Amanda. Gran masterfully constructs an insidiously mundane series of events that disguise the horror building beneath. If you’re someone who has ever experienced small lapses in memory or found themselves chafing at the banalities of their day-to-day life, this novel hits you right in the chest. Particularly as someone who has experienced an illness that had a neurological impact, this story resonated with me in a way that I was not at all comfortable with…and I loved it.
One of the highlights of this novel, especially in comparison to others of the genre, is its pacing. It along at a hypnotic and slowly accelerating rate, compelling the reader to read faster as the horror escalates. It was incredibly hard to step away from this novel and the conclusion left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. At only 194 pages, Come Closer is a streamlined, hair-raising read that you can tear through in just a quarantined day or two. It’s definitely one of my top lockdown reads.