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A Head Full of Ghosts: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 2, 2015

4.1 out of 5 stars 433 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare.” (Stephen King)

“Paul Tremblay’s terrific A Head Full of Ghosts generates a haze of an altogether more serious kind: the pleasurable fog of calculated, perfectly balanced ambiguity.” (New York Times Book Review)

“…progressively gripping and suspenseful — (Tremblay’s) ultimate, bloodcurdling revelation is as sickeningly satisfying as it is masterful.” (NPR Books)

“Tremblay expertly ratchets up the suspense until the tension is almost at its breaking point.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[B]rilliantly creepy.” (Library Journal)

“The novel is stylishly written and well-conceived.” (Booklist)

“Gripping and truly scary, this book feels of the moment in a way few thrillers do.” (B&N Reads)

“[A] scary story, indeed.” (BookPage)

“A mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising disturbing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.” (Buzzfeed)

“[A] creepy, interesting read, great for horror fans.” (SFRevu)

“Crackling with dark energy and postmodern wit...[this] superb novel evokes the very best in the tradition—from Shirley Jackson to Mark Z. Danielewski and Marisha Pessl—while also feeling fresh and utterly new. Deeply funny and intensely terrifying, it’s a sensory rollercoaster and not to be missed.” (Megan Abbott, author of The Fever and Dare Me)

“Loved it. Highly recommended for anyone who loves engrossing literary horror-undertones of The House of Leaves (but far more accessible) and The Exorcist, and redolent of Shirley Jackson.” (Ellen Datlow)

“Dark, brilliant, and impossible to predict, [this] is more than a perfect horror story. It’s a smart and savage look at American culture in all its madness, and the price girls are forced to pay by a society obsessed with spectacle and sin.” (Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty and Be Safe I Love You)

“A genuinely scary, post-modern homage to classic horror that invokes Stanley Kubrik and Shirley Jackson in equal measure, but also manages to innovate on nearly every page. [It] is unlike any horror novel you’ve read, and yet hauntingly, frighteningly familiar.” (Sara Gran, author of Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead and Come Closer)

A Head Full of Ghosts doesn’t end just because you close the book. Some horror, it bleeds through the pages, gets onto your hands, stays with you. You’ll be thinking about this one long after you’ve read it.” (Stephen Graham Jones, author of Demon Theory and Ledfeather)

“Paul Tremblay is an astonishingly talented writer, but even better, he’s twisted, and fun. A Head Full of Ghosts is mind-bending—scary, sad, sweet, funny, sick. ... . Terrifying, hilarious, smart, and satisfying.” (Stewart O'Nan, author of The Speed Queen, The Night Country, and A Prayer for the Dying)

A Head Full of Ghosts is the literary lovechild of Shirley Jackson and William Peter Blatty, a novel that’s as disturbing as the worst nightmare you ever had as a kid, and as impossible to forget.” (Elizabeth Hand, author of Generation Loss and Available Dark)

“Part psychological thriller, part demonic possession horror, this book is a juicy, fast-paced genre bombshell that just happens to be one of the smartest novels you’ll read this year.” (The Life Sentence)

A Head Full of Ghosts is one of the best novels released this year. ...Paul Tremblay confirms what we already knew: he’s one of the greatest horror writers today.” (This is Horror (UK))

“This will easily be remembered as one of the most powerfully disquieting and deeply unsettling novels of the year, and may mark something of a turning point in the mainstream horror genre.” (Shock Totem)

“By turns horrifying, very funny, melancholy, ironic and, with each page, dazzlingly original, A Head Full of Ghosts is a one-book rocket ride through contemporary society where, if Evil doesn’t actually exist in a Biblical sense, we’re just the folks to invent it on our own.” (The Day newspaper)

“Tremblay paints a believable portrait of a family in extremis emotionally as it attempts to cope with the unthinkable ...Whether psychological or supernatural, this is a work of deviously subtle horror.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

From the Back Cover

A chilling domestic drama that blends psychological suspense with a touch of modern horror from a new, brilliantly imaginative master

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 bizarre outbursts and subsequent descent into madness. As their 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 for a reality television show. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and medical bills looming, the family reluctantly agrees to be filmed—never imagining that The Possession would become an instant hit. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the 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 from her childhood—she was just eight years old—painful memories and long-buried secrets that clash with the television broadcast and the Internet blogs begin to surface. A mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising disturbing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

A Head Full of Ghosts is a terrifying tale told with inventive literary flair and unrelenting suspense that craftily, cannily, and inexorably builds to a truly shocking ending.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062363239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062363237
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (433 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The li'l goon dance, her quirky habit of eating spaghetti without the sauce, her love/hate relationship with her older sister Marjorie (just like real siblings), dodging dad's alligator leg chomps, hiding under tables, all character moments of 8-year-old Merry that make her one of the best drawn characters I've ever read. That's the good stuff, the stuff beneath the plot, it's the scene at the dinner table between Roy Scheider and his son in JAWS. What's more, when Merry goes through the worst, you care what happens to her, feel sympathy for her, a testament to Mr Tremblay's skill at writing such rich characters.

Oh, 'What about the scary stuff?' you ask. Sure. There's plenty of that. I won't give too much away, but one of the scenes involves Merry's cardboard playhouse and a blanket that'll make you feel like a child with bedtime fears again as you read it. One of the scariest scenes written by any author in the last 30 years.

After turning the final page, I am more than aware of why there’s so much buzz about Paul Tremblay, why movie studios were in a heated auction for this book. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS will change the game.

}>:-)
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Format: Kindle Edition
Review Copy

The advance praise I've seen from a number of authors I admire and respect made me doubt A Head Full of Ghosts could be as good as they were saying. Well, after reading the book myself, I'm no longer a doubter.

Paul Tremblay's new release could quite possibly be the perfect book. Best-selling author Rachel Neville plans to write the true story of "The Possession," a reality show that aired on The Discovery Channel a number of years ago.

She's managed to arrange an interview with Meredith (call me Merry) Barrett who is telling her full story for the first time. It's the story of how the reality show about her sister Marjorie's "possession" came about, and how it all played out in a six-episode series on cable TV.

The relationships among the family members, although strained at times, rings true, especially that of Marjorie and little sister Merry. The childhood memories were absolutely charming.

Skillfully written and very believable with some wonderful "Oh, WOW" moments A Head Full of Ghosts is not at all what I expected, and for that reason and many others, it's a so much better novel.

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio editions, A Head Full of Ghosts is a must read for all horror fans.

My highest recommendation.
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Format: Hardcover
This is, simply put, the best book I've read this year. Paul Tremblay has constructed a masterful depiction of the unraveling of a family in crisis while simultaneously giving a tender and nuanced portrayal of the tenacity of the loving bond between siblings. It is at once frightening, tender, and remarkably intelligent (but if you know Tremblay, you HAVE to expect that last part). At every time you think you have a handle on where this story is going, he shifts the angle and gives the reader a fresh view of what's happening that is deeper and both more and less certain. Anyone who thinks this is going to be another garden variety possession tale or take down of "reality" entertainment has got another thing coming. A Head Full of Ghosts is an absolute triumph, and my favorite thing both this year and that I've ever read of his.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I got this book expecting a ghost story, but that is not what it turned out to be, although it was a pleasant surprise that it was not a ghost story. The ghosts only inhabit the minds of the Barrett family, especially eldest daughter 14-year old Marjorie who clearly suffers from schizophrenia. As we find later, the culmination of events that make up the novel make for a head full of ghosts for little sister Meredith. Paul Tremblay fleshes out his characters with enough realism so we see the Barretts as our neighbors--neighbors who disrupt the neighborhood in an effort to use religion rather than science to "cure" Marjorie of her affliction.
No spoilers for you who are reading this review! I was in shock and disbelief by the denouement of the story. There were enough twists in the plotline to keep me reading and wondering where the book was going, and when I got there, I found it worthwhile; reading this book was not a chore at all...a definite page-turner.
I would recommend this book to anyone who hates nice and tidy endings, to people who are into "reality" television and to anyone who thinks hauntings are not just spirits floating through the air.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Changed my rating from 3 stars to 4 after a helpful exchange with John Anderson. I'm leaving the original post unchanged (elsewise, John's responses wouldn't make sense!)

<<<SPOILERS>>>

I was really looking forward to reading this book after seeing some very enthusiastic tweets and reviews, but I'm ultimately left a bit disappointed.

First, let me say, it was a good read. The story kept me engaged and interested. However, it wasn't in the least bit scary. I'd put it more in the mystery genre, so if you're looking for a good scare, you know not to expect it from this book (unless the mere suggestion of the possibility of a possession is enough to give you the willies).

It was the ending that left me feeling a bit duped. I thought I'd missed something that would have rendered it more meaningful or profound. So, I re-read the book, focusing on the words and recollections of Miss Merry and the deconstructions of Karen, looking for clues and for threads that would come together more clearly in the end. But, even after the second reading, I'm still feeling like all I got was the foreplay and the fornication, the feeling of building up to something, and then, phhbbt. No climax. No completion. I hate that in my fiction as much as I hate that in real life!

I stewed over it for a few days, trying to figure out what had me so unhappy -- how would I have liked it to end or what would I have liked to have seen done differently? Did I leave feeling dissatisfied because I'm just too thick, I just didn't *get* what everyone else "got" about the book?

I think what I'm missing is Rachel's narrative, during her sessions with Merry and afterward.
Read more ›
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