A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This one popped up on my Amazon recommends after I bought a few Joe Hill books on there. It’s marketed as horror, but it was so much more.

A writer interviews Merry about events that took place within her family home fifteen years previously, when she was eight years old. We hear of her sister’s slow breakdown as acute schizophrenia changes her from a moody teenager to a terrifying, confusing presence in Merry’s life; her father’s descent into more radical Catholicism and the eventual involvement of a TV production company willing to perform a televised exorcism. The money will solve the family’s problems after their father loses his job, but the repercussions are so much worse than any of them could imagine.

I was, honestly, expecting this to go along the lines of a supernatural horror. Instead it’s a story of an unreliable narrator and the manipulation of a vulnerable young woman; Merry’s witness to her sister’s more bizarre behaviours can’t be trusted and the production of the TV program exploits Marjorie’s illness to the point of no return. Instead of a supernatural horror it’s a comment on the sexualisation of children on the television, the treatment of mental illness by the Catholic Church and the ways in which young children can be manipulated by those around them.

The build up to the ending was such that I never saw it coming. There weren’t hints along the way; the perks of Merry telling her story is that no one else knows what went on until she choose to reveal and so the abrupt, tragic end took me completely by surprise. 

It was a really clever, well plotted horror-slash-family-drama.


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