Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts
Author: Paul Tremblay
Publisher: William Morrow
Number of Pages: 286
My Rating: 4 Summary from Goodreads.com: 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’m not gonna lie- this book scared the shit out of me. I’m the biggest sissy in the world when it comes to anything even remotely frightening (I cover my eyes when a preview for a horror movie comes on) and I read somewhere that Stephen King said this one terrified him …so naturally I had to check it out.
A Head Full of Ghosts is about the Barretts, a regular family who soon become haunted by their fourteen-year-old daughter’s unraveling. Told from the point of view of eight-year-old Merry, she knows that her sister Marjorie has been acting really strange but the doctor’s appointments her parents keep bringing her to don’t seem to help. Merry used to look up to and admire her older sister, but Marjorie’s morbid stories and scary behavior quickly make her unsure of their once-solid relationship.
Desperate to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness, their parents contact a local priest who is positive she is possessed by a demon and the only way to treat her is to perform an exorcism. When he suggests they contact a production company to record it all in order to help pay the looming medical bills, the family has no choice but to agree. What they capture on film will never be forgotten by those who lived through it.
I liked the different points-of-view the story was told from; mainly young Merry who was witnessing it all firsthand but also Merry of fifteen years later who is looking back at that horrible time to share the events with a reporter. There are also some parts by a blogger who analyzes the reality show and points out similarities and inconsistencies of the whole ordeal.
Paul Tremblay’s writing was simply amazing. The descriptions were so vivid and the story so real that when I was describing scenes to people it was like I actually experienced it firsthand. Given the subject matter and the insane things that happen in this book, that is a terrifying statement. I truly felt like I was watching it all unfold from a front row seat and that was enough to convince me I couldn’t read this book at night.
Overall, A Head Full of Ghosts was exactly what I thought it would be and yet so much more than I was expecting. It’s a horror novel at its core but also a mystery/psychological thriller that will leave you with more twists and questions than you can imagine. I truly loved Tremblay’s writing and I can’t wait to read more of his work. Make sure you check this one out! But, be careful, you don’t want it all to get to your head.