I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Published by William Morrow on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Horror, Mental Illness
Source: the Publisher
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A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
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 TV 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 have to fill my head with something other than the ghosts.”
Fifteen years ago, 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett began to manifest signs of schizophrenia. Her parents, John and Sarah, took her to doctors and psychiatrists even though the financial burden was great since John was unemployed at the time. When the medication only seems to make her worse, her father who recently discovered religion, becomes convinced that Marjorie is possessed and enlists the help of a Catholic priest. The Barrett family also gains the interest of a producer interested in helping with their financial troubles by turning their domestic nightmare into a reality show. Marjorie’s little sister Merry was only 8-years-old and now fifteen years later she’s telling the whole sordid story of what truly happened.
In addition to the recollections of now 23-year-old Merry who is rehashing her childhood for the purpose of a non-fiction novel being written about her, we’re given posts by a blogger by the name of Karen Brissette who scrutinizes each and every aspect of the six-episode run of the simply named show The Possession. References to pop-culture are constant, comparing Marjorie’s actions to The Exorcist and various other movies of the same ilk. She makes many other valid points regarding the validity of Marjorie’s actions making you wonder if she’s simply following a script. Is she truly possessed? Is she actually mentally ill? Or is she simply a 14-year-old girl that is acting out for some unknown purpose? But the most interesting question of all is why this Karen Brissette is interested so much in this family in the first place.
With this story written not only through the eyes of an 8-year-old who immediately becomes an unreliable narrator, we’re given that additional overlying haze with everything being filmed. It’s difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction, who is mentally ill and who is simply acting. Your mind will constantly churn out possibilities to clear the overall ambiguity, but the veil won’t fall until the very end. Tremblay has constructed an intricately built story about simple truths and just how convoluted people can make them.
Do you wanna know a secret?
Will you hold it close and dear?
This will not be made apparent,
But you and I are not alone in here.
My head is full of ghosts.
“My Head Is Full Of Ghosts” – Bad Religion