A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are two 2015 books that I greatly admire for both the presentation style and the skillful writing. GIRL ON THE TRAIN is a must read, and was my former favorite read of 2015.
I now rank A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS at the extreme top of that "best of 2015" list (just the books that I read, because I didn't read enough). The suspense and sense of dread for what is going to occur builds and builds with every chapter. The ending is shocking and disturbing, and I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read the book.
Marjorie Barrett, a young girl of 14 begins to exhibit disturbing behavior. Doctors are unable to completely diagnose her condition, suspected to be acute schizophrenia. John Barrett has recently become unemployed, with his chances of obtaining new employment in a quiet New England town discouraging. As the medical bills mount up he turns to his faith and a Catholic priest, who suggests demonic possession and begins preparation for an exorcism. The family agrees to allow a film crew into the home to document the proceedings for a television reality show.
If that wasn't enough of a hook to pull readers in, the entire story is first person narration, told by the younger sister Merry. She was 8 years old at the time of the exorcism, and is now 23 as she recounts the events as best she can to a best-selling author now turning to nonfiction.
The reader can never be sure how much of the re-telling is accurate, and how much is the exaggerated memories of a very young impressionable girl. There is not a single wasted passage in the book, and everything connects as the full picture is revealed. Tremblay manages to pay respect to some classic horror writers and movies throughout the story without copying them. He even makes a fellow horror author and friend one of the minor characters near the end of the book.
There is only a small amount of blood and bloody incidents within the book. What is most horrific about the story is the effects of these events on a modest family, who will be forever changed. This is a book that you can return to for repeat readings. I intend to and eagerly anticipate learning from a contemporary master of urban horror.
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