A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, narrated by Joy Osmanski.
Published by William Morrow on June 2, 2015.
8 hours, 49 minutes.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 3.81 (as of 2018/03/28)
cw: menstruation, explicit sexual content, demonic possession, homophobic slurs
Spoiler-free Review of an Audiobook
The lives of the Barretts, a normal 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 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 bestselling 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.
I think this is the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to in its entirety! I was doing busywork at my job and had run out of new podcast eps (which never happens to me!), so I sorted my TBR by random and went through until I found a book that a) had an audiobook format, b) was available to listen to now through my library, and c) had a narrator whose voice I liked. Usually it’s a struggle to find something that fits all three of these, but A Head Full of Ghosts nailed it!
This was such a compelling read and I will probably end up purchasing a physical copy later on to re-read. The narrator, Joy Osmanski, did a phenomenal job and I felt pulled right into the story. The point-of-view is that of an adult reflecting on her experiences as a young child. I thought this was really well-done, because we get a really innocent perspective that realistically contains more mature insights. It also switches a lot between past and present in a way that I think really worked with the story.
I was a bit anxious starting this out, because it explicitly states in the blurb that the MC’s older sister is displaying symptoms of schizophrenia. While I can’t speak directly to the rep (which may not be great, especially considering some stuff that goes on toward at the end that I can’t discuss without spoilers), I do want to address the concern that this links mental illness and demonic possessions. Because it doesn’t. I thought it was clear as a reader that this was a commentary on the danger of ignoring science in favor of superstition. To me, the implication was that, had Marjorie’s experience been treated seriously and as a medical concern, things would have turned out a lot differently for the Barrett family.
While this certainly had its spooky bits and while I would probably file it under the horror genre, it wasn’t outright scary, so if you’re easily frightened (like me) you could still enjoy this! There were some unsettling graphic bits (both involving gore and sexual content), so I’d pass on this if you want to avoid anything of that nature. But overall, I think this is a book that horror lovers (particularly those who like to deconstruct the genre) will enjoy and I recommend it highly.