A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel by Paul TremblayA Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel

byPaul Tremblay

Paperback | May 10, 2016

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A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King's The Shining, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist.

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.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Title:A Head Full of Ghosts: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.72 inPublished:May 10, 2016Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062363247

ISBN - 13:9780062363244

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty good I love suspense, but horror novels aren't something I've read in a long time, and this one was good.
Date published: 2018-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! This book was well written, spooky, and poignant. Loved the characters, the surprise twist ending and the story. Only thing I did not care for was the blog posts written by 'Karen Brissette' character. I found them extremely annoying and poorly written (which I guess was the point, as they were written by a character who was an amateur author, writing a casual laid-back blog on the Possession show in the novel). Overall though, really liked it. I haven't been this hooked on a book in a long time.
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Twist on Classic Possession Every so often you come across a book that, even though it was weird at times and you weren't always sure about it, it sticks in your head for days after. And that was this book for me. I'd originally picked up this book because I was in the mood for some Halloween reads, and possession stories are basically classic when it comes to the horror genre. And it's always interesting to see how someone is going to vary what happened in The Exorcist and other popular exorcism/possession in their story. This book steps it up one, and not only gives us a new perspective on the whole possession thing, but also gives a great commentary on the horror genre and other possession stories. The Good Points of A Head Full of Ghosts: I think the best thing about this book is the fact that it's narrated by a 23-year-old who experienced all of this as an 8-year-old. Which makes her mildly unreliable (because she had access to the tv show filmed of her family, so had a memory aide), and a fascinating perspective about the whole thing. Add to this that she is such a well developed character, and you've got a great start. The whole schizophrenia/possession debate throughout the book, as well as the presentation of religion and how religion affected this story was absolutely fascinating. There was a lot of potential for this to go so poorly and to be an awful mental health representation, but it was well done. It's probably not great mental health representation, but it also isn't very focused on the whole mental health idea (obviously leaning towards the possession side of things), so you can take that how you will. I loved Merry and Majorie's relationship throughout the book, and how it changed, adjusted and adapted as the possession and story progressed. Hurray for family relationships in books! (Even messed up ones.) There is so much commentary on the horror genre and other possession stories, and it is absolutely brilliant. This has the best comment on women in possession stories I have ever seen in my life (spoiler-but-not-really: it's a comment about how one key sign a women is possessed is that she knows things about possession that the priest would know, because obviously women having that knowledge is a sign of the devil. Even though the character in this story has internet access). As someone who has seen a lot of horror, YES, THANK YOU. The way that the whole possession story is presented and how Marjorie progressed through the story is well done, and runs along that line that you sometimes question if she really is possessed or if it's something else or if it's fake. You guess for a long time, and still aren't totally sure by the end. That ending, though. Seriously. Where the hell did that come from? I can't even comment on it, because I'm still suffering from whiplash from the whole thing. The Downsides of A Head Full of Ghosts: When you go into a book about possession, you kind of expect to at least be a little freaked out. And this book isn't really scary, unless you've got a seriously messed up imagination. This book was a bit slow and a bit random when you start out. A lot of the early stuff ties in later, but the Richard Scarry rants at the beginning seem so out of place when you're at that point. The blog posts were fine, as I listened to this as an audiobook, but I feel like reading it would have been annoying as hell. It's one of those things that sounds okay, but would be frustrating to read. All in all, I loved this book, and how subtly messed up it was. There was some great commentary and while it wasn't scary, it was an interesting choice as far as possession stories go. If you like scary stories that don't actually make you very scared, commentary on the horror genre as a general, or unreliable narrators, you'll likely enjoy A Head Full of Ghosts!
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ugh. There was great hype about this book and it had a good rating on goodreads, but I definitely didn't enjoy it. I especially disliked the random blog posts throughout. It didn't hold my attention and I found myself skimming through the 2nd half.
Date published: 2017-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well told, possession tale. Very well written story on the possession of a teen, in the vein of The Exorcist. It is told from the perspective of the teen's sister. You could say this is a mixture of The Exorcist, Ghost Hunters with a glimpse into mental health. There were some very shocking parts of this story, and you can tell the author is a fan of The Exorcist, and played the reality TV show aspect of the story very well. Highly recommend for fans of ghost/possession stories, and for anyone who has spent time watching shows like Ghost Hunters.
