A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay #bookreviews

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when 23019294fourteen-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. – Goodreads.com

If you’re looking for a book to put you in the mindset of ghosts and ghouls and all things Halloween, look no further.  The concept of making a reality show out of a possibly possessed teenage girl is one I’ve never seen in a book  – but what a great idea!  I guess it’s only a matter of time before some network tries to do this.

Alternating between her 8-year-old and 23-year-old perspectives, most of this story is told by Merry, who has a case of hero worship when it comes to her older sister, Marjorie.  Through Merry’s eyes, we see Marjorie display many of the same behaviors as Regan in The Exorcist and the gradual deterioration of her family from the stresses of Marjorie’s illness, the reality show, unemployment, and bills.  I’m not venturing into spoiler territory when I say an 8-year-old girl should be considered an unreliable narrator, and that’s what makes this such an intelligent and remarkable story.  When all is said and done, the reader is left to decide for themselves what really happened.  Was Marjorie really possessed or were her actions more typical of a psychological disturbance?  I thought about this for a few days before writing this review and looked on Goodreads to see what other readers were saying, but the conclusion is left open to interpretation.

The story is interspersed with blog posts by a horror writer who analyzes the episodes of the reality show and although I understand the importance of this, it interrupted the flow of the story for me.

A Head Full of Ghosts has some truly chilling, look-over-your-shoulder, sleep-with-the-lights-on moments and should be required reading for horror fans.

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