Book Review: Grave’s End by Elaine Mercado

The next book for my Readings in the Genre: the Haunted course for my Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University is Grave’s End: a True Ghost Story (Horror 174 pages) by Elaine Mercado.

Oddly, out of all of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched for this course, this story seemed the least believable to me, even though I’m fairly certain this is actually the one genuinely true story presented in this class. I think the part that made it the least believable to me was the little balls of light. I was absolutely on board with the sleep paralysis and how terrifying that could be, but I’ve only recently come in contact with people who have had serious problems with sleep paralysis. Listening to them describe it encouraged me to do a lot of research about it and it sounds like something that’s terribly frightening to experience. If I had not started researching sleep paralysis on my own, I don’t know how believable I would have found that portion to be, either.

It’s interesting to me sometimes how we have to experience something ourselves before we can believe that things happen. I think I’m getting a lot better these days about believing the truth of other people’s perceptions, and maybe even of trusting my own experiences a bit more. Maybe that’s because I’m getting older and I’ve met so many different people in my life. Maybe it’s because I’ve started writing again and opening my imagination. Maybe it’s because someone out there took the time to teach me that the world is not clear-cut. Maybe it’s because I’ve become a very accepting person of the world around me and that I’ve finally fully understood that there is a lot that happens in the world that I don’t know about or that doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t need it to. I will have faith and believe in those around me, whether their lives and experiences make sense to me or not.

I guess that’s part of the reason this book took me so long to read. Now that I’m to a place in my life where I’m more open, there were a lot of instances in this story that built tension so well that I was uncomfortable reading this book at night before bed. Which is rather unfortunate, because that’s the only time I’ve had to read this book. The author would just build and build and build the tension with the sleep paralysis more than any other paranormal instances in the story, and I think that’s easily the most terrifying part of the whole story. Not being able to move while something heavy prevents you from breathing and pushes you into your mattress seems like such a horrible experience and it was described in such detail that I almost felt as though I could experience it myself.

Here’s an example of the sleep paralysis from page 26: “I would fully awaken, already in a paralyzed state, frightened beyond all reason. Fully awake, fully conscious. There was no fuzziness in my thinking, no debate about whether or not I was dreaming. I was not dreaming. I would try to move, but to no avail. I couldn’t turn. I could barely breathe. I couldn’t speak. There was a pressure on my chest – an all-encompassing, revolting pressure – that would eventually spread over my whole body. It would press me into the bed to the point that I could feel, and see, the mattress indenting. I was terrified and confused.”

From what I’ve been told, this is exactly how sleep paralysis feels and I can’t imagine having to deal with that for as long as Elaine, Karin, and Christine did. I think I have actually witnessed someone experience sleep paralysis before, but not of the variety where they were being pushed into the mattress. They just couldn’t move. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was told afterwards.

I don’t really want to say anything about liking the characters in this novel because I don’t feel as though they are characters, but rather real people (which they are). I was very motivated by how Karin and Christine dealt with living in a haunted house and I think that they developed a very healthy understanding of the world because of their experiences. I think that Elaine’s reaction is closer to what most people would or will do in situations where they can’t quite understand what’s going on – they keep their experiences to themselves and they attempt to find other, more rational, explanations for anything they might experience. And really, how *does* one go about finding a reputable paranormal investigator or house cleaner?

Something I really didn’t like about the book was the book itself. It was such an awkward size that I couldn’t hold the book open with one hand and it never sat flat if I was trying to read it while eating or taking notes. Just minor things that annoyed me enough to be notable. So when it’s time for me to finally get published and if I have any say in formatting whatsoever, this is a formatting style that I will speak out against.

Overall, I actually enjoyed this book, as much as I had problems reading it. I thought it was a good, realistic look at ghost stories and hauntings. I’d rate this book as a solid three on my scale and I think it’s my second favorite book from this course so far.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Grave’s End by Elaine Mercado

  1. I didn’t take the format of the book into account, but now that you say that… yeah. It was an odd size, which made it difficult to hold. I think the length of the story was part of that–for the height the book was, it would have been easier to hold if it was thicker.

  2. Jay Massiet says:

    I agree that, at times, Mercado does well with building tension, but I also felt that she will often build it only to say “so and so many weeks passed” or “so and so many months passed” that the tension is lost because there’s no sense of immediacy any longer. If this story really is true, then there’s not too much she can do about the passage of time, but she could downplay it, which I don’t think she does well.

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