At less than 200 pages, Come Closer could be swallowed whole in a single sitting. This is how I read the majority of it, and yet, it still took me a few weeks because I took a brief hiatus only a few chapters in. Is it because I’m easily distracted? Indeed I am, but that’s not the reason why—I’ll get to that later.
Sara Gran’s 2003 novel is told from the perspective of protagonist Amanda, a young architect who seems well-adjusted despite a damaging upbringing and whose marriage to a “reliable” man is stable enough even though he’s repeatedly home late and dismissive of her feelings. Like many, Amanda’s life is the type that looks nice and polished from the outside despite some obvious cracks that nobody around her is close enough to notice—it’s ripe for a demon looking for an affordable place to shack up.
Despite its short length, Gran does well with establishing a slow burn to Amanda’s unfortunate possession. There’s time for her to exhaust the rational explanations for the irrational—relentless tapping sounds only she can hear, eerie yet familiar nightmares, and an urge to commit harmful acts she subsequently has no memory of committing. We spend every second of Amanda’s journey into darkness alongside her so the build-up feels believable, then spirals as she becomes increasingly unreliable and paranoid.
Amanda is a complex character. She’s not unlikeable but her sour attitude exists before she meets her demon, most of which comes from harboring resentment toward many of the people in her life. As she is overtaken, she puts up a good fight but it’s clear that just beneath her surface, she’s already been longing to take part in many of the “sins” that her demon encourages.
I use the word “sin” because that’s how Gran refers to each of Amanda’s wrongdoings. The novel is definitely saturated in a Christian—or, more accurately, Abrahamic—worldview. Amanda’s spiritual allies are Christian despite dabbling in pagan practices, her investigations lead her to Jewish mythology, and there are a few moments of casual homophobia that could be chalked up to the far less tolerant early aughts when the book was written. Whether that internalization comes from Amanda’s character or Gran herself, it’s unclear.
But nearly every demonic possession story, whether on or offscreen, seems to be incapable of breaking away from a biblical perspective. One refreshing thing about Come Closer is its lack of . . . traditional priests.
The biggest bone I had to pick with the religious overtones was the detail that Amanda discovers from taking a humorously Comospolitan style quiz, “How To Know If You’re Possessed By A Demon,” which specifies a desire for the opposite sex. This bothered me because it humanizes demonic entities to a degree which contradicts their entire existence. Demons are primal and instinctual; it makes sense that they would have an insatiable need for sex, but this would likely not discriminate against any gender. The fact that the novel suggests all demons are purely hetero is laughable. (And ironic—most conservative Christians consider homosexuality to be evil, so why not categorize all demons as being gay?)
I digress. This book had a number of fantastically unsettling moments, which brings me back to my original point of putting it down for a few weeks before ultimately finishing it in one sitting. After I read the portion where Amanda first meets her demon in a red-soaked dream sequence, I found myself so unnerved that I was nervous to keep going. As I would later discover, this was hardly the most frightening part. I won’t spoil what freaked me out the most, but I will tell you that I’m not ducking my head under any conference tables anytime soon.
If you opt to read Come Closer, and if this is your thing then I think you should, refrain from using the quiz to self-diagnose a possession. The tapping that you hear is likely just the pipes in your home, and if it isn’t, try to enjoy your precious remaining moments of denial.