This one was a really fun read. A Head Full of Ghosts is a novel about the Barrett family and the tragedy that befell them. Their eldest daughter Marjorie begins displaying odd behavioural changes and after psychiatry doesn’t help, the father enlists the help of an exorcist. The Barrett family is also going through hard times so they reluctantly agree to be the subjects of a reality TV show called The Possession.
The story is told through two timelines. The first being slightly before and during the possession and the second being 15 years later. Our narrator is the precocious Merry, the youngest daughter. As an adult she’s finally ready to tell her story so she sits down with a reporter and gives details on what happened all those years ago.
One of the strengths of the book is its portrayal of the possession of Marjorie. It never explicitly tells you one way or the other whether or not she’s actually possessed or just suffering from mental illness. I grew up Roman Catholic so I’m a sucker for pretty much any and all forms of religious horror but I think it’s at its best when the stories are presented in a “take it or leave it” style and not forced down your throat.
Her relationship with the younger Merry reminded me of what mine was like with my own sister as a kid. I idolised her, followed her everywhere and wanted to be like her in pretty much every way. We had special routines (ours was the sharing of music, the Marjorie sisters writes special stories for Merry) that I would get defensive of and upset about on nights when they couldn’t happen. Reading about young Merry deal with the changes to her sister is heart breaking. She tries her best to be supportive but doesn’t quite grasp what’s going on due to her age.
There are intermission chapters told via blog posts on a horror website that drag the whole thing down a bit but the book is enjoyable overall. If you’re in the mood for a possession story you can’t go wrong here.