Thursday, October 20, 2016
31 Days of Halloween - Day 20
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
William Morrow. 2015
When a medical cure cannot be found for 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett's increasingly troubled behavior, her father, John, turns to a spiritual one, and her mother, Sarah, reluctantly goes along with it. Father Wanderly believes that Marjorie is a victim of demonic possession, and secures permission to perform an exorcism, all of which will happen under the watchful cameras of the reality show The Possession. The family dynamic, already in jeopardy quickly unravels as related to us by Marjorie's eight-year-old sister, Merry, now an adult relating the events to the author of a book on the story of the Barretts.
At the center of the book is whether or not Marjorie is actually possessed, or just a troubled teen showing signs of mental illness. This is not spelled out in any obvious way, and no characters sit down and discuss this directly, but it's there, and Tremblay uses familiar possession tropes to reinforce this divide. To Tremblay's credit, the book is more troubling and disturbing if the possession isn't real. There's a real creep factor to this book. Sure, some of that comes from the implied supernatural aspect of the story, but most of it comes from watching this family disintegrate under the detached watch of the cameras, and where Merry seems to be the only family member who isn't falling apart, and who finds herself needing her troubled sister's love and comfort as her parents pull away from each other.
A Head Full of Ghosts is very well done. I'm looking forward to reading more of Tremblay's work.