A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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 out-bursts 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. (Published: 2015/Pages: 284)

This novel starts out with a bang, quickly introducing you to the Barrett family including Mr. & Mrs. Barrett, Merry (8) and Marjorie (14). Mr. Barrett is unemployed, leaving Mrs. Barrett as the sole bread – winner of the family which has started to add stress on the family dynamics. You are taken on a brief backstory of the couple and some of the challenges they faced leading up to Marjorie and her onset of odd behavior. Marjorie starts to display outlandish behaviors, abnormal outbursts and what appears to be the beginning signs of a mental illness doctors seem to believe is schizophrenia. The onset of Marjorie’s symptoms brings added financial and emotional stress on an already fragile family dynamic. The family at a breaking point starts to grieve and cope in their own ways, Merry the youngest grips to anyone she can in hopes of understanding, this including her ill sister Marjorie. Mrs. Barrett turns into herself, withdrawing with sorrow and using alcohol as a means of escape; While Mr. Barrett seems to find religion, turning to a priest for answers on how to help his oldest daughter. Mr. Barrett and the Priest begin to discuss the possibility of possession as Marjorie’s issue at hand. Thus throwing the family into becoming part of a TV show called The Possession, which would feature the family and showcase the past/present experiences leading up to a live exorcism on Marjorie. The TV show however, seems to create nothing but more stress, slowly tearing the family apart more as time goes on. All this is told through the viewpoint of grown-up Merry to a woman whom is planning on writing a novel about the family and their experiences during this time. Merry, at the end reveals what happened after the show ended and the repercussions of her parents decisions along the way. Leaving the reader with a heartbreaking and unforeseen event for all.

Wow!!! This novel had a little bit of everything! It sucked me in full force from page one and kept my attention until the tragic and unforeseen ending. I seriously thought I had it all figured out, knowing just what was going on, only to be thrown off my game time and time again. I enjoyed every single second reading this thriller. It wasn’t necessarily scary or what I would deem horror, however, I would say this was a fantastic psychological thriller, making me wonder what could possibly happen next to this poor family. I loved the characters, I loved the fast – paced plot and I found myself feeling for the family by the end. I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the writing, being the blog entries included throughout (honestly the only thing I really could do without). This was a truly fantastic novel, diving deep into the dynamics of a broken home searching for answers during a life changing event and just how simple it is to miss things happening right in front of you. This is without a doubt a must – read for anyone who loves a good twist, characters with depth or are looking for strong female leads. Absolute page – turner, one you can’t miss. Tremblay proves to be a talent and I look forward to reading more from him.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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