"Behind Closed Doors" by B.A. Paris
Some people watch horror movies unafraid. Eyes Wide Open. Staring at the screen. Undaunted by the literal horrors unfolding so dramatically in front of them.
I am not one of those people.
I never have been one of those people.
I never will be one of those people.
Though I — oddly enough — love horror movies, whenever I think back on one, the visual recollection I have is of a partial screen. Usually a corner where I know nothing too scary will be happening. This is all I can remember because this is all I see in the most intense portions of any movie — a small slice of the action. Whatever wedges I can see between my splayed fingers which I press tightly against my face.
I cover my eyes because I simply have to prevent myself from fully seeing what's happening.
Because I can't handle it.
I can't handle the discomfort.
And it is probably because I’m a weak-ass bitch who can’t handle discomfort that, when I started this book, I immediately detested it.
I didn't want to read it.
I wanted to shove it back on my shelf and pick up a palate-cleansingly-light read, washing away all recollection of the emotions this novel elicited.
Which is surprising, given how innocently it all began.
It started with a simple — and stilted, honestly — dinner party. This perfect-on-paper party is being hosted by the couple who will become central to this novel, Jack and Grace. From Grace’s perfectly fluffy souffles to Jack’s altruistic work as a lawyer for battered women, the couple is almost frustratingly perfect.
Or so it would appear.
But it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that everything is — no shock here — not as it appears.
In fact, the feigned harmony of their marriage, and the saccharine sweet love story that preceded it, are simply covering up a horrible truth.
What’s really happening <cough> behind closed doors <cough> is something much darker.
Something much more sinister.
Something with terrifying ramifications.
You see, Jack is not who he appears to be.
He isn’t a champion for battered women.
He isn’t a loving husband.
He isn’t a strong provider.
The honest and forthright Jack is simply apparition. A facade adopted by a flawed man in an attempt to hide what he really is, a monster with monstrous intentions.
But only Grace knows the real Jack.
Despite Grace’s knowledge of Jack’s real horrible intentions and horrifyingly warped interests, she’s unable escape from this domestic prison into which she has fallen. As impossible as it seems, though, Grace knows she must find a way to flee the house of horrors, and soon.
Because the clock is ticking.
Before long, it won’t just be Grace living at the whim of this madman. Joining her in her plight will be Millie, her sister who has Downs Syndrome and will soon be aging out of the residential school that has been her safe haven for several decades. And one thing that Grace is absolutely unwilling to do is subject her sister to horrors she’s experienced since marrying Jack.
But does she have a choice?
I read this novel voraciously for several reasons.
First, the plot was naturally compelling. The horrors Grace faced were, actually, quite horrible. And the web into which Grace had fallen really did seem inescapable.
Secondly, as I’ve already alluded to, I wanted desperately to finish the novel. This book so captured my attention and emotion that, as I read, I found myself feeling a kinship to Grace. Just as Grace was trapped in this horrifying marriage I was trapped in this horrifying book. I needed to find a way out — and, since I never fail to finish a book, the only way out was through.
Though this likely sounds like a condemnation of the novel, I don’t mean it as such. Yes, it was uncomfortable to be exposed to the physical atrocities and mental manipulation in this book, but it was uncomfortable in the same way that it’s uncomfortable to watch Danny Torrence trike across the overtly geometric carpets of The Overlook Hotel.
The content of this book, at least for me, never got easier to deal with.
But that didn’t prevent me from appreciating the book — and, I would dare say, even enjoying the depth of emotions it made me feel.
As moved through the novel, the utter abhorrence I felt when I started it evaporated like water from the dead sea. And, as it did, it left behind a dense pool of pure appreciation for the quality of the writing, the creativeness of the plot, and the degree to which the author made me feel.
Though there were a few technical hiccups, some elements that really required the stretching of your imagination to believe, I absolutely have to commend B.A. Paris on her ability to make me really, authentically and wholeheartedly feel.
This novel literally forced me to experience emotion just as I would during a legitimately compelling horror movie.
I was terrified.
I was upset.
I was dismayed.
I was completely beside myself with worry for people I've never met.
And, at the end of the day, any novel that can induce this kind of visceral experience is one worthy of attention.
I give this one a well-deserved 4 out of 5 cocktails.
As much as I love horror movies, I don’t have it in myself to binge them. Even after one, I feel the overpowering need to hibernate for 12 hours under the covers, subsisting on a diet of Star Crunch and Cooler Ranch Doritos. That said, I absolutely am going to need a mental break after reading this book. Want to see what light read I select as I allow myself time to heal from the trauma B.A. Paris has inflicted on me? Follow me, here.
How do you feel about not finishing a novel — or DNFing as some people call it? Tell me your opinions of DNFing in the comments, below.