Kakorrhaphiophobia: Chris DeVito
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
This novel begins with Jennifer in the midst of an anxiety attack. Her heart races, throat clenches, and sweat beads across her body, as she tries to complete an errand most of us would view as mundane – grocery shopping. Ever since her husband died in a car accident, Jennifer has suffered from kakorrhaphiophobia, an extreme fear of failure which prevents her from completing even the simplest tasks. With the combination of heartbreak and unrelenting anxiety, Jennifer quits her job as an investment banker in New York City and moves to a small town, where she hopes to rebuild her life as a volunteer at an outreach program for the elderly. But a sinister entity in her new home threatens to destroy the stability she seeks.
When I read the first chapter, I was engrossed. Author Chris DeVito perfectly captures the experience of an anxiety attack, and you can’t help but be drawn in as Jennifer battles her own internal thoughts. Logically she knows no serious harm will come to her if she stammers while talking to the cashier, but her condition poisons her internal dialogue, criticizing every move she makes, plummeting her self-worth to rock bottom. But the momentum of this scene feels abandoned as the rest of the story unfolds.
After the initial scene, the novel progresses very slowly, spending copious amounts of time with the main character doing menial chores like putting groceries away, exercising, and getting ready for bed. In all this time we’re inside Jennifer’s thoughts, but only the surface layer. I was hoping to explore her memories, discover more about the intricacies of her relationship with her husband before his passing, and learn what her hopes and dreams are for the future (even if her condition would prevent her from taking steps to achieve them). Without delving into these aspects, the character and story felt hollow. And worse, the reading became repetitive.
I found myself skimming through pages, waiting for deeper reflections as the character went through the same motions over and over. Even the language used became monotonous. Nearly half of the sentences throughout the book begin with “She,” often with several sentences in a row starting the same way. Normally I’m so consumed by a story that I don’t notice word patterns, but since I didn’t find myself invested in the plot the unvaried prose jumped out at me.
The storyline itself held promise – a character trying to insulate herself from the world finding her sanctuary isn’t safe – but the other elements of the book killed any chance to gain traction. Everyone Jennifer meets is super nice, like “Leave It to Beaver” nice, which created another void in building tension as there were no conflicts between the characters.
Since the cover touts this tale as a “Paranormal Thriller” I expected heaps of tension, with the stakes constantly being raised for the main character. Unfortunately, the threats fail to pull the story taut and I was not thrilled.
However, I do want to say again that the opening chapter was fantastic. If I had read that first section as a stand-alone short story, I would be praising it as great dramatic fiction.
A single flash of twisted metal and steel is all it takes to shatter Jennifer’s life forever. The drunk driver took her husband’s life but she lives on. Depression. Survivor guilt. Anxiety. They all take their hold like a vice grip.
Jennifer has gone from being an investment banker in Manhattan and having nerves of steel, to not being able to perform the simplest tasks without feeling the most crippling fear. To escape her despair and anxiety, she has moved to a small southern town where she sits alone in the new house she has made her prison. So she can avoid people and the panic they now bring.
She thought she knew fear, she thought she knew terror, until she hears the loud knocking at her front door.
But the real horror may already be inside…
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan