Author: Paul Tremblay
Genre: Horror / Mystery Fiction
Year of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 0062363239 (ISBN13: 9780062363237)
The Barrett family is experiencing strange supernatural phenomenon, whereby one of the daughters is believed to be possessed. As the story proceeds, the supernatural forces are joined with Media and Church to add up to the troubles of the family. Is it all caused by forces beyond their control or its there something else going on? The mysteries of the family get disclosed a few years later when one of the daughters is interviewed by a writer who wants to write a book about the Barretts.
“It was so dark it was like noting was there in the room but us. Only the nothing was actually something because it filled my eyes and lungs and it sat on my shoulders.” – Paul Tremblay (quoted from “A Head full of Ghosts”)
Another of those books which confuses me when reviewing them… it has it merits which push me to give it a highly positive verdict, and it has some issues which put downward pressure on the final ratings.
The initial chapters contain ample moments which make your skin crawl
For this book,the biggest merit is that as long as you are reading it, it keeps you engaged and interested; as a result before you know, you are headed towards the final chapters. The editing is crisp and the narrative is devoid of any unnecessary complications (at least, most of it).
The characters are not very deeply crafted, but their shallowness actually adds to the eerie feel of the book. Their imperfections compliment the deceptive ebb and flow of the story. The initial chapters contain ample moments which make your skin crawl with mild but creepy shocks and this builds up the anticipation quite nicely. You actually start looking forward to the big event.
As the book proceeds, the narrative gets sucked into a nagging & stagnant phase
On the negative side, right after the arrival of the TV crew and the priests, the narrative gets sucked into a nagging & stagnant phase which eats up a significant chunk of the book. The shocks and shivers keep landing lower than the anticipation which was earlier set.
I found the whole “Blog” thing to be bit of a distraction. I understand its utility in translating the inner conflicts faced by Merry, but I still would’ve preferred her interviews with Rachel to be the primary tool of disclosure. Those interviews felt like a more direct and fluent mode of expression, but that fluency was always distracted by the blog.
Its more of a Psychological Mystery than the Horror Thriller it is believed to be…
The biggest problem for me in the book though is the fact that it is pitched as a Horror fiction, whereby actually its more of a psychological mystery. Honestly speaking, beyond a certain point in the initial parts, the horror element is totally non-existent. The mystery, anyhow, is quite intriguing and keeps you hooked till the very end.
Speaking of the end, I liked the sublime twists towards the penultimate chapter, but the blandness of the last couple of paragraphs was a bit of a put-off. I would’ve preferred an ending which was a bit more open-ended and which could tease the reader’s imagination a bit.
So, I still feel a bit confused in passing an overall verdict about the book. I have my issues with the genre this book wants to position itself in, but I cant ignore the fact that I was thoroughly engaged in the story due to its direct nature. For me, the book had more mystery than it had horror to impress me.
In the end, its a decent read if you start reading it with appropriate expectations. If you expect it to give you sleepless nights full of horror, you might be disappointed. But if you look for its ability to hook you with its mysterious twists, you might end up enjoying it a lot.