A Head Full of Ghosts

head_full_of_ghostsAuthor: Paul Tremblay
Genre: Thriller
Fifteen years after the death of her family, Merry Barrett recounts the crumbling of life she knew after her sister’s descent into madness crosses over into the unholy.

A Head Full of Ghosts was my March pick for ONTD’s reading challenge. The theme was a book recommended by a celebrity. And because Stephen King is technically a celebrity, I chose a book he recommended. When I posted about reading AHFoG on twitter, I was told I was going to feel pretty messed up at the end. I do, but not in the way I think they meant.

The book is categorized as a thriller, but it didn’t terrify me, it shocked me. It made me feel sad. It was the kind of sad you get when you read a story about a child who grew up with no parents, on the street and ended up dead and alone. That everything that could go wrong went wrong and that it wasn’t fair to that kid. That’s how I felt about the book

Writing wise, I enjoyed the book. It had a great atmosphere, nice descriptions but bad pacing. In between Merry’s childhood recollection and her interaction with the reporter, there were blog posts stuck in. I say “stuck in” because I don’t think they belonged. I don’t think they were needed at all. It broke up the flow of book big time for me. I would become emerged in Merry’s childhood and then blog post?

You remember how in Looney Toons Wil E. Coyote would be booking it and suddenly a brick wall comes out of nowhere? That’s what the blog posts did to me.

I ended up skipping over them towards the end of the book because I wanted to read the climax.

I’m going to say upfront that I don’t mind religion as an atheist. But man, if Merry’s father and that dweeb Father Waverly didn’t make me extra blasphemous reading about how they dealt with Marjorie’s mental illness.

(Which sounded a lot like Schizophrenia, or Bipolar Disorder)

How could he possibly think that telling his 14-year-old daughter ‘I think you’re possessed and evil and that’s why you’re like this but don’t worry, Jesus’, would have a positive effect? Having a mental illness is one thing, but having it manifest when you’re barely a teenager and then your father calling you evil? Terrible.
And having it recorded, dramatized, and broadcasted all over America probably didn’t help things either.

The fact that Merry had to witness it all was heartbreaking. An 8-year-old basically watched her family collapse and lived to tell the tale.

Merry was a good vehicle. I say vehicle because I didn’t love her or hate her in any way, but she carried the story really well. Marjorie was every vintage exorcist fantasy movie victim but less and more dramatic at the same time. I felt like her spiral into insanity was so fast.

I half sympathize with their parents and half think they’re idiots. If, 100 years down the line, I have children I hope I never have to be in a position where something is destroying my child and there is nothing I could do to stop it in any way. But televising your teenage daughter’s “exorcism”? Accusing her of needing an exorcism in the first place? When Marjorie described everyone in her family being cracked up, I believed her.

The twist at the end built up quick and was revealed quick. I didn’t mind that too badly. I would recommend this book but I didn’t read it as a horror or thriller novel. It didn’t make me want to get a bible and soak my room in holy water, it made me want to donate to parents who have children who suffer from mental illness. It’s an easy book to read and comprehend, but you’ll have to draw your own conclusion to whether or not this is horror or not. Still, enjoyed this selection.

Fun fact! It’s 2017 and this the first adult fiction novel where I’ve read the word “twerk”. It was magnificent.

Stephen King’s On Writing is next on my to-read list and I have to choose a book for April’s theme, which is A book that’s been adapted into an Oscar-nominated film.


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