Friday, 31 March 2017
BOOK REVIEW: A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS BY PAUL TREMBLAY
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 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.
If it scared the hell out of Stephen King, then Bram Stoker Award winning Paul Tremblay's new novel might be worth taking notice of. If many readers have noticed, exorcism is back in TV series and novels with the revival of the '70s shock horror The Exorcist which continues the story of what happened after Reagan McNeill's possession by ancient Sumerian demon, Pazuzu.
Meredith Barrett is similar in that she has been affected by the possession of her sister by a dangerous entity. As the story is already the part of a successful TV show, she decides to get an author on board, one who will turn her sister's story into an equally successful novel. There is one problem with her story, whether she is telling the truth about what happened to her sister, her struggles with her breakdown and intense mental illness.
Readers will have to carefully think about what they would have done in Meredith's shoes. Would someone who has gone through watching their sister go through so much trauma after an exorcism want to rake up the past to have a book written about it? It also brings into question how Meredith felt about her sister; whether she resented her and now wants some kind of compensation out of her for part ruining her home life.
What readers get to see is the first part where Father Wanderly is brought into Meredith's family to help them rid her sister of a demonic entity, but more than anything else rather than hearing about the story of the possession, readers get to see what happened and make their own conclusions on whether or not Meredith is telling the truth, replacing it with sensationalism. In allowing Father Wanderly into their home along with a TV crew, their life is turned into nothing more than a reality TV drama watched by all and early on getting out of control to the point they regret ever doing it.
The story is creepy, strange and compelling in a way I had not expected. With a set of characters and twists so crafty they appear when you least see them coming.