It’s no secret that this time of year is reserved exclusively for spooky reads. If they’re about haunted houses or possessions, all the better if you ask me.

I’m excited to have discovered this author actually. I know nothing about him but I enjoyed this story and now there’s a whole back catalogue of horror goodness by Paul Tremblay just waiting for me on my Kindle.

But let’s start with this heavily Exorcist-flavoured tale of two sisters.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The lives of the Barretts, a suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia. To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to halt 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, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show.

This is the story of Meredith ‘Merry’ Barrett and her family, who are broken in two by the apparent breakdown of eldest daughter Marjorie.

The story unfolds via flashback as Merry talks to an author writing a biography on the family in present day. These chapters are spliced with blog excerpts about a reality show called The Possession, penned by a writer named Rachel Neville. Rachel is Merry’s writing pseudonym btw.

As a girl Merry worshipped her big sister but when Marjorie turns 14 she starts to exhibit troubling behaviour. When it spirals fully out of control, and doctors can no longer help, her family turn to the church for guidance. And maybe the cure.

But is Marjorie schizophrenic, possessed by a demon – or is she making it all up as she keeps telling Merry?

While the family struggle to come to terms with what’s going on, as well as Mr Barrett’s long term unemployment status, help may be at hand in the form of a reality TV crew.

The Possession you see, is a reality show insight into the Barrett’s life and the finale episode focuses on the exorcism of Marjorie Barrett.

Back in real time, Rachel (AKA Merry) critiques each episode of The Possession on her blog and compares it to well-trodden horror tropes. If you think Marjorie’s story seems all too familiar don’t worry, Rachel agrees.

This book is a real page turner, and I devoured it in a day. I loved the relationship between sisters which is wonderfully detailed and touching. Also very sad to see the cracks appear between them, as Merry starts to fear Marjorie.

The injection of the reality aspect freshens the possession tale somewhat and I enjoyed Merry’s memories of her time getting under the feet of the crew. It’s a decent story and the blog excerpts break it up just before it all gets too much. Merry’s a complex character with an interesting past and I like her.

A banger.

5/5

What are you reading?