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A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
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A Head Full of Ghosts

by Paul Tremblay

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5605017,796 (3.8)32
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Unreliable narrators seem to be a theme in my reading these days. Paul Tremblay’s [A Head Full of Ghosts] has a good one – and it makes for some serious spook.

Fourteen year old Marjorie may be exhibiting an early life schizophrenic break. Or she’s possessed. Her father has lost his job, perhaps because of his own mental health issues. The strain has sent into a late-life religious fervor that pushes him toward his own conclusions about what is happening to his doctor. Without income, he signs the family up to be the subjects of a reality television series while a local Catholic priest performs an exorcism. Caught in the mayhem is Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. It is through her eyes that the crisis plays out on the pages – both through her young eyes, and then, later, through her adult eyes, looking back. Merry is never sure, even as an adult, what happened in those fateful days when her sister is melting down.

This book was a recommendation from the horror master himself – Stephen King – who said the book “scared the living hell out of me.” With that kind of recommendation, it’s hard to pass on the read. But the mystery was more palpable than the horror, especially as told by someone who can’t seem to come to her own conclusion about what happened, even though she witnesses it. It’s a compelling read.

Bottom Line: Another unreliable narrator – is she crazy or is she possessed.

4 bones!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Nov 29, 2017 |
I wanted to read a creepy book leading up to Halloween and boy, I nailed it with this one.

C-R-E-E-P-Y

The book is told in 3 different ways:
First you have Merry tell her story in bits and pieces throughout to Rachel Neville, a best-selling author, who is going to write her story - 15yrs after the fact (this way was okay and ultimately gave you the most answers).

Then you have Karen, the blogger dissecting the TV show, The Possession, which is based on the Barrett family story (this way was my least favorite until towards the end, there's also a twist here).

And third, you have Merry telling us the story as she remembers itat 8yrs old, in real time (this way was the creepiest and the majority of the book).

It's the story of the Barrett family and all that they went through when Merry's older sister, Marjorie, became possessed with a demon when she was 14. ( )
  Sharn | Nov 1, 2017 |
This was our October book club pick. Yes I am going to start posting a picture with my reviews pertaining to the title of the book. I loved this book! This is a story about a young girl who is either schizophrenic or is possessed by spirits. You think you figured it out but then they throw curve balls at you. It was a crazy roller coaster ride all the way to the end. Perfect for any horror movie fan as well with all the references. The only thing I did not like was the blog. It confused me at first and I finally got the answer at the end but still didn't like it. Although I wouldn't recommend skipping the blog chapters because there is one important detail in it that you will not read anywhere else in the book. Did the end surprise me? Absolutely! I did not see that coming at all! ( )
  booklover3258 | Oct 12, 2017 |
My fourth offering in Halloween 2017 discusses Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts, an excellent horror novel that offers some of the best writing about children that you can find in any genre. Tremblay's writing is ambiguous enough to give the reader room to determine what really happens in this novel that may or may not deal with the paranormal while maintaining a tight plot - no small feat. Since I ran on at length, as I always do, I'm going to share a snippet of my review - if you want the whole thing, I have a link at the bottom.

"Limiting my word count discussing this novel is going to be difficult because this book lends itself well to many different avenues of analysis: blog culture, reality television shows and the exploitation that often goes along with them, the impact of a faltering economy on the American family, how toxic families create children who are far more in tune to their environment than we give them credit for, and how religion, when espoused disingenuously, can make any terrible situation so much worse. This book was absorbing and tight up until the last 20 pages or so – I really dislike the ending, though I am not entirely sure why – and I plowed through it in two sittings. It was a book I didn’t want to put down until I reached the end. It’s been a while since a mainstream horror novel made me want to sit up all night and keep reading.

Here’s a quick synopsis: The Barrett family is experiencing a perfect storm. John, the father, lost his working class but well-paying job and cannot find another. His unemployment has run out and they are about to lose everything because Sarah, the mother, works as a bank teller and cannot support a family of four on her salary. Eight-year-old Meredith, known mainly as Merry, is a sensitive and intelligent child and she’s the conduit through which we see the collapse of the Barrett family. Her older sister, fourteen-year-old Marjorie, is showing signs of schizophrenia and psychiatry does not seem to be helping. Her behavior becomes more and more unhinged and her father turns to a Catholic priest, Father Wanderly, for guidance. The priest convinces John that perhaps Marjorie is possessed by some sort of demon and just happens to have a contact with a reality television show that wants to film the Barrett family during the lead-up to an exorcism. I’m going to be careful here because it is so easy to give up spoilers but it won’t spoil too much to state that the decisions the adults make in this book destroy the family and, even though I hate the ending, I don’t know how else it could have ended. Perhaps I hate the ending because Marjorie and Merry deserved so much better, which is probably the entire point of this book. Merry’s story is told through her perspective as an adult and through the prose of an interviewer who is writing a book about the Barretts and the TV show that followed them. There is also very interesting information about the show in a blog written by a very informed but terribly twee writer whose well-versed entries add a lot to the story when I wasn’t cringing at her style."

The whole, pretty long discussion can be found here. ( )
  oddbooks | Oct 5, 2017 |
A Head Full of Ghosts is a creep of a book, full of youthful misremembering and the lies we tell to save ourselves from our own personal horror. ( )
  JaredOrlando | Oct 3, 2017 |
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Epigraph
My memory, she was first to the plank, and the B-movie played in the aisle. - Future of the Left, "An Idiot's Idea of Ireland"

It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please! - Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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. - Bad Religion, "My Head Is Full of Ghosts"
Dedication
For Emma, Stewart, and Shirley
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"This must be so difficult for you, Meredith."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
From the Back Cover
A chilling domestic drama that blends psychological suspense with a touch of modern horror from a new, brilliantly imaginative master

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 bizarre outbursts and subsequent descent into madness. As their 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 for a reality television show. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and medical bills looming, the family reluctantly agrees to be filmed—never imagining that The Possession would become an instant hit. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the 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 from her childhood—she was just eight years old—painful memories and long-buried secrets that clash with the television broadcast and the Internet blogs begin to surface. A mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising disturbing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

A Head Full of Ghosts is a terrifying tale told with inventive literary flair and unrelenting suspense that craftily, cannily, and inexorably builds to a truly shocking ending.
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"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 bizarre outbursts and subsequent descent into madness. As their 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 for a reality television show."--Book jacket.… (more)

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