Friday, April 12, 2013

Grave’s End, I Guess It Worked

I find it a bit difficult to review this book. I didn’t dislike it, but I wasn’t enthralled by it either. It never bored me, though. It was written well and had a fine pace--which I respected especially since this is supposedly a work of non-fiction. My issues with the book related to the actions the characters took, but since this was based on a true story, I can’t argue those. What should be discussed, though, is how those this book's shortcomings could be improved for a fiction work.

The first character issue I came across was the discrepancies concerning the presence in the haunted house. The ghosts seemed hostile, and the characters all seemed intimidated at times (when they were being held down to their beds). However, the perceptions of the ghosts deviated. The ghosts would be illustrated in a terrifying light, then the narrator or her children would claim they felt no malice from the entities. Maybe in real life there can be times where one does not feel malice, while at other times he or she can be terrified--what one sees at night can be a lot scarier than when he or she sees it during the day. In fiction, clarifying the level of the threat would be more important.

When the house was cleared in Grave’s End, there was an explanation that the ghosts were just playing around, including the sleep paralysis scenes. This explanation seemed hollow, and the house cleansing was a bit anticlimactic. However, it did seem like a realistic cleansing based on actual events. In fiction, however, more explanation would be required, bones should be dug up, and the passing over of the ghosts should be more evident. I would be angry if this were a work of fiction and it never explained why the ghosts were in mines beneath the house and why the house was basically a portal to the afterlife.

The passing of time also worked because the book claimed to be non-fiction. It’s easy to say characters should leave a house if it’s haunted, but this story clarifies the events took place over long periods of time. Things would act up then calm down as if they never happened at all. With such cycles, homeowners can easily question the authenticity of supernatural events and can understandably justify staying in the house. For non-fiction, this built authenticity. In fiction, that structure wouldn’t work. Progression through the story should build the tension and events should happen faster and faster. With an onslaught of supernatural events, characters can only reasonably leave the home.

The ethos of this book was well done and worth mentioning. To help solidify the authenticity of these events, the narrator attempts to present the story from an unbiased angle. Although her neutrality doesn’t always hold up, she ends the book by claiming her intentions were to help others going through similar predicaments. By claiming to help others, she’s building her own credibility, shrugging off a motivation of self-gain, and making her story more believable because she is trustworthy. Although I am a skeptic of this tale, its plausibility rose far above The Amityville Horror

Grave’s End wasn’t a terrifying read. Questions were left since explanations to the events were not fully revealed. But the story worked as a piece of creative non-fiction. Motivations made sense, and things wrapped up with a humble approach. However, if this were a work of fiction, there would be many details to be worked out before it became a great story.


  1. Awesome teaching moment here. As I draft up my final story for the class, I've been trying to tick off those rules of the genre as well as trying not to do those things I didn't like in the story. I didn't really think about including this story because I was just looking at the fiction. But I like how you draw results from what worked or didn't work in the "true" story on which to base your fiction. Very cool.

  2. Good points on how the book works as creative nonfiction, but would fall short as fiction, especially on the pacing. The pacing did explain why Mercado didn’t grab her girls and run, but lacked the build in suspense needed for fiction. I agree, it wasn’t a terrifying read, but it had its creepy moments. What you call Mercado’s “humble approach” does up the believability factor; she’s just so earnest about the whole thing. In a novel, that could get annoying after awhile. In Grave’s End, it accounted for any plausibility in the story,

  3. There did seem to be a number of odd things that didn't really get explained, such as the potential bones in the basement and such. Also, her wiffle-waffle on the entity got annoying. Kind of like you, I wasn't wowed or bored with it either, it just kind of came across as 'meh.'