A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay © 2015 William Morrow
Eight-year-old Meredith (Merry) Barrett’s big sister, Marjorie, is possessed by the devil. That’s what the Barrett family and the crew of the reality TV show, The Possession would like the public to believe. Are the Barrett’s just cashing in on Marjorie’s schizophrenia by subjecting her to exorcism on live TV? Is Marjorie in on the whole thing and just faking it? Or is Marjorie truly evil?
These questions play out in the memories of the now-grown-up Merry, who authors a pseudonymous blog panning The Possession’s clichés and cheap theatrics, and who is being interviewed by a writer wanting to do a book on the former hit show. Tremblay has a hip premise, and an intriguing, disturbing story you could see really happening.
Too many more details would give it all away. Suffice that Merry-Marjorie’s alternately loving-then-creepy relationship keeps you guessing, as does Mr. and Mrs. Barrett’s creepy-and-not-so-loving relationship. The book gets a little plodding in the middle, as Tremblay marks time to try and build suspense for the exorcism scene, but Merry’s sometimes-funny, sometimes-heartbreaking take on the firestorm of Marjorie’s behavior and the media frenzy never dulled to the point I lost interest.
And the exorcism is not the story’s climax—an excellent plot sleight-of-hand that distinguishes Head (in a good way) from the other exorcism stories out there, and which will make you never want to have children.
A Head Full of Ghosts proudly joins my bookshelf full of keepers. Buy it or be damned!