A Head Full of Ghosts – Book Review

It seems horror writers have taken inspiration from small towns in England. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, it is no wonder that the author Paul Tremblay has cited the work of both these supreme horror-fiction leaders in his latest novel A Head full of Ghosts.

Set in Beverly, Mass, New England, the book dares to deviate from the archetypal supernatural themes. Paul has smartly, and viscerally, tried to expose the influence of mass media, pop culture and the internet in shaping our primal human impulses, to horror.

It is the story of the Barrett family. The typical family consist of an unemployed dad, John, newly enthusiastic about religion; mom, Sarah, a terse, chain smoker and breadwinner of the family; Marjorie, the unnerving 14-year-old reaching an age where everything is her private life; and finally, the narrator of the story, an 8-year-old, Merry (short for Meredith) who more or less worships her big sister and knows more about what’s going on in the family than her parents.

Marjorie, upon entering the second year of teenage, starts exhibiting signs of schizophrenia, terrifying her little sister and alarming her parents. John, her father, under the guidance of a friend, becomes convinced that she is possessed. As more and more horror-episodes of Marjorie become the gossip of the town, Disney channel decides to pay a seductive amount of money to film the proceedings of an exorcism planned for Marjorie. The reality-based “The Possession” garners a cult following, a group of hateful zealots, and places Marjorie and her little sister Merry under the microscope.

The plot shifts and Merry is now a 23-year-old woman who is being interviewed by a writer, Rachael, and there is also a mention of a horror-obsessed blogger named Karen who revisits the six-episode series after 15 years to investigate piece by piece as to what really had happened that night.

When reading, the reader will be on the edge of their seats since the horror depicted in the novel is truly terrifying and gets even scarier scene by scene. But the story is not only that. It is an examination between the push and pull of science and religion and how either of them save us. Some call it a devastating family drams, others regard it as horror-fiction, but in all honesty, it is the story of two sisters and the way their love sustains and chips away at them.

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