It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan is the only ghost story that has ever truly creeped me out. It should come as no surprise that this is my new favorite horror novel.
Gothic horror fans will feel right at home in Kaplan’s twisted world. She collapses time, allowing the past and present to comingle with each other through ephemeral glimpses of relatives’ past. The Wakefield women are careful with their actions, aware that anything they do will be saved and put on display by the house at any moment.
It did take me a moment to get into the novel. Because time blends seamlessly, it can be confusing at first to identify whether what you are reading is from the present or past. But this style of storytelling gives you a feel for what the characters must be going through. Is who they are seeing really there or is this just an echo of the past?
“It isn’t, after all, as if time is quite as fixed as everyone else would have you believe. At least, not here it isn’t”-pg 27
Kaplan’s writing style is hauntingly beautiful. There’s a lot to question as you follow Sam, an archeologist, uncover the history of the mansion through the echoes of Wakefield. Once she starts seeing a faceless boy commit horrendous acts that should be impossible, she is on a mission to find out what the house really is and what the appearance of this boy means.
You can see her mental state deteriorate through the novel. The more she discovers, the more she tries to change what she thinks is about to happen. But it begs the question, can we ever change our fate or is it destined to happen no matter what we do?
This book shares a lot of wonderful horror tropes with Haunting of Hill house and even The Others but Kaplan really makes them her own. There’s an interesting level of disassociation that takes place throughout the novel. Specifically, with Sam.
Echoes of her childhood play throughout the house without warning. Anytime Sam watches one of these echoes, she sees her childhood-self as someone else, constantly saying “she did this”, “Sam did that”. It’s as if these echoes of her memories, because they are uncontrollable, being shown by the house at its whim, she views “ghost Sam” as someone completely different than who she is now.
The cast of characters, from Mad Catherine to this faceless boy, are electric and terrifying. Wakefield manor, a character in its own right, was my favorite aspect to the novel. The house has over 20 rooms, narrowing hallways, a locked room, and passages that go nowhere à la Winchester Mansion. But in the dark, the house changes and morphs. Rooms change size, the layout doesn’t make sense. It’s a true nightmare.
The lore around the Wakefield’s and their mansion is rich in tragedy. Every echo we read about through Sam’s perspective plays a role in how this story will end. The ending itself was phenomenal. It matched up with everything Kaplan had set up for us in earlier pages. This is a book that really packs a punch in just 246 pages. I see myself rereading this one to really grasp all that Kaplan shared.
A huge thank you to Crooked Lane Books for including me on the tour for It Will Just Be Us. This is on sale September 8th. Please go grab a copy! It is the perfect novel to read as we head into spooky season.