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A Head Full of Ghosts

Narrated by: Joy Osmanski
Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
Categories: Fiction, Horror
4 out of 5 stars (3,079 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when 14-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 best-selling 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.

©2015 Paul Tremblay (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Page turner

I am a horror fan and am pretty immune to the scary story. I pride myself of predicting the oncoming action as the story unfolds. I didn't even try with this story. It sucked me in, chewed me up and spit me out. Not leaving me with screams in the night but with a cold hollow in the pit of my stomach. Excellent!

61 of 62 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

So much better than expected

With what seemed like a flippant title, I anticipated another frilly, silly ghostly cozy. I don't remember when I bought this book, but I found it in my library and it felt like a safe escape following several non-fiction books about the Trump administration. I am a little paranoid about spoilers, so I didn't go back and read any reviews or the synopsis of the story.

Within the first half hour I had chills running up and down my spine. I'm REALLY tough to scare, but the plaintive young woman reading this first person, dual-perspective novel definitely got to me. I don't want to do any spoilers, either, but I will say that, like the very best of all horror, this is a multi-layered novel, with pretty well defined characters and as many psychological terrors as supernatural ones.

The writing is excellent, vivid and witty when it needs to be. There is a great deal of humor, and I was struck by the ability of the male author to write from the perspective of a genuine 8-year old girl. His female characters are very real, so, kudos, Paul Tremblay.

I just read that this book has been optioned by Robert Downey, Jr for a film. Okaaaaay, as my daughter would say, but I don't know. This is one of the rare cases where I believe the audiobook is the BEST version of this novel. Narrator Joy Osmanski's vivacious, youthful, eloquent and -- oh, damn, I need to say PLAINTIVE again - voice is the perfect vehicle to ride this story home.

32 of 33 people found this review helpful

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Good Read

This book was suggested to me by a friend and I really enjoyed it up until the last few chapters, the ending left much to be desired for me but all in all a good read.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Good story, hard to listen

While the story pulled me in and kept me entertained, the narration was a little rough at times, especially the attempts at male voices, the dad in particular made me cringe every time I heard it.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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A great read, very psychologically disturbing...

I actually read this after Stephen King spoke so highly of it in an article. I can see why he did. Part Exorcist, part Amityville Horror, and part something altogether its own. A very unique take on the old "girl possessed by demon" story with several twists and surprises that will leave you with QUITE a few questions. The narrator does a fine job as well.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Unexpected!

I was worried about listening to this, late at night. It seemed too scary. I was surprised to find that it didn't bother me at all. It's a great story about family bonds, sisterhood, the corruption of the church, fanaticism and reality tv. Great story, great ending. Can't recommend it enough!!

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • M
  • 08-05-15

Creepy

Brutally awful Dad voice. Took me out of the story every time. I didn't read anything about this first so I didn't realize it was a creepy book. Better than I would have thought!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Super Smart and Creepy as...

You won't know what hit you, but whatever it was will leave goosebumps. Smart storytelling, with nods to classic possession stories in book and movie form, and a mystery that resonates and means more than the blurb would suggest. Good stuff, and highly recommended for a well-rounded scary tale. (The narrator, by the way, was fantastic. Grade A performance.)

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Different (but still good) than I expected!

I really loved the nostalgia-inducing way Mary interprets the words and happenings throughout the book from her 8 year old perspective. I had forgotten about how I used to create my own explanations to justify words like when my mom said marry poppins was going to be fired and I, horrified, pictured mr. Banks putting her in the fire place.

But I digress, the story took a completely different turn than I expected, several times, and kept me guessing until the bitter end!

I only wish it had been darker...

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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like a punch in the gut

great look at the horrors of religious zealotry, reality TV, the toll of mental illness, and male anxiety of the fall of patriarchal society. Both beautiful and gut-wrenchting, just as good horror should be.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful