How well do you know the person sleeping next to you?
Do they sneak off at lunchtimes for secret Big Macs? Or do they like to pee in the shower, yet hurriedly agree with you when you say how disgusting it is? Maybe they absolutely hate Stranger Things but watch it with you anyway?
Perhaps a better question is: How well do you need to know the person sleeping next to you?
To my great shame, Come With Me is the first Ronald Malfi book I’ve ever read. And, what’s more, I had to be forced into reading it by copious Tik Toks urging me to take a chance and read it. Even then I was dubious. The blurb reads more like a noir drama with horror elements rather than a true horror novel. However, I. Was. Wrong. This book is horror in all its unflinching glory. A testament to the domestic insulation that intimate hauntings can create.
And that twist?! Fuggedaboutit.
Come With Me Book Synopsis
Come With Me explains the complicated relationship between Aaron Decker and his recently deceased wife. Allison (the wife) was killed in a mass-shooting (I’d put a trigger warning here, but honestly, turn on the news any given day and you’ll see fact far worse than fiction) at the local shopping mall. Allison in her scarlet beret is hailed as a hero for trying to halt the gunman, but her bravery afforded no protection to the wrong end of a bullet.
It’s shortly after her death, as the walk-in closet light begins to flicker on and off, and strange things begin appearing in their “magic spot” (a plinth within the closet), that Aaron begins to see a figure watching him from the dark. And he learns about a decade-long hunt that Allison conducted in secret for a man only she believes is a serial killer.
As he begins to follow in Allison’s footsteps in the years before her death, he begins to uncover an Allison that he doesn’t recognise, that has done things that he could never have imagined, an entire life’s work that she’s hidden from him. The man she supposedly loved.
Stuart D. Monroe writes the quintessential one line that sums up the book beautifully when he says, “Aaron Decker is going to risk his life in a journey that will teach him what it truly means to be both haunted and hunted” (cue goosebumps!).
Who is the ‘Other’ in Come With Me?
What do we mean by ‘Other’?
The ‘Other’ is a construct that finds itself in a vast plethora of different disciplines of literature and film. On the surface, the ‘Other’ appears to have an easy definition: something different from ourselves. While this is partly true, the ‘Other’ in our case must serve a greater function. The ‘Other’ must reinforce our ideals of who we are. Our society, culture, and ideals are all tightened when faced with the extraneous and (primarily) dangerous ‘Other’.
Malfi in his Come With Me book takes this concept and reapplies it in a vastly more chilling way. His ‘Other’, on a first read, appears to be the serial killer that Allison is hunting. This fits with our definition. The serial killer operates outside of the bonds of society which we all tacitly agree too. He reinforces them because, as Aaron retraces his wife’s steps, he sees the fallout of that killer’s actions. However, on a closer inspection of the text, we understand the true haunting at the core of Come With Me: Allison as ‘Other’.
On his journey through Allison’s obsession, Aaron begins to doubt the woman he knew. Aggressive behaviour, detailed and malicious lies, and a tenacity to dwell within the macabre all become evidence that Allison never truly let Aaron into the deepest depths of herself. In doing this, Malfi creates a miasma of doubt as to who the real Allison was.
And it’s in this secondary layer of the text that we get the true horror of the novel.
Malfi is not singular in his approach to marriage (the heteronormative kind anyway). Many of you may be remembering King’s own short story that dealt with a similar premise, albeit with the gender’s reversed. However, Malfi outdoes himself and sets himself apart from the heritage he is part of through a diversification of expectations that allows him to engage horror fans in a new and exciting way.
Through manipulating Aaron’s expectations of his wife, and knowledge of who he believed she was, most of us who sleep beside a significant other are forced to ask ourselves: How much do we need to know about them?
Last Updated on June 7, 2022.