Monday, February 1, 2016

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Trembley

Author: Paul Termbley
Publisher: William Morrow
Date of publication: June 2015

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.

Honestly, I had to sit on this book for a while because I couldn't decide if I liked it or not.  This was a random audio pick from my library. In A Head Full of Ghosts, teenager Marjorie starts exhibiting signs of schizophrenia be cause she claims that voices are telling her to do things.  Her father and his priest are convinced that she is possessed.  In order to pay off bills, the family makes a deal with the devil. OK, not the devil, but a TV network to have their ordeal turned into a reality TV show.  I'm not sure there is much difference.  The story waffles between the present where Merry is being interviewed for a book about her experience and the past as Merry relates her version of events with her sister and family.

I think I'm just going to have to say this book was just OK.  I think it had the potential to be a good horror story. In fact, the beginning was really creepy.  But as the book progressed, it got more and more disappointing.  What I thought was going to be a good horror story turned into a somewhat negative commentary about reality TV, religion, and moral obligation. The blog posts that are sprinkled throughout the book were disruptive and threw off the pacing of the narrative for me. The last 1/4 was equally disappointing.  Yes, there were a couple of twists, but they weren't as shocking as I think they were meant to be.  The final scene has kind of an ambiguous ending and that was frustrating.  

I have seen a lot of rave reviews on this book. but I just can't agree.  I think if you go into the book not expecting horror or even a spooky story, you might like it more than I did.

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