Date published: 2017-04-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just so-so for me Paul Tremblay’s novel A Head Full of Ghosts has been sucking up all the oxygen on the Internet for the past few weeks and even Stephen King said that it scared the “living hell” out of him. As you might imagine, that’s probably pretty hard to do and therefore high praise. The Barrett family are kinda sorta normal in a completely dysfunctional way. Dad, John, has just been made redundant at the job where he’s worked for the last nineteen years. Times are tough and he hasn’t been able to find work since. Mom, Sarah, is tense and cold. Then there are the daughters: fourteen-year-old Marjorie and eight-year-old Meredith or Merry. The story is actually narrated by Merry, aged 23. She is sharing what happened to her family the year she was eight with best-selling author Rachel Neville but she is unsure how to proceed because she doesn’t “know how to explain to her that [her] sister hasn’t aged at all in fifteen-plus years and there never was a before everything happened.” Despite the six year age gap, Marjorie and Merry are close. They share made up stories and have a sister-speak shorthand. When Merry visited Marjorie’s room “she was convinced that [she] was going to grow up exactly like Marjorie, entering her room was like discovering a living, breathing map of [her] future.” Lately, though, Marjorie has begun to act strange. She tells Merry that the posters on her walls “disembodied hands, legs, arms, hair and a pair of eyes” were like that when Marjorie had woken up. She writes Merry a note that tells her: "I sneak into your room when you are asleep, Merry-Monkey. I’ve been doing it for weeks now, since the end of summer. You’re so pretty when you are asleep. Last night, I pinched your nose shut until you opened your mouth and gasped." Merry isn’t the only one concerned about Marjorie. She’s seeing a psychologist and then John decides he needs to get the church involved. That’s how the Barrett family find themselves at the center of a reality television series, The Possession. No one could have predicted how it would all turn out, least of all Merry, but when she agrees to talk to Rachel Neville, the veil of what really happened in the Barrett house is lifted. Or is it? A Head Full of Ghosts is not scary, let’s just get that out of the way. It’s creepy and mind-bending and certainly capitalizes on the whole reality TV phenomenon. But full out pants-wetting scares are in short supply. Truthfully, I am not sure how I feel about this book. I didn’t love it. I found it odd and unsettling, for sure, and neither of those things are bad necessarily, but I wasn’t enthralled. I kept changing my mind about what I thought was really going on – which also isn’t a bad thing. I don’t need my fiction to be tidy. I guess how I feel about A Head Full of Ghosts is that despite its numerous accolades, I wouldn’t tell everyone to read it, but I definitely would read another book by Tremblay. How’s that for wishy-washy?
Date published: 2017-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Reality TV meets The Exorcist The premise here is creepy enough: a down-on-their-luck family who thinks their daughter may be possessed (or do they?) sell their story as a reality tv show. The novel is told from the point of view of the youngest Barrett, so you're never quite sure what's real and what's going on. While this is not the most horrifying story I've ever read, the suspense and questions just build & build to a climatic ending. I definitely had to stop reading once or twice when I was home alone. There are a few scenes that are graphic in nature (comparing them to The Exorcist, as another poster did, is absolutely correct). My absolute favourite part was the not knowing - at some points I was 100% convinced this was a story about a poor young girl, possessed. At others, I thought maybe Marjorie was actually just trying to alleviate her parents financial woes. This needs to be made into a movie ASAP!
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Halloween Read! This is one of the scariest books I've ever read!
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended! I’d heard quite a bit about this book before I finally got around to reading it, and I knew it would make a great Halloween read (I even finished it on October 31). I really enjoyed the way the story jumped back and forth in time, and the way information was sometimes revealed in the “present” and then shown later in the “past”. This story was a fascinating look at the relationship between Merry, our narrator, and her older sister, Marjorie. Was Marjorie truly possessed? Was she a troubled girl who needed more help than she received? What role did her parents’ financial woes play – is that why they agreed to make a reality show out of their family’s struggle? Merry is a tricky narrator, because she was eight years old when everything was happening with Marjorie and the reality show. How much did Mary understand of what was happening, and of what she saw and heard? And how accurate are those memories, after the passage of so many years? This book had its creepy moments, but it didn’t frighten me. However, if you found The Exorcist terrifying, be warned – there are some similarities that may get to you! The ending of A Head Full of Ghosts took me off guard, and I was still thinking about it a couple of days after I finished reading. Recommended!
Date published: 2016-07-30

Editorial Reviews

“Tremblay paints a believable portrait of a family in extremis emotionally as it attempts to cope with the unthinkable ...Whether psychological or supernatural, this is a work of deviously subtle horror.”