Come Closer by Sara Gran

Come CLoser by Sara Gran
If everything in Amanda’s life is so perfect, then why the mood swings, the obscene thoughts, the urge to harm the people she loves? What are those tapping sounds in the walls? And who’s that woman following her? The mystery behind what’s happening to Amanda in Come Closer is so frightening that it “ought to carry a warning to…readers.”
Come Closer is a pretty standard demon-possession story featuring unremarkable characters doing fairly mundane things as far as demon-possession narratives go, but in spite – or perhaps because – of that, I found it pretty engrossing. It helps that it’s short – slightly more than a hundred pages, and cut into bite-size chunks – and it also helps that it’s one of the few demon-possession stories that I’ve seen told from the perspective of the person who’s being possessed.

That’s not really a spoiler, by the way; the book is super up-front about the whole possession thing, despite the ambiguous blurb. It’s not a last-minute gotcha revelation a’la The Merciless, or even a built-up reveal, really. The story is told retrospectively from our demon-possessed protagonist’s point of view, and Amanda’s account of her Satanic spiral is nothing if not aware.

You’d think that that would make for a fairly straight-forward story, but Amanda’s matter-of-fact acceptance of her demonic deeds lends the whole thing more mindfucky ambiguity than any twist ending could. Her demon’s behavior during the times it “possesses” Amanda’s body is impulsive, aggressive, and occasionally violent and murdery, but almost entirely un-supernatural. While Amanda seems to believe whole-heartedly in her possession by the end, it’s just as easy to read her as an unreliable narrator in the midst of some sort of mental breakdown. The whole thing certainly has a lot of allegorical shit going on with women and demons that I found pretty fascinating.

There’s a lot of really interesting stuff in the cultural mythology behind Amanda’s demon, Naamah; in her origins and how that relates to Amanda’s experiences and the book’s ending. Stuff about the complexity of a person beneath their polished exterior. About men’s expectation that women not be messy, their refusal to accept them as flawed human beings, and Amanda’s “possession” as a sort of rebellion against that. IT’S A REALLY GOOD DEMONIC ORIGIN STORY OK?

But you can just as easily read and enjoy the actual demon possession as-told. It’s (theoretically) creepy and surreal, effectively visual and movie-like. Towards the end, it reminded me a bit of Jacob’s Ladder, not in a spoilery sort of way, but in a seeing-weird-shit-everywhere sort of way.

I really liked what this book had going on, and I’d unabashedly recommend it…if it weren’t for the casual homophobia.

YEAH. What a fucking boner-killer, right?

There are only two specific instances, but they’re so egregious that it taints the entire goddamn thing.

The book actually opens on a homophobic slur, so uh, I guess it’s at least up front about it. Amanda’s demon writes a vulgar letter to her boss, calling him the f-word, which I guess you could write off as ~shocking demonic vulgarity~, except that at the end of the chapter, Amanda repeats the slur and cheerfully agrees with the demon’s assessment.

The second one is about halfway in, where Amanda casually refers to a man she sees in a shop as a “flaming queer”. Not in any kind of reclaiming, or even patronizing, u-go-gurl sort of way. In a bigoted asshole way.

I mean way to torpedo what could have been a four-star rating. I really wanted to like this, I did like the bits that didn’t sound like the edgy observations of a twelve-year-old on Xbox Live. But I don’t wanna fuck with a book that’s totes cool with tossing around homophobic slurs like it’s ndb.


Two Stars


3 Responses

  1. dragonslayingprincess

    October 19, 2016 10:05 am, Reply

    Yeah, my thoughts exactly after reading this.

    It’s so, so good and psychological and could be generally creepy. And I like how ambiguous it was whether her complaints against her husband were legit or all in her head and she was just looking for an excuse to nuke the relationship framing herself as the victim because she was unhappy with her life and couldn’t admit it to herself. It was so interesting and had such an excellent use of unreliable narrator… but man, that homophobic crap at the beginning threw me off kilter.

    After reading your review, I read the story anyway and thought the use of the gay F-bomb might be a simple ‘that’s just a word I use to insult people way’- still extremely douchey, but more carelessly douchey than hatefully douchey. But nope, this compounds the slur by a few other choice insults that makes it perfectly clear that she’s calling her boss shit by comparing to one of dem icky gayz.

    • Cyna Cyna

      October 19, 2016 4:11 pm, Reply

      Right? Yeah, your entire first paragraph is what I liked about the book so much! It’s so perfectly ambiguous that you absolutely can read it as a supernatural or allegorical or actual emotional implosion and it still works.

      But yeah, that homophobia. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one weirded out by it. Tanked by fuckin’ two scenes, goddamn, Come Closer.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the non-homophobic content, though.

  2. sunlessnick

    November 18, 2016 3:19 pm, Reply

    The first paragraphof your review hooked me: it should be an obvious thing to put the perspective where the stakes are, and unless the possession is meant to be a mystery, or the book has a serial protagonist we’re following, there’s nowhere the stakes can possibly be higher than with the person actually being possessed.

    After the reading the whole review, I’m back to wondering whether to get this one.

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