A Head Full of Ghosts

headfullA Head Full of Ghosts
by Paul Trembly
2015 / 304 pages
read by Joy Osmanski
rating 8.5  / literary horror (?)

Literary horror?  Oh no!  What?  – oh yeah – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are a couple of my favorites.  That said,  I did NOT look forward to reading this even if a reading group did choose it.  I do NOT like horror – generally – avoid it like romance.

And I really didn’t  know anything about the book when I downloaded it – I just had nothing better to put on the iPod (which I dearly love talking to me while I do chores).   So I started in on what I suspected was a bunch of crap and was almost ready to rate a “DNF – Did Not Finish” and ask for ye olde money back.

Well okay –  the first Part of this book contains one of the most awful sections of fiction I’ve ever read and I finally peeked at some reviews – “HUH?”  –  Lots of little blurbs on Amazon from reasonable sources –  even a comparison to House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski!  (I didn’t actually read any of the reviews – just noticed a lot of them from good sources at the Amazon site and the House of Leaves mention in one of them.) So  I hung in there.  Turns out that bit was supposedly written by a 14-year old character. Ok – it does NOT continue in that vein.

In the frame story Merry (We Have Always Lived in the Castle?) Barrett (C.F. –  an English author of gothic fiction)  is relating things which happened 15 years prior when her older sister (then 14 years old) had some serious problems and the family ends up as the subject of a Reality TV show.  Merry, then 8,  is now about 23 and she’s blogging and talking to Rachel,  a reporter who is writing a book on the events of the time.  They are in the Barrett’s old house where the events occurred but which has been remodeled.

Back in 2000 (or so)  Merry’s sister Marjorie, tentatively diagnosed with schizophrenia, is horrifying her family even though she is on medications and in therapy. Unemployed and newly religious  Dad wants to start exorcism rites via the local priest.  Marjorie screams, talks in voices, vomits, uses vulgar language, masterbates and terrorizes her young sister.

The real horror begins when a Reality TV show picks up on the family’s difficulties and is accepted because they offer much needed money.  Mom is not convinced about either the TV show or the religion,  but goes along with the idea of the priest and his suggested exorcism because the psychiatrist and meds route don’t seem to be getting anywhere and they need the money.

So the whole situation is filmed and broadcast in a series of episodes of a show called “Possessed” which gets a lot of publicity, some not wanted.  The graphic details of Marjorie’s “ailment/possession”  are not so horrible as what actually happen with the process of a family’s disintegration in front of cameras,  the psychological suspense as told from the point of view of  woman looking back on it after many years.  This is what keeps the listener going and going and going.

One of many things which give the rather amazing novel a literary element is that Merry is now blogging under a pseudonym and focusing on the story she was part of – the film of it –  reality or not?

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