A Head Full of Ghosts
A Head Full of Ghosts

Okay, so if Stephen King says “scared the living hell out of me,” I’m pretty much in.

This is the story of a New England family. Mom, out of work Dad, fourteen-year-old Marjorie, and little sister, Merry, who is eight. Marjorie begins exhibiting some troubling behavior (acute schizophrenia), and eventually the parents turn to their priest when the doctors are unable to help. Soon, a reality show is on the scene and The Possession is brought to television from filming the family’s struggle with Marjorie. The last episode of the show is of course, the exorcism.

What drew me in was Tremblay’s use of beginning the book with an interview, and making it a book within a book, sort of. The author is interviewing grown-up Merry (now 23), and piecing back the events for us. Tremblay uses blogs and reality television to tell the story. What a ride! I still don’t know if it is a possession story or a tale of a fourteen-year old who was mentally ill and exploited by Hollywood. It is left open for interpretation.

My first take was that Marjorie was schizophrenic, but there were elements in the story that had me guessing that conclusion. Things like, Marjorie was going down the stairs in the dark basement, and no one else is down there, but her sister hears more than two feet. Whatever your conclusion is, it will make you think about possession v. mental illness, and how do you know?!

Tremblay uses many horror references throughout the book that make it fun for the reader because you feel like you are on the inside — you “get it.” I won’t spoil the ending, but it will leave you reeling! Fans of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle will know exactly what I am talking about.

And now, having said that, my second take is that the demon was possibly exorcised out of Marjorie, and jumped into Merry, resulting in causing the final act that sealed the family’s fate. Wow. How about that.