The lives of the Barretts, a 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 halt 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, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls the terrifying events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories begin to surface and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed.
I came across A Head Full Of Ghosts in Goodreads and it immediately caught my attention. The ratings and reviews were great and I thought the topic (exorcisms!) was awesome. I had never read a book about it before. A Head Full Of Ghosts was my first and it certainly has set the bar high.
The book centers around the relationship between two sisters: Marjorie and Merry. Twenty-five years after “the exorcism” took place, Merry is being interviewed by a best-selling writer who wants to know what really happened. And so Merry starts telling the story of her sister’s descent into madness. Or was she possessed by a demon? And what happened after that?
The book wasn’t terrifying (then again, I don’t usually get scared with fiction), but it definitely creeped me out. I need to warn future readers: some scenes were disturbing and extremely hard to read. However, if I’m being completely honest, those were also my favorites. The novel has a general unsettling feeling, so it won’t be for everyone and you must know it includes some graphic scenes.
With A Head Full Of Ghosts, there isn’t a definite theory by the time you reach the final page. Don’t expect the book to give you all the answers, because you won’t find that here. Instead, there are plenty of possibilities, you just need to choose your favorite. The author has made it clear that you can believe whatever you want. That’s the magic of fiction and, of course, I already have my own theory of what happened. But I can’t help wanting to know what the truth really was. Maybe there isn’t one, but I’m curious like that and I always need to know, so this frustrated me a little bit.
The “twist” was so chilling I had to close the book for a moment in order to process what I had read. Let’s say there’s a jaw-dropping “revelation” in the final chapters that will leave you feeling uneasy. I had the same reaction with Sharp Objects (not that the ending is remotely similar) and that’s one of my favorite books, so this is definitely a compliment. Long live creepy endings!
Another section I enjoyed reading were the “blogging” chapters, filled with meta-references and endless talk about horror films. I’m a massive film geek, so those paragraphs were incredibly fun to read and now I want to be friends with Paul Tremblay and have him recommend me lots of movies to watch. His writing was simply brilliant.
Can’t wait for the movie!
Titan Books, 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.