Threats

( 8 )

Overview

David’s wife is dead. At least, he thinks she’s dead. But he can’t figure out what killed her or why she had to die, and his efforts to sort out what’s happened have been interrupted by his discovery of a series of elaborate and escalating threats hidden in strange places around his home—one buried in the sugar bag, another carved into the side of his television. These disturbing threats may be the best clues to his wife’s death:

CURL UP ON MY LAP. LET ME BRUSH YOUR HAIR WITH MY...

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Threats: A Novel

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Overview

David’s wife is dead. At least, he thinks she’s dead. But he can’t figure out what killed her or why she had to die, and his efforts to sort out what’s happened have been interrupted by his discovery of a series of elaborate and escalating threats hidden in strange places around his home—one buried in the sugar bag, another carved into the side of his television. These disturbing threats may be the best clues to his wife’s death:

CURL UP ON MY LAP. LET ME BRUSH YOUR HAIR WITH MY FINGERS. I AM SINGING YOU A LULLABY. I AM TESTING FOR STRUCTURAL WEAKNESS IN YOUR SKULL.

Detective Chico is also on the case, and is intent on asking David questions he doesn’t know the answers to and introducing him to people who don’t appear to have David’s or his wife’s best interests in mind. With no one to trust, David is forced to rely on his own memories and faculties—but they too are proving unreliable.

In THREATS, Amelia Gray builds a world that is bizarre yet familiar, violent yet tender. It is an electrifying story of love and loss that grabs you on the first page and never loosens its grip.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
David, a former dentist, receives a package containing the ashes of an unknown individual; later in the book, he encounters his wife, Franny, covered in blood, and he passes out. Thinking Franny has been murdered, afraid to leave his house and unable to piece together what is happening in his ruined life, David begins to lose his mind, a deterioration helped along by mysterious scraps of paper found throughout his house and the neighborhood bearing bizarre messages (“MY TRUTH WILL CAUSE ATOMIC SNOW UPON YOUR SWEET-SMELLING LAMBS AND CHILDREN”). In time, friends and strangers arrive, at random, with what David presumes to be nefarious intentions, and the unannounced comings and goings of ominous Det. Reginald Chico further unsettle David. David’s life becomes increasingly weird as he wanders his now unfamiliar home, struggling to tease out the details of his past life and whether his wife is dead with what little is left of his fractured mind. The book is a series of short, disjointed, and unchronological chapters. The story can seem labyrinthine at times, but the narrative arc acts as a clever reflection of David’s own developing mental illness. Gradually, as with any good detective novel, the pieces come together. What would have seemed gimmicky in the hands of a less skilled writer becomes a cunning whodunit with Gray (Museum of the Weird) at the reins. This is an innovative debut novel featuring a most unreliable (and compelling) narrator. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“Amelia Gray is a sharpshooter, precise and deadly. THREATS lures the reader with its poetic sensibilities and then subverts every expectation. Before long, there will be statues of Gray in various corners of the literary world.” —Emma Straub, author of Other People We Married

“Reading Amelia Gray is like a pyramid of rocks being built on a cloud. That’s to say, it’s something fantastical, dreamlike, playful, and very dangerous. You will be amazed at what this writer can do.” —Shane Jones, author of Light Boxes

“The first time I encountered Amelia Gray’s fiction, it slugged me in the jaw. The second time too, and the third. Said jaw-slugging has ensued nearly every time I’ve read something of hers, except for when instead it whispered sad and surprising but undeniable truths about the difficulty of intimacy and sense in the wretched blastoscape of modern life. And then it made me a grilled cheese sandwich to prove that the world can be a kind place, and it waited until I had sated myself and wiped away the crumbs before slugging me in the jaw again.” —Doug Dorst, author of The Surf Guru and Alive in Necropolis

Kirkus Reviews
A man struggles to deal with the death of his wife and the odd messages that appear in her wake. Gray's debut novel—following two short-story collections (Museum of the Weird, 2010, etc.)—feels like an old-fashioned gothic tale as rewritten by David Lynch or William S. Burroughs; in her hands an unassuming Ohio town becomes a bottomless repository of strangeness and dread. The hero, David, is a disgraced former dentist who attracts police and media attention after his wife, Franny, is discovered dead in their home under unsettling circumstances: She suffered violent wounds, but David did nothing, staying with her corpse until the authorities arrived days later. David is clearly broken mentally, and he grows more paranoid as he discovers vaguely threatening messages on scraps of paper hidden around their home. (A typical one reads: "I will cross-stitch an image of your future home burning. I will hang this image over your bed while you sleep.") David's efforts to resolve the mystery involve a local cop, one of Franny's former co-workers and a regression therapist who happens to work out of David's garage. But resolution isn't really the point, nor is realism. This book is a mood piece about loss and the way the outside world becomes intimidating after an emotional anchor disappears. In that regard, it's often a very affecting and disturbing book: Gray regularly refers to wasps in the garage, Franny's ashes and a damp decaying house to evoke disorder and collapse, and her deliberately flat and unaffected sentences increase the tension. The book falters toward the end, as Gray tries to balance the oddness of her milieu with a sense of closure, making for a conclusion that doesn't feel ambiguous so much as unfinished. Still, a striking debut novel from a writer eager to shake domestic fiction out of its comfort zone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374533076
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 386,534
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

AMELIA GRAY grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Her first collection of stories, AM/PM, was published in 2009. Her second collection, Museum of the Weird, was awarded the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. She lives in Los Angeles. THREATS is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

1.

