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A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel by Paul…
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A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel (edition 2016)

by Paul Tremblay (Author)

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1,4641149,684 (3.76)76
"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)
Member:EsotericCOHMeet
Title:A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel
Authors:Paul Tremblay (Author)
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2016), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
Collections:Literary Cemetery Book Club
Rating:****
Tags:None

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A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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English (113)  Italian (1)  All languages (114)
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
An interesting plot and characters, but it started out scary and became more a family psychological drama. ( )
  Charon07 | Nov 11, 2021 |
I didn't like it as much as I thought I would... I loved the uncertainty around whether or not Meridith was faking (and it was actually really well done, without any strong leanings one way or another), but never felt gripped by Merry (and Karen's blog posts were dreadful). ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
I need to start off by stating very clearly that I officially hate Paul Tremblay.

No writer should be this good.

This book absolutely blew me away on so many levels. Merry is a wonderfully drawn character, as adult, as blogger, and especially as an 8-year-old. Marjorie is finely nuanced and terrifying. You never know where she's going to come from next.

And the story. The story. Everyone I know that wonders why I love horror (especially when I read so much of it and bitch about how shitty it is), now I have a contemporary book (read that as, something other than Stephen King), to point to and say, "This. This right here is EXACTLY why I love horror."

This novel has everything a finely crafted horror story needs. Extremely little gore (only twice, and handled very well). Instead, the story burrows into your head, makes you question whether it's real or not. It makes you uneasy. It fills you with dread.

And it delivers the payoff beautifully.

Honest to God, I could write about all the things I loved about this novel for the rest of the day. Instead, I'll just stop here and say that this is tied with Sarah Lotz's [b:The Three|18453110|The Three|Sarah Lotz|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1379897631s/18453110.jpg|26098356], and Lauren Buekes' [b:The Shining Girls|16131077|The Shining Girls|Lauren Beukes|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352227705s/16131077.jpg|21956898] and [b:Broken Monsters|20706269|Broken Monsters|Lauren Beukes|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1394562848s/20706269.jpg|27869457], as not only the best horror novels I've read this year, but likely the best horror novels I've read in the past decade.

Blew. Me. Away. ( )
1 vote TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
Hmmm. I thought my joy would be higher based on buzz and like-minded readers but nope. I pretty much was bored to death. I think it could be blamed on it being a character driven story (I think don't quiz me on that) which is not my preference. 2* was for me being able to make it to the end. “not bad enough to quit”

I think you’d say it was narrated by a 23 year old woman who is telling the story using her 8 year old self/voice. Meaning the events are told, the story is told, by an 8 year old. *sigh*

Her parents allowed a “reality” TV show to be filmed in their home. They believed/accepted that their 14 year old daughter was possessed. They needed the money so they let the show be taped there. They agreed to taping her exorcism and the days leading up to it.

Kinda 3 ways we are being told the story:
* The bulk of the story is an 8 year old telling us the events.
* Then we have a writer talking to the 23 year old (8 year old grown up) about the events. The 23 year old can add commentary about things not seen on the show.
* Then we have a blogger who is an expert about the TV show. The TV show was so famous that it is studied/remembered. This blogger has dissected it to the smallest details to try to figure out the absolute truth.

He put together a great story. He is a serious fan of the genre and a serious writer. We are just not a good mix.

What the fuck to the shitty parents? What the fuck to Marjorie tricking her sister like that! I thought you loved her, you could of just done the deed yourself knowing Merry doesn't eat tomato sauce. Poor Merry, how can she be "okay" right now? ( )
  Seayla2020 | Aug 20, 2021 |
There's a lot to like here - Meredith's a great character, and I like the thematic references to The Yellow Wallpaper, but overall the story felt contrived. There are some structure problems that made the book feel longer than it was. I think weaving the various timelines together in a non-linear way could have added some tension. Tremblay is skilled, and I'll certainly give him another shot, but if you want a truly masterful creepy sister story, read "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" - from which this story borrows most of its final act. ( )
  jlabarge | Aug 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
Perhaps the most confronting thing about A Head Full of Ghosts is how it interrogates the fine line between what we think of as possession and what is an outward display of severe mental illness. It’s ambiguous which is the case here, but the predatory nature of involving a reality TV show, as well as everyone making Marjorie’s illness about themselves, shows a far more realistic and unsettling horror than just spinning heads.... A Head Full of Ghosts starts a little slow, and the perspective of an eight-year-old may take a little bit to get used to, but if you pick up this book, stick with it. Tremblay’s novel is a slow boil towards a tragic end, but so much of the horror lies in the journey along the way, not just a climactic jump scare. In many ways, it feels like every possession story in the 20th century has led up to this book.
 
