When Stephen King tweets out that a book scared him, it immediately rockets to the top of my to-be-read pile. I love a good scare — and Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts is just that.
The Barrett family seem like the typical, all-American family. That is until their fourteen year-old-daughter begins exhibiting signs of a potential possession. As questions of whether or not this is a mental-illness or a possession by a demon begin to mount, the family resorts to desperate measures — not only conducting an exorcism but also allowing cameras into the house to record the events leading up to it and the exorcism itself.
The only survivor of these events is Merry, who years later reflects on the events and her role in them with a series of interviews.
From the beginning, we know there is some horrible secret hanging over the Barrett family. And Tremblay builds a palpable sense of dread as the story continues to unfold, all the while making us question the nature of reality — from reality television shows that are edited to tell the best story to just what exactly is going on with the Barrett family. There were times that the sense of dread at what was going to happen on the next page reminded me of my first reading of Stephen King’s Cujo in my teenage years.
And yet for all the building dread and horror, A Head Full of Ghosts is keenly aware of its place within the horror pantheon. Referencing multiple horror movies and tropes, the novel breaks them down and builds them up again to give the reader a bit of gallows humor all while ratcheting the feeling of dread up a few points higher.
It all leads to a final act that is among the more memorable and unsettling I’ve read in quite a while. I can see why this novel scared Stephen King because it certainly left me feeling scared and unsettled.
And yet it’s a book that I wholeheartedly recommend — as long as you’re not faint of heart. It’s compelling, horrifying and utterly readable. Simply put — one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Time to start the week with Musing Mondays hosted by Books and a Beat. This week, I’m going to try and answer some of the questions instead of just the usual random one.
- I’m currently reading a of books including Leonard by William Shatner, Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman and The Running Man by Richard Bachman (or as you might know him better, Stephen King)
- Up next I think I’ll read The Night Manger by John Le Carre.
THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What is the best book you read LAST year?
There were a couple of books that I read last year that I awarded five stars. Revisiting Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side were delightful fun and a re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird cemented its place as one of my favorite books. I also read two novels by my good friend Sally Kilpatrick — Bittersweet Creek and The Happy Hour Choir — that were pure gold.
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to reflect on those characters we’d like to visit again as an adult. With the arrival of my daughter a few weeks ago, I’ve been reflecting on this question a bit lately as I ponder the books I want to read to her/have her read.
- The Cat in the Hat — It’s been years since I’ve read these classics by Dr. Suess and I look forward to visiting them again.
- Hamilton Duck — One of my favorite books as a child. My mom still has a copy for me to share with Shortcake when she’s old enough.
- Mr. Pine — From Mr. Pine’s Purple House
- The Quimby family — To say I loved the Ramona books growing up is an understatement. I also give an honorable mention to the Henry Huggins.
- The Hatcher family — Judy Blume’s family that gave us Peter and Fudge.
- The Great Brain — I read these a lot as a child and I’m curious to see if they hold up and will interest Shortcake.
- Encyclopedia Brown — I can trace my love of mystery novels to these books.
- Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables.
- Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird — Yes, it’s a long ways off, but this is on my “must read” list for Shortcake.
- Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn — I’d love for her to read these before they’re required reading.
Of course, when it comes to pop culture, I definitely want her to meet The Doctor, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise and Marty McFly and Doc Brown (just off the top of my head)
ByThe Happy Hour Choir made me a fan and Bittersweet Creek put Sally Kilpatrick on my “must read” list. With her third novel Better Get to Livin’, Kilpatrick has ensured that her books join the likes of Stephen King, Elizabeth George, Laura Lippman and Peter David on my list of “authors I will read their latest offering first no matter what other books are on the to-be-read pile.”
Presley Cline left her small hometown in Tennessee for the bright lights of Hollywood. But just as her fortunes are about to take a turn toward that goal, she’s caught up in a Hollywood scandal that has her not only embarrassed but headed home to try and hide out with her mother for a while. Those plans quickly go awry when her mother’s trailer is destroyed by a tornado and Presley and her mother take refuge at the local funeral home, run by Declan Anderson.
Like Presley, Declan has his own “big dreams in a small town.” He’s been holding down the fort on the family business for a couple of years now while his brother is off in Atlanta, going to school. The two had an understanding that once school was over, the brother would come back to town, take over the day-to-day funeral home operations and let Declan pursue his own dreams. Continue reading