A Head Full of Ghosts

Always on the lookout for more authors like Stephen King, I picked up this book by Paul Tremblay, without much knowledge of who he is. However, it was the premise of the book that sucked me in and boy, am I glad I gave this book a chance. So, does he live up to the high standards of horror that King has set? Read on!

The Story

The plot revolves around the Barrett family, who are a typical New England family of dad and mom and two daughters, Merry and Marjorie. Marjorie seems to have developed schizophrenia, where she begins to hear voices, which keeps her younger sister Merry somewhat preoccupied in her late night games. The parents look after Marjorie, seeking the help of doctor and all, but somehow the situation seemingly goes out of control.

Enters Father Wanderly, a catholic priest, who comes into the scene to perform an exorcism. He is convinced Marjorie has been possessed by a demon and is not a schizophrenic. All the while this is happening, a TV reality show The Possession is covering the events of everything that happens inside the house, prior to the exorcism and the exorcism itself.

Is Marjorie really possessed? Is she actually just a schizophrenic? Are the TV reality show just seeking out to make money? Who is right and who is playing games here?

Fifteen years later, Merry recalls the events of the house to a best selling writer. Merry was only 8 years old at the time of the exorcism that took place. Long buried secrets come out and everything is revealed, or so it seems. In a novel about science versus faith, reality versus fiction, mental health versus possession, we have a lot of ground to cover, with some rather disastrous consequences.

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My Thoughts

In all honesty, I really wanted to like the book. There are enough great ideas in here to make it a very likeable book. I loved the angle the writer explores between schizophrenia and possession. Are the voices inside the head really the demon? What are those voices and where do they come from? A lot of times when I read about people being possessed, my first reaction is that it’s all in the head. So this element was explored rather well.

The write also self-references The Exorcist a lot in the book, and brings it up several times. So before we can go on to accuse the writer of ripping off The Exorcist, he throws it back at us that he acknowledges the importance and greatness of The Exorcist. (at times, this often gave me a feeling that the book is ultimately a fan fiction from someone who loves The Exorcist!)

The reality tv show angle was interesting to read too, given how there is such a crazy interst in reality tv shows today, which made this book current and relevant. However, this part of the book did slow down the narrative and pacing, and I found myself skimming over most of these chapters.

In parts, there were some moments that were really creepy, and I totally can relate to Stephen King’s endorsement of the book, “Scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare.” These moments in the book for me were the exchanges between the two sisters. You could never tell whether Marjorie was playing all along, or whether she is really possessed? Is she seeking attention and want more attention over her sister, or is she really suffering from schizophrenia?

The Ending

As with such novels, the ending becomes a make it or break it deal, and in this case, I felt the writer actually makes it with a satisfactory ending. I don’t really try to rack my brain while reading the novel trying to figure out the ending. I just take it as it comes, and this time round, there were two twists that caught me unaware, which I absolutely loved!

In short, I enjoyed reading this book, but I wouldn’t say I was thrilled to bits. I will see what else he has written to make a better judgment, but as for now, Stephen King can safely rest on his pedestal as the world’s greatest living horror writer!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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