Fourteen year old Marjorie Barrett has been acting strange and her family is worried. After countless doctor’s appointments leave them without answers, Marjorie’s father turns to religion and the belief that Marjorie’s been possessed by a demon. The novel’s narrator and Marjorie’s younger sister, Meredith, isn’t convinced but an exorcism by the church is suggested and a TV crew tags along for the ride. Does Marjorie really have a demon inside her or is this all an elaborate ruse by a rebellious teenager?
The novel begins as an adult Merry meets with a best-selling author looking to write a tell-all of the Barrett family’s experience. From time-to-time, we also cut to an enthusiastic blogger named Karen Brissette (yes, if you’re a Goodreader, the character is named after the very same Karen) who reviews and analyses the aforementioned TV show that chronicled the family’s experience, The Possession. When it comes to the meat and potatoes of the story, it jumps back into the past as an eight-year old Merry narrates the family’s turbulent days leading up to the exorcism itself.
I’ve heard about this one for a few years now and after reading one of Tremblay’s earlier crime novels, I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. I very much liked it, but I’m not sure how much of a horror novel it is. Don’t get me wrong – it has a damn exorcism in it, so it falls in line with the genre’s parameters, but I guess I wasn’t overly frightened or spooked? Maybe it’s more of a thriller? That being said, I was still gripped throughout it and the ending was a chef’s kiss of a finale. Seriously – that ending though. If you’re looking for definite answers following the insanity that leads up to the final few pages, you’re not going to get them and I LOVE that. Sure, that might sound like a cop out, but it’s not. It’s left just ambiguous enough that you can sit down with a friend and hash-out what you both think it all means.
Paul Tremblay is an author I will definitely read again in the future (well, I would hope so since I’ve got two other novels sitting on my Kindle). A Head Full of Ghosts was a fresh take on an old horror trope and one that I’ll revisit someday.