A Head Full of Ghosts — Paul Tremblay (Audio Review)

June 9, 2018

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

TITLE: A Head Full of Ghosts
AUTHOR: Paul Tremblay
RELEASED: June 2nd, 2015; William Morrow Paperbacks
GENRE: Thriller/Horror
SYNOPSIS: 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.


This book had been on my TBR for what seemed like forever, and I kept meaning to read it (I even bought a copy last spring!), but I just never got around to it—until an afternoon recently in which I needed to make an hour commute home and wanted an audiobook, so I looked at the “available now” section on my library’s audiobook inventory, found this, and that was all it took. I was so completely captivated from the start!

“Are you good at keeping secrets, Merry?”
“More often than not, they keep me.”


Joy Osmanski’s narration for this story is flawless; she delivers the narrative with a perfect mannerism, varying from frightened, to concerned, to anxious, to disinterested. My favorite aspect of her narrating skill set was the clear-cut differentiation between characters. No matter how dialogue-heavy the story got, I always knew exactly who was speaking at any given time, and the way she delivered Marjorie’s more terrifying moments was downright sinister.

Merry is a delightful storyteller, as we see things through her adults eyes as well as those of her childhood memories (which, she admits, are unreliable in a number of ways). As a mother, it was hard not to feel sorry for her more often than not, considering the agony it would cause a child to watch her older sister and best friend become a walking nightmare.

“Ideas. I’m possessed by ideas.”

As far as the story itself goes, regardless of what format you choose to read it in, it’s totally unputdownable. It constantly straddles a line between horror and psychological thriller, as you’re being dragged back and forth between the question of whether the scenario that took place was a possession, or mental illness, or simply a child running the gamut of twisted little parlor tricks.

I don’t scare easily, and I wouldn’t say this is a particularly frightening book, but there’s definitely something unsettling about a few scenes. It paid terrific homage to the possession films I grew up watching, and I think it’s wholeheartedly written as a love letter to horror movie fans worldwide. Paul Tremblay’s writing kept my interest from start to finish, and the plot never dragged, despite the way it bounced around from the past to present timelines. I honestly don’t have a single complaint about this story, and would highly recommend it, whether you are a fan of horror books, thrillers, or just a good old-fashioned exorcism film.



More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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    1. I loved Headful of Ghosts and am now listening to Disappearance at Devils Rock by Paul Tremblay. I love it even more than Headful of Ghosts and cannot recommend it highly enough

      1. Oooooh, awesome! I hear such good things about that one. Are you planning on checking out his new release, The Cabin at the End of the World? I have the UK paperback pre-ordered.

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