As you probably know, I was pretty dissatisfied with The Amityville Horror. I was willing to cut it some slack because it was presented as a true story, and even if it’s a fraud, it had a “here are the facts” style that didn’t work well for a horror story. Well, I’m not sure I should even give it that much credit. You see, the next book I read for class is also supposed to be a true story. Elaine Mercado’s Grave’s End is a better story than The Amityville Horror in every way.
I’m a skeptic when it comes to ghosts, but I’m much more willing to give this book the benefit of the doubt. For one thing, I just enjoyed reading it as a book.
Due to the nature of the book, I knew going into it that the protagonist would survive–she’s the author, after all. Maybe because of that, I can’t say it ever really scared me. On the other hand, it made me care about the characters. I liked Elaine and her daughters and wanted to know what was going to happen to them. I wanted things to work out and wanted them to be happy. That is one of the key things The Amityville Horror was missing, and I thought it was because the author was writing about real people instead of crafting characters. Well, Grave’s End proved to me that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The ghostly elements were also presented in a much better way. A lot of different supernatural events happen in this book, but they had consistency. Yes, some were unrelated, seemingly random events unconnected to the main plot, but it worked. It let me suspend my disbelief and accept this strange house where creepy things happen.
Best of all, it had resolution. By the end of the book, they know what caused the main hauntings. Prior to that, the characters’ research revealed details that gave meaning to some of the sightings and events. This way, it felt like a ghost story (enough to remind me that I really need to get back to playing Fatal Frame). Pieces of the mystery were gradually revealed, and then the final revelations occurred with the “cleaning” at the end. The big revelation is pretty interesting, too. In a dark, morbid sort of way, I loved it.
Not every question was answered, and some of the answers weren’t satisfactory–but what really delighted me was that Elaine commented on these things. They weren’t just thrown at me in a “that’s just how it is,” way. Instead, I felt her uncertainty and doubts even as I felt my own. That’s great, and I can’t think of a better way to write a true account where things don’t neatly come together in the end.
One thing did bother me, though. (And this relates to the ending, so if you haven’t read Grave’s End and intend to, this is a spoiler!) Near the end, Karin is pretty upset that the medium “cleaned” the house instead of just communicating with the spirits. She felt they should have been asked if they wanted the supernatural activity to stop or not. The only counterargument really brought up was that the events were scary and Elaine assumed getting rid of them was the right thing to do. Why didn’t anyone mention that the ghosts wanted to move on? They clearly weren’t happy, and the medium even said that they “want to go” (Mercado 151).
Other than that minor issue, I liked this one. It’s believable as a true story, and even if it’s false, it’s a good read as a ghost story. Every place where The Amityville Horror failed, Grave’s End succeeded. My faith in nonfiction ghost stories is restored.
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