title: A Head Full of Ghosts
author: Paul Tremblay
published: May 2016
first line: This must be so difficult for you, Meredith.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.
The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.
I purchased A Head Full of Ghosts because I wanted to dive into something scary. This was my first time reading Paul Tremblay and the premise looked good. Plus, this is what Stephen King said about this book: “A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare”. If that’s not a horror recommendation I don’t know what is.
The book centers around twenty-something Merry Barrett as she tells a writer named Rachel the story of what happened to her family when she was just eight years old. Rachel is going to write a book on the Barretts. When Merry was eight her fourteen year old sister Marjorie started exhibiting symptoms of demonic possession. The Barrett family was having financial difficulties at the time because the dad John Barrett lost his job. When Marjorie begins acting strange it puts a strain on the entire family. She was talking in bizarre and weird voices, cursing and having erratic outbursts.
After treatments from the doctor didn’t work, the family obtained help from the Catholic church. After observing Marjorie, Father Wanderly got permission to perform an exorcism. On top of all this, the Barrett’s got a tv documentary deal so there was a film crew living in their home for a few weeks filming the family daily. The Barrett’s agreed to the documentary which aired weekly and made them somewhat infamous because they needed the money. The exorcism is aired on tv.
I enjoyed how the author pulled me in here, Merry tells a terrifying story and I was on the edge of my seat while reading. She’s an endearing character and you want her to be okay but she is an unreliable narrator so you never truly know what happened.
I wondered where Paul Tremblay would go with the story because halfway through I started thinking this book could easily start to resemble a retelling of The Exorcist which is of my favorite horror novels. I was not disappointed. This one does throw nods to The Exorcist but manages to remain original.
The book culminates into a nice cringeworthy twist at the end that left me speechless. The twist is what seals the deal. I also enjoyed how the book plays with you a little as you read, you never really know what is truly going on. I wondered whether Marjorie was really possessed or mentally ill or maybe both. I feared for Merry and her interactions with her older sister in that state were scary but also sad. Merry idolized her older sister like most little sisters do. I also really enjoyed the whole reality tv twist to the story due to the documentary about the family being filmed.
A Head Full of Ghosts was fantastic horror and I recommend it to fans of the genre. This one is not for the faint of heart some of the scenes are shocking. Ugh, the basement scenes. I wanted to hide under the covers.
“In a way, my personal history not being my own, being literally and figuratively haunted by outside forces, is almost as horrible as what actually happened. Almost.”- A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
I sneak into your room when you are asleep, Merry-monkey. I’ve been doing it for weeks now, since the end of summer. You’re so pretty when you’re asleep. Last night, I pinched your nose shut until you opened your little mouth and gasped.”- A Head Full of Ghosts
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
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