 

THE TAPE ON THE PACKAGE was striped with waxed string. David dug his fingernails underneath the perimeter of the tape and clawed at it. He didn’t want to go to the kitchen for a knife, and he spent an extra piece of time examining the entire package to find the loose end that could be pulled up. Inside the package was a Styrofoam carton, sealed with another kind of thick tape. A receipt was attached to the top of the lid, noting a cremation charge of $795, a box charge of $25, and a shipping charge of $20.95.

The package measured a few feet square. It was pockmarked with red stickers printed with the image of a broken wineglass. The return address was of a funeral home in town. David placed the package on the coffee table between Franny’s cooking magazines and a stack of old newspapers. Some of the crosswords in the newspapers had been completed weeks earlier, perhaps months. Franny would read the news, and David would complete the crosswords. David took the newspapers into the basement and stacked them in a far corner.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Amelia Gray

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 10, 2013

    This was a VERY difficult book to read!! Although I do not mind

    This was a VERY difficult book to read!! Although I do not mind unconventional narrative, this book was all over the place and was very difficult to follow. If it had focused solely on following David, it would have made more sense to me, since he was the character who was suffering through mental illness. I also found a lot of the descriptions to be disgusting and uncomfortable, which MAY have been the point, but I often found my stomach turning at times. I was also very dissappointed at the ending. I wanted several times to quit reading this book, but kept on with the expectation of a rewarding resolution, which I did not recieve.


    Like almost every other reviewer, I will say this was not an easy or light read, but that is not something that, on it's own would turn me off to a book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    An unsettling story of loss and dementia draped in a layer of longing and nostalgia.

    THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

    “I WILL CROSS- STITCH AN IMAGE OF YOUR FUTURE HOME BURNING. I WILL HANG THIS IMAGE OVER YOUR BED WHILE YOU SLEEP.”

    The debut novel by Amelia Gray, entitled THREATS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is an unsettling and hypnotic story of loss, disintegration and the ways that love both builds and destroys us, anchors us, and alternately, lets us drift away. This is not conventional storytelling, but if you’ve read Gray’s work already (Museum of the Weird and AM/PM) then this will come as no surprise. To call this a detective story would be limiting. You have to jump in with both feet into the freezing waters, no easing a toe beneath the surface to see if the water is indeed water, to see if everything is safe. Nothing is safe, or reliable, and often others don’t have our best interests at heart.


    David and Franny are not your typical couple. Franny is a large presence, a woman who does her own thing, often keeping secrets from her husband, wandering behind their house into the woods on a regular basis. David is a former dentist who has slowly fractured in the wake of his family’s demise and the loss of his practice. The domestic life seems normal on the surface—reading the newspaper, filling out the crossword puzzles—but from the beginning, Franny has had to take care of David, accustomed to his wandering mind:

    “FRANNY had never faulted him his confusions. Once, a group of squabbling jays stopped them on a walk. Two of the birds were circling each other, ducking and weaving, thrusting beak to wing, falling back. The group around that central pair collectively made a noise like rushing water. They spread their blue wings. It looked like someone had dropped a scarf on the ground. They moved in a unified line around the fighters in the center.

    She took his hand. ‘You’re in the road,’ she said.”

    It’s not clear at what point David started to fall apart. Maybe it was the death of his sister, who drowned in five inches of water. Or maybe it was the death of his father and subsequent institutionalization of his mother. But wherever he is mentally when the novel starts, it is the death of Franny that unhinges him completely. Take this early exchange with Detective Chico:

    “David knew he would enjoy very much the feeling of a woman placing her palms on his face. ‘Someone altered my clocks,’ he said.

    ‘We don’t want to alter your clocks, sir.’

    The paranoia that David carries with him slowly creates an aura of mental instability, and we learn early on that whatever surreal passages Gray throws at us, reality and truth are merely shadows and hints. Is the man down the street who looks exactly like David a figment of his imagination, or just a strange coincidence? Have people really been seeing Franny on buses, or are these just reflections of grief? Are his neighbors really out to get him? Are they watching him with stolen glances, normal behavior when witnessing a man mumbling to himself while boarding up his windows in a robe and slippers?

    TO READ THE REST GO TO THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    Reader Jan

    Unsettling and unsatisfying - depressing without resolution. Interesting for its structure, and lack therof. Not a light read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2012

    Waste of time and money!

    If it weren't for the fact that I hate to not finish a book I've started, I would have stopped reading this after the first chapter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Poetic, surreal, haunting

    This has quicly turned into one of my favorite books of all time

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2013

    I didn't understand

    I like to think I'm a fairly advanced reader, but I never fully understood what was happening in this story. Perhaps that was the author's intent. Just when I thought I had it pegged, something even weirder would occur. Is it a story about a dentist's decline into mental illness or is it some kind of conspiracy? If you like complicated novels, this is for you. I couldn't stop reading, despite my confusion.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    A New Kind of Horror

    There were times when reading this novel I genuinely wondered, "What is going on"? Once I adjusted to the style, I was able to enjoy the tale. I found the ending unsettling. Recommended for the writing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Difficult read

    Not a summer or light read for sure.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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