This was a wild ride. At many points while reading I was sort of reminded of House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski – although this was not nearly as physical a book as that one. It was genuinely creepy throughout. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to this one in the late fall, as it has excellent horror-vibes. It’s also a really fascinating depiction of grief, nailing the surrealism of mourning a loved one.
The story begins with Vera’s funeral, so it’s not a spoiler to say that this is a story about a man, Thiago, mourning his wife. How she dies is a bit of a mystery at first, but this book isn’t interested in presenting and solving a pat mystery. Instead, this book is a letter to Vera, with many purposes (as we discover throughout the text). Thiago is purging some important memories of his time with Vera. The blurb on the cover will tell you that the creepiness in Vera and Thiago’s life begins before her death – it seems to start when they move into their new home together, and get an Itza (a very Alexa-like creation that responds to voice commands and essentially runs all the tech in your home). The horror of such devices is really ramped up here, and even before Vera dies both she and Thiago are experiencing some really strange moments – a pocket of cold air here, a bump in the night there. The source of the paranormal activity is unclear, but Itza seems to be responding to commands this couple doesn’t remember stating.
As Thiago grieves, he makes some attempts to move on (some more literal, like physically moving across the country). But the strange events continue to follow him, and when he realizes he cannot escape what is happening he attempts to face it head on. The horror in this novel seeps in – it’s not overt, as in “This Itza sure is evil!” but much more subtle. There’s hints of supernatural, but for me the most effecting are the moments where you question whether it was supernatural at all. There are some moments where the reader more or less HAS to acknowledge something is UP with this guy – but there are also plenty of moments that are just based on the horror of how things happen in the real world (violence, accidents, in-laws, these all plague us to a certain extent without the assistance of demons).
This atmospheric horror novel worked well for me, but I think it helps to know it’s a bit more atmospheric. There’s moments of action, but the horror is lodged a bit more internally – much like a string, you might have to PULL ME OUT PULL ME OUT PULL ME OUT PULL ME OUT PULL ME OUT