After spending most of the summer working on a writing project, I decided to reward myself with the book that everyone on Facebook has been talking about – A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay. I’m often leery when there’s a lot of hype about something, but in this case I have to agree that the book definitely delivers.
The main character of this book is Merry, who recounts the experience from childhood that significantly changed her life. At the age of fourteen, Merry’s older sister, Marjorie, began going insane, and when their parents couldn’t find any medical solutions, their father turned to a priest for help. The priest suggested an exorcism, and the family subsequently became the focus of a reality TV show tracking the progress of the situation.
At face value you might be inclined to dismiss this as just another exorcism story, but you would be wrong. Tremblay knows his genre and he knows how to tell a story. There are layers and layers in this book and often more questions than answers are raised. For example, how reliable are our memories from our childhood? What are the myriad ways that financial difficulties can affect a family? And, most importantly, who gets to decide what the truth really is, and when and how do they get to tell it?
Tremblay uses several successful techniques in the book, one of which is integrating blog posts following the reality TV show. These posts critique the situation as it unfolds and are paced in such a manner that they somehow manage to both foreshadow and explain without giving much away. This is also a remarkable way for Tremblay to address any “holes” that the reader might be attempting to poke in the story and has the effect of saying, “Nope, wait – I thought of that!” The integration of the blog posts works to further engage the reader and keeps them turning the pages to see how Tremblay will address these aspects. It’s pretty genius.
Additionally, as an avid reader of the works by a certain circle of authors I was delighted beyond reason to come across several Easter eggs in the book – places where Tremblay refers to a familiar author by name, or uses a phrase or tagline from another author’s work. I loved this and thought it was such an unbelievably cool addition!
The thing with this book, though, is that you just have to keep reading it until the end. And, as good as the book is overall, the ending is simply killer – you will never see it coming. Even better, once you get there and the whole story is laid out in front of you, you may see another of those little Easter eggs … a twist and a turn and then you see that it was placed, so perfectly, throughout the rest of the book without you even realizing it.
It’s been a really, really long time since I found a book that I wanted to just read until I was finished – I didn’t want to stop to eat, or sleep, or go to work, or get a drink, or anything until I got to the end. This is that book. You should go get it. And, while you’re there, maybe check out some of the other stuff that Paul Tremblay has done.