Imagine a literary horror novel that riffs on one of the best and creepiest short stories out there, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper: “It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!” Then throw in elements of every tale of possession you’ve read or seen, from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House to William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, and you’ll end up with Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, one of the most frightening books I’ve read this, or any, year....Despite the skill with which Tremblay wields his demons, real or otherwise, whether or not Marjorie is actually possessed ends up not being the point of A Head Full of Ghosts. None of our narrators here, adult or child Merry (a brilliantly-realised eight-year-old girl), or the blogger, who has secrets of her own, are remotely reliable, and Tremblay is elegantly, carefully ambiguous about the situation. But wherever it comes from, there’s real evil at the heart of this book – and just in time for Halloween.
added by Lemeritus | editThe Guardian, Alison Flood (Oct 18, 2016)
 
...it smartly, viscerally exposes the way mass media, the Internet and pop culture have transformed our experience of that primal human impulse, horror.... Tremblay ambitiously structures the story as a pingponging narrative that coalesces into an unsettling conversation about the truth, or what the various characters suspect is the truth.... In essence, A Head Full of Ghosts is a book about a book about a TV show about a real-life event whose facts have never been fully established, with running meta-commentary by a blog that bears its own secret agenda. On top of that, it's told by an eyewitness whose reliability is just as problematic.
 
Tremblay paints a believable portrait of a family in extremis emotionally as it attempts to cope with the unthinkable, but at the same time he slyly suggests that in a culture where the wall between reality and acting has eroded, even the make believe might seem credible. Whether psychological or supernatural, this is a work of deviously subtle horror.
added by Lemeritus | editPublishers Weekly (Apr 20, 2015)
 
When a teenager exhibits early signs of schizophrenia, her parents turn not to traditional psychiatry but to a Catholic priest determined to drive out demons and a sleazy reality TV show eager to get the whole fiasco on tape.... As the adult Merry's memories clash with the televised version of events leading up to the climactic final episode of The Possession—it's not spoiling too much to say that everything that could go wrong does—readers will begin to question if anyone in the house is truly sane.
Tremblay expertly ratchets up the suspense until the tension is almost at its breaking point.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 16, 2015)
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Tremblayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Osmanski, JoyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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
First words
"This must be so difficult for you, Meredith."
Quotations
DC politicians, angry Occupy Wall Street protestors, Tea-Party rallies, unemployment charts and graphs, chaotic courtrooms, ranting talking heads, crying people filing out of the Barter Brothers factory. Within the first minute of the series, we’d already witnessed the new and all-too-familiar American economic tragedy. The show established a sense of gravity, along with an air of unease by using only realism and by first introducing John Barrett: the new and neutered postmillennial male; a living symbol of the patriarchal breakdown of society
The show had horror fans hooked at hello because, frankly, most of us are not picky. We’re like the family dog that wags its tail at a treat, no matter if it’s a crappy store-brand Milk-Bone or a piece of steak.
By the time we finally meet the real Marjorie (and not her Liz Jaffe reenactment stand-in) in the final moment of the pilot, the show has painstakingly built its thematic foundation through realism, through the fears of our deteriorating middle-class and core conservative family values, and through the recycled cultural lessons borrowed or reimagined from the classics of horror literature and film.
Dad tries arguing theology and scripture with the other man, which becomes Dad blaming Father Wanderly (who had “forsaken” him) and the Catholic church for failing and abandoning him and his family, which becomes Dad also blaming the television show producers who duped him into believing what he was doing was for the best, which became Dad lashing out at his former employers, politicians, the economy, modern society, and American culture, which eventually became Dad asking for help and for advice from this other frothing lunatic of a man who never once offered a single word of love or comfort or support and only said that God was unhappy with Dad, unhappy with the whole family.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

"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.

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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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