You can’t go wrong with a recommendation by Stephen King, and that’s why I picked up A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay -- plus it seemed right for the Halloween season. Those of you who know me know I don’t review books I don’t like, so this is an automatic recommendation. But it’s less about a rating of stars and more about how it made me feel. Creepy and disturbing are both apt descriptions. There were times I felt, however, it was too clever for its own good, and I almost stopped reading about half-way through, thinking it was too much a play on the oft-referenced THE EXORCIST, in a way that the SCREAM movies are so self-aware.
I also went into this book with a mistaken idea that it was a horror novel. In my view, it is not (unless you consider, as I do, that human nature can be filled with horrors of the very natural kind.) A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS is a psychological drama, albeit a creepy one, and if you strip away the architecture of the plot, it’s really about memory and identity. Minor spoiler alerts ahead.
This is what I loved (as it’s told from an adult looking back on her childhood): it seemed as if anyone who has ever been in therapy could relate to the thematic premise of what happened back then? Why did the adults in my life act the way they did? How can love and hate and terror all circle our lives? And most of all: who am I after all that has happened? Those themes resonate loudly in my own work, and naturally, I found them in A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS. Maybe it wasn’t the author’s intention, but that’s what haunted me after I turned the final page. It’s a book that doesn’t give easy answers and no neatly-tied-up ending. But for me, those are the books I love. The book lingers. I tried to identify the feeling, and I was left with the idea that no matter how much we try to understand, some things will never be understood. Check out A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS. It’ll be worth your time.