Paul Tremblay’s A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS
Release date: June 2, 2015
Review by: Daniel Boucher
From the cover:
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.
Wow. I mean, wow. Not since Blake Crouch’s WAYWARD PINES have I been so blown away by such an unexpected ending.
Okay, so first things first: I bought this book based on a tweet by Stephen King, but I have no doubt that it would have made it’s way across my TBR pile regardless. There’s a lot of chatter surrounding it–and for good reason.
A Head Full of Ghosts is, without a doubt, one of my favorite reads of 2015.
If you have ever watched shows like Ghost Hunters, A Haunting or Paranormal Witness on television, then I cannot stress enough how much you
should need to read this book. Seriously. Stop reading this and go download it to your Kindle or eBook reader right now. Go on, I’ll wait.
Oh hey, you’re back. Good. Now…
This story is so completely bat-shit-freaking-crazy-real that when you’re done, you’ll be begging your spouse/parent/other to let you sleep with the light on. No lies. Let’s just say that there’s a scene at night, with a cardboard playhouse and blanket, that had me looking for an episode of Family Guy or something else funny to watch before turning out the light. Ya, I was was scared, and not on the oh-that’s-cute type of way either, but more of a dude-if-someone-so-much-as-lets-one-rip-right-now-I’ll-lose-my-shit type of way. I heard more strange noises trying to fall to sleep that night…
Anyway, A Head Full of Ghosts reads like an episode of reality TV with the benefit of actually getting to be inside the head of one of its (seriously in need of help) participants. The blog segments are really good too, serving as clever way to shed insight without taking the route of boring info-dumps.
I’ve read some of the reviews on Amazon stating there’s nothing scary going on, but I’m here to tell you: they’re wrong.
If you’re reading this novel and not finding yourself scared, then you’re reading it wrong. It’s that simple. These. Sisters. Are. Scary. The father? A complete religious nut-job (who I hated) with an inferiority complex that’d make Hitler blush. The mother? Well, let’s just say that she was about the closest thing to “normal” out of the bunch, and that’s not saying much. And don’t get me started on the creepy, I-need-an-adult, priest that promises to pray all their problems away.
(actually, don’t get me started on religion in general)
There’s a bite scene here that’d make Eli Roth cringe. It’s written so incredibly well, that it plays in your head like a movie. If fact, if you were watching it in a movie, it’d be the part where you’d turn your eyes away from the screen. Crazy.
But that ending. Oh my god, I did not see it coming. I read a lot of reviews prior to reading AHFoG that mentioned a “shocking conclusion,” but if I had a nickel for every “shocking conclusion” I was supposed to read, I’d be a rich man. And let me say, I thought I knew what the “shocking conclusion” was, and while I was like “oh, that’s cool” I was by no means impressed–UNTIL I read the final chapter and was totally blown away.
Listen, DO NOT be a putz and do yourself the disservice of reading the final chapter first. Wait, and read to the end–it’s worth it. And, if for whatever reason you choose to avoid this little nugget of advice, don’t be a dick and spoil it for others. I had someone ruin the ending to THE SIXTH SENSE for me the day I was going to see it. Seriously, don’t be a dick.
I liken the ending of A Head Full of Ghosts to the first time I watched THE EXORCIST. When the priest finally rids Regan of the evil spirit, crashes out the window and the final credits roll, people walked away split. Some thought the priest succeeded by saving Regan’s soul, while others thought the Devil won by possessing the priest in the end. Many have referred to the film’s ending as a “question of faith.”
Similarly, after finishing the final chapter, I started questioning everything that I had just read.
Genius. I loved it.