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As part of my fall reading, I like to choose a few books that have the potential to scare the living daylights out of me. A Head Full of Ghosts has received a great deal of praise in the horror world since its release, claiming that it’s reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. How could I possibly resist that?
In my opinion, there’s nothing more frightening than the idea of slowly slipping into the depths of madness, losing your grip on reality, succumbing to voices in your head, and having the person you once were fade away. These are all events that can actually occur, and that makes them even scarier, but what if you’re not suffering from a mental illness, what if you’re just the unlucky victim and vessel of demonic possession? Now that’s absolutely frightening!
Paul Tremblay has taken these elements and has written a very modern, inventive, creative story about an average suburban family in desperate times. The Barretts could be any family in America. John Barrett lost his long-time job, money is tight, the mortgage is due, and spaghetti is on the menu once again. Their fourteen-year-old daughter is behaving abnormally (even for a teenager), and her therapy sessions haven’t brought the desired results. Merry, their eight-year-old daughter is just an energetic, precocious little girl who likes attention. Oh, but this family is going through something that most families don’t ever encounter (thankfully).
With all that’s going on, John has turned to the church and his faith in order to find some comfort and wisdom during these trying times. When the local priest suggests that the family participate in a reality show about possession, John believes it could be the answer to their problems.
Now, I truly enjoyed how this novel was presented to the reader. Fifteen years after the show, Merry is being interviewed by an author for an upcoming non-fiction novel on her family’s life. She is being questioned on what transpired around the filming of The Possession, their reality show. While Merry, at times, seemed like an unreliable narrator, this amped up the tension in the story. I never really knew what to believe. Merry’s recounting of the events was creepy and had my pulse racing. To top it off, there were a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming (I love that).
A Head Full of Ghosts was an entertaining, eerie reading experience that provided me with the desired scare factor that I was looking for. While it kept me on the edge of my seat, I must admit that the story also made me feel a great deal of sadness for the Barrett family.