A Head Full Of Ghosts was written by Paul Tremblay, an author that I have not read in the past. It's billed as a melding between psychological thriller and horror novel. I'd say that fits pretty well. I've also seen Mark Z. Danielewski's House Of Leaves mentioned, as well as Shirley Jackson's books. Have you read either of those authors? I tried to read House Of Leaves at one point, but stalled. I think I've read a Shirley Jackson book, but can't remember which or maybe I'm just remembering watching a movie based on one of her books. So, do you like horror stories? Or horror movies? I like some of them, but not all. I like Stephen King's early books, and I remember watching The Exorcist and The Omen and other scary movies of that era. This book took me back to that type of storytelling.
The Barrett family is going through hard times. The father, John, has been out of work for over a year. The mother, Sarah, works as a bank teller, but can't really make enough to pay all the expenses. There are two daughters, 14-year-old Marjorie and 8-year-old Merry. Marjorie becomes ill with some pretty strange symptoms. She might be experiencing mental illness, as she tells her little sister about the 'voices' in her head. Her parents take her to a psychiatrist, but her symptoms worsen. John Barrett turns to his church for help and shares his fears with a priest. As Marjorie continues to fall further and further into a type of madness, the priest suggests that she might be possessed. At this point, you're probably going....right....shades of Regan and The Exorcist.
As John and finally, Sarah, buy into the whole 'need for an exorcism' proposition, a TV production company is contacted and a reality show proposed and actually filmed showing the family and their trials and tribulations. A sort of 'Life With A Mad Or Maybe Possessed Girl' scenario. Sadly, people would likely watch such a thing and, who knows, maybe it actually exists or something like it. Meanwhile, little Merry is watching everything and trying to sort out a normal life with soccer and her Richard Scarry book and cartwheels. Eventually, the show is filmed, terror ensues and truly awful incidents occur.
Fifteen years later, a writer meets with 23-year-old Merry Barrett to ask her what she remembers about that part of her childhood. What was it like to be in the midst of a family disintegrating to bits? What does she recall about the filming, her sister's mental illness, her parents' stress? And Merry tells her. As I said at the beginning, it's an odd, odd tale. Paul Tremblay takes us back to the past and then relates more of Merry's interview. Interspersed are a series of blog posts about the TV show, The Possession, with an analysis of what was shown. And then the end comes and it's disturbing and a bit ambivalent. I know what I think, but there's a little question.
I liked this book, mostly. It was disturbing, certainly. It was hard to tell who was relating truth and who was not - all the way through. The little girl, Merry, was very vivid and lively and kind of exhausting to read about. She bounced through the whole book, pestering her parents, her sister, and the film crew. Marjorie was creepy in some ways, but a lot of her scenes seemed a little cliched - like right from old horror films. Otherwise, she didn't seem all that different from a 'normally' disturbed and 'should be hospitalized' teen. If that makes sense. I did not like the parents much, either of them. And what do I think about the possession? Well, I'll leave that up to you if you read it.
I'd be interested enough to try another book by this author. However, I now feel the need to get back to my usual lovely murders and crime solving - you know, murders for profit or revenge or a good old serial killer. Something that has a definite solution and evidence. No more exorcisms for me for a while.