A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This gripping novel is the book I read for our Third Tuesday Book Club (which meets tomorrow, October 18th, 2016). The author has served as the President of the Board of Directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards, given annually “for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic”. As a longtime reader of Jackson’s work, I can attest that this novel in many ways is like her work, and I very much enjoyed (although that is perhaps not the right word) this book, which won the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Novel in 2015.

Meredith Barrett is twenty-three years old, living in Massachusetts, and she is meeting with an author who wishes to write a non-fiction book about her family. Fifteen years ago, her father had been laid off from the company he had worked for since high school, her mother was working at the bank, and her sister Marjorie was fourteen years old; with eight year old Merry, they lived in Beverly, Massachusetts (not far from Salem) in a large house in an upscale neighborhood. Living beyond their means already, the parents are at their wit’s end when Marjorie starts acting very very strangely.

The book moves back and forth between the present time and Merry’s recollections, as an eight year old, of what happened to her family. We also see blog posts from someone writing about all things horror, who is reviewing the fifteenth anniversary of The Possession, which turns out to be the Discovery Channel reality show about the Barrett family; obviously the show was based on the premise that instead of classic schizophrenia, what Marjorie was suffering from was demonic possession, to be treated by exorcism. Merry points out that her memories of what happened might be imperfect, as of course as a teenager she watched the show.

This was without a doubt a horror novel, but one that keeps one guessing; and I anticipate a great Third Tuesday Book Club meeting to discuss the book tomorrow evening.

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