For many years mental health problems were blamed on demons. Before we began to really study the human mind and how it works people needed a way to explain these problems. Why else would their loved ones act or say in such a way if not from supernatural attack? Now we know more, even though we have so much farther still to go. Where does that leave religion, though? Can exorcisms even have a place in a society where we also have the answers that mental healthcare can provide?
Award winning writer Paul Tremblay plays around with the idea of exorcism in this modern world in one of his hit books. A Head Full of Ghosts is a book that has scared many in the horror audience, including Stephen King. Tremblay released this book into the world in June of 2015. It has been a hit with horror fans all over. The topic of the book seems unreal in our modern world. Perhaps that is part of what makes it so unsettling.
Eight year old Meredith has a pretty normal life. However, her family is going through its fair share of hard times at the moment. Her father has been out of work for a year and a half and has just found religion again. Her mother is on the edge. Her sister, well, her sister is sick. Meredith loves her older sister but even she is unsure of how to help her as Marjorie’s behavior becomes more erratic. Their father suggests religion where modern medicine seems to be failing. Little does the family know of the repercussions that will come from such a decision. The danger it will bring.
The first time I read A Head Full of Ghosts I was unsure of what to expect. It started a little slow for me and I was unsure if I even wanted to root for unreliable narrator Meredith. I was confused because so many other people seemed to be terrified of it and I was, well, not. I was uneasy whenever religion was offered as a possible solution instead of therapy, and coming from a strict Catholic background I will always be afraid of exorcisms. However when the book picked up speed it ran over me like a bullet train and I was left dazed in its wake. I have reread it multiple times since and certain parts still mess with me.
Tremblay did something really interesting with this book. The whole book is set up to make us question it. Is the now older Meredith telling us the truth? Can we trust her memory? How can we really tell if Marjorie is mentally ill or if there is a demon? Can we trust any of the adults in charge of the situation who are clearly in way over their heads?
A Head Full of Ghosts is a book full of twists. It is full of different stories. Different words. It is meant to confuse us. It is meant to leave us wondering and also wanting more. It is terrifying in a very different way.
While it is slow with the build up I recommend it. Just be leery of the religious trauma if that is something that is triggering for you.
ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!