Eyes To See
Hardcover, 320 pages, $22.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
The oxymoron of the blind seer is superbly executed in Eyes To See by Joseph Nassise. In Nassise’s take on the archetypal character, there’s a hint of Greek tragedy thrown in: Jeremiah Hunt, the novel’s protagonist, performs a ritual born of remorse that renders him sightless; like self-blinding Oedipus Rex, Hunt is a guilt-ridden figure. Holding himself responsible for the disappearance, five years earlier, of his young daughter, Jeremiah is still trying to locate the lass. During the interim, he’s become a quasi-ghostbuster/exorcist: His lack of conventional vision permits him to interact with the dead, and literally see through their eyes. The inherent ironic appropriateness of the situation is splendidly spun by the author; who deftly guides emotionally haunted Hunt into the realm of those who habitually haunt.
The supernatural encounters are copious and creepy. A particularly chilling passage concerns the atmosphere of despondency created by a vindictive ghost: “A sudden, overwhelming sense of despair washed over us. One moment we were perfectly fine and the next, drowning in a sea of emotion. It was the helplessness of a young child lost at the county fair without a familiar face in sight, the horror of a prisoner facing a life sentence in a six-by-eight box of a cell, the utter hopelessness of watching your family slaughtered horribly before your eyes while you lay bound on the floor, unable to do anything to stop it, all rolled up into one neat little package.”
Socializing with specters feeds Jeremiah’s reclusiveness. Once an esteemed Harvard professor, he is now regarded with disdain and dismay; the obsession to find his kid alienates him from all else. When a case involving a serial killer provides tantalizing leads to her, Jeremiah grudgingly asks for assistance from two other “gifted” individuals: a powerful, attractive witch who instructs him on harnessing skills; and a mysterious terse bar owner who has his fingers in many unusual pies. The trio uncovers a vicious and vile vendetta, involving those adept in occult practices.
Despite the intensity of the narrative, the book is laced with humor, albeit of the cynical/sardonic variety. Consider this description of Boston’s City Hall: “The building is dark and depressing, a monument to technocracy that seems to suck the life out of you the minute you walk through the doors. It is somehow poetic justice that it was here that the city planners placed both the registry of motor vehicles and the city morgue, as if spending too long in one might lead you to end up in the other.”
On the serious side, for Jeremiah Hunt, seeing what’s beyond the veil is both empowering and debilitating. The road to closure proves extremely rocky. Eyes To See is scary and tender, horrifying and heartbreaking. Joseph Nassise masterfully looks at complacency shattered by a single event. Doors may close, but possibilities can open in consequence. Nassise reminds that there is more involved in perception than meets the eye.