A Head Full of Ghosts Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.
The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when 14-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts' plight. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later a best-selling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long-ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface - and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.
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|Listening Length||8 hours and 49 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 02, 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #7,675 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#114 in Psychological Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#312 in Psychological Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
#341 in Horror Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on July 25, 2018
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Top reviews from the United States
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First things first, it is extremely well written. Tremblay writes this from the perspective of the younger sister of the 'possessed' girl. But he shifts between her memories, her interview with a biographer, and her blog posts written 15 years later under a pen-name. The changing perspective causes the reader to question whether this is a 'demonic possession' or just a family falling apart at the seams.
This book is a harrowing look at a family searching for answers to their problems of unemployment, marital problems, mental illness, and teenage rebellion. Dad looks for answers in the catholic church where he conveniently is able to blame his problems on powerful outside sources out of his control. The hope is that priests can do an exorcism ritual and quickly solve all of their problems.
The book has the reader questioning whether this was a "demonic possession" or if that is simply an easy excuse and solution to deal with mental illness. The trauma caused by religion in this story rings true.
In fact, the reason why this book was so powerfully upsetting to me is that as a father and someone who has witnessed and experienced religious trauma; everything that happens in this book is actually plausible.
It's a great read, but be ready, if you have experienced religious trauma or are upset by a horror story that can and does happen; there are a lot of triggers in this book.
With that being said, this book is much more than I was expecting. Having thought I was just going to get a good scare was quickly replaced by the reality that this isn't what the book is about. Sure, there are scary moments, times when readers skin will crawl, and times when I felt as if I was going just as mad as some of the characters. But it is also deeply unsettling in a realistic way as it skillfully portrays mental illness and its effects on the family. Additionally, it depicts a family’s decent in a societal way and the effects it also has. Put all this together and you get a nearly brilliant novel that will chill you to the core.
I don’t want to say much more about the plot because the books summary does a nice job in its description but also because I think that to fully grasp what is happening in the story that you need to read it on your own without spoilers. I will say this though, there is a lot going on in this novel. Schizophrenia, depression, paranoia, depression, and susceptibility are integral parts of the novel. So are possession, demons, and exorcism. This book will make you nervous. It may make you look over your shoulder when you enter a dark room. And it will scare the crap out of you. Should you read it? I would recommend it...
Top reviews from other countries
This is not another possession/exorcism books, it questions everything and leaves the door open for you to make up your own mind. Regardless if Marjorie, the 14-year-old girl suffering from 'demonic' episodes, is possessed by evil or taken hostage by schizophrenia, her relationship with her little sister Merry, an 8-year-old girl full of humour and wisdom that only children have, will break your heart. She looks up to her older sister, craves her attention and their conversations are so relatable if you grew up with siblings. What happens to Marjorie seems unjust and the conclusion is wicked.
But this isn't some heartbreaking family drama. This is a horror novel and it the way that it crawls into mind and lets your imagination run wild is terrifying. I literally lost a night of sleep because of the images in my head (I have a little sister who mysteriously turned up in my bedroom in the middle of the night about ten years ago. She stood staring into my middle sister's face who was fast asleep. She claimed she had no knowledge of it and she's never sleepwalked and the bedroom door was shut - who shuts a door behind them when they're sleepwalking? - and this book sort of reignited that memory and I had to wait til the sun came up to be able to shut my eyes) from this book.
Nothing is exaggerated or overdone, and perhaps that is why this is so scary. Because it could be real. Everything the family does (including filming the exorcism) is kind of understandable, they are on the brink of complete desperation, complete falling-apart desperation, and you can feel the tension strung tight all the way through.
Although this is a plot that has been done over and over (and it makes mention of this in the book, as well as questioning how everything that's done or said runs parallel with popular horror films), it is wholly authentic and original with how it handles it. It doesn't portray Marjorie as a monster or a deranged lunatic, just a sick teenager struggling with how to cope with her detoriating mental issues as well as her turbulent life in general being at that age. It's mercy that the book is narrated from her little sister's 8-year-old eyes and that's what makes the ending so heart wrenching. Maybe I related it too much to my own sisters and us growing up, but the ending was a shocker to me and I was a distraught by it. I'm very impressed (after reading the first chapter of two horror novels before it, I wasn't expecting to get much further) and I recommend that everybody gives this a read.
I hated the narrators. If it wasn't an annoying 8 year old, then it was an obnoxious OTT blogger (I'll not spoil), or the grown up 8 year old being interviewed by a writer through the most unnatural sounding dialogue.
Lots of things happened in the book. There was the slow spiral of a girl into mental illness/possession, complete with swearing, rude comments, masturbation, green vomit, weird voices, peeing, pooping, possible levitation, injury, and death. There were parents tearing their hair out and turning to god for help. There was a camera crew that didn't seem terribly bothered by all the horrific goings on.
I admit I speed read a lot of the blogger chapters because they were boring; sort of a recap of the events of the previous chapters with some interpretation of whether the events could have been faked or comparing them to movies and books about possession. The voice was typical 'read my blog now because it is great...look at all the great stuff I've got for you!!!!'.
There was supposedly a twist at the end, but it wasn't really a twist because there were so many hints and ways of interpreting the possession scenes that made the reader expect it.
To be fair, if I had never read a book or watched a movie about possession, or seen documentaries or those 'Most Haunted' things, then I would probably have been creeped out. But since I am an avid horror fan, I've been exposed to just about everything. That made this book very ho hum for me.
My recommendation is to read it if you are just starting out on your horror journey, but if you are an old hand, you will most likely be disappointed.
Stephen King says this book is a great read for book clubs and has a lot to unpack. King’s book recommendations can be taken with a pinch of salt in my experience though, so I read this with interest: it’s been a long time since I read a horror story which really affected me and I was hoping for good things. Ultimately I enjoyed the book well enough, but the enjoyment tended to come from the recognition of other works referenced in it: overtly or otherwise.
At the simplest level it’s a story of a struggling family and the filming of the elder sister’s possible possession and the film crew who make a reality show of her exorcism. It’s told from the point of view of the girl’s younger sister as she recounts the story to a non fiction writer keen to document the tale Year’s later, intercut with a blogger recounting the tv series.
There’s nothing new in the actual events: the book goes out of its way to draw comparisons to cultural references of a similar story: at one point listing all the similar themed works on the protagonist’s dvd shelves. Even the possible ‘reality’ element of the tale is well worn through the many mockumentary movies out there from Blair Witch onwards.
There is a wrinkle towards the end (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a twist), which calls into question what we’ve read, without really answering the underlying ‘why’.
Was the book scary? No. Not at all. Through using the blogger description device, the line between the younger sister’s recount of events and the tv series description blur into a feeling of sameness (there is a reason for this, but you’ll see that when you read it). The most interesting aspect of the book is the relationship between the sisters and their love- although this too becomes blurred and motivations and actions become unclear.
Ultimately reading as a straight story, there’s too much we’ve seen too many times before, so that if we are familiar with the genre, we spend most of our time drawing comparisons (The Exorcist being the most obvious answer, and the book both compares and tries to distance itself from that work through repeated reference- but at no time does it match that book’s ‘horror’.) rather than feeling we’re getting anything original.
The secondary characters in the book - from parents to film crew are weak: both as characters and in terms of motives, but the author writes the main characters well: if somewhat schizophrenically (no pun intended given the older sister’s potential mental issues) in terms of the actions and feelings given their ages.
If there is any doubt about the author’s intentions it is dispelled by the book’s last 10% (I read the book on kindle, and thought it was getting interesting with 10% left to read, only to find that was it and the story ended), which provides, as the author puts it ‘liner Notes/ dvd extras’ where he outlines most of the film and book references he was overtly or subtly using throughout the story. There’s also an essay on horror and culture which was an interesting read, and questions suitable for a book club.
Overall? An interesting enough read, but not throwing anything new out there, and the fact it has been optioned as a film project is neither surprising nor of any real interest: it’s all too easy to see how that will turn out, and any meta elements of the text will, I think, just become the cliched story it is trying to highlight in